Toyota edges closer to a new sports coupe, but is this car for real, or just a video game avatar?
Toyota revealed a new sports coupe in Geneva today that is named after the company’s iconic sports car of yesteryear. The GR Supra Racing Concept is just the latest in a long series of teaser announcements by Toyota that began about five years ago with the FT-1 sports concept car.
This new concept vehicle is a race-specific vehicle, but Toyota claims this new concept proves, “Toyota’s commitment to bringing the Supra back to the market. It also shows the future potential for a car that can deliver high performance both on road and track.”
The tricky thing about a new sports coupe from Toyota is that the brand already has one. The 86, built in conjunction with Subaru’s BRZ on the same production line, looks almost identical in shape and proportion to the Supra Concept. The FR-S, as it was then known, debuted in 2011 and has had only minor updates since. Toyota has clearly been careful not to let the 86 and Subaru BRZ suffer from mission creep and gain significant power and capability. Neither Toyota nor Subaru needs the 86/BRZ to be more capable since both have other more capable sports cars already in their lines. At Subaru, it is the WRX and STI models. At Toyota, the Lexus premium brand has the RC coupe. Perhaps with sales now having dwindled down to under 400 units per month for the 86, and under 300 per month for the Subaru BRZ, the plan is to phase the cars out?
Since the FT-1, now called Supra Concept showed up, the motor press has linked the car to the BMW Z4. The narrative goes that the two will share a rear-drive platform and basic drivetrain. The reasons would be the same that made the 86 and BRZ work for the bean counters. Shared costs and shared manufacturing space enable low-volume specialty cars. The same formula helped Mazda keep its Miata alive by working with Fiat, whose 124 Spider shares everything but its engine and body panels with the current Miata.
BestRide has analyzed the limited specifications Toyota has revealed and it is difficult to come to any conclusions. Toyota says the new GR Supra Racing Concept has a length of 180 inches, a width of 80 inches and a wheelbase of 97 inches. However, as the image shows, those dimensions include race-ready body cladding. There is no way that any modern, affordable sports coupe would be 80 inches wide. The short wheelbase is also a mystery. The 86 is a tiny car and has a 101-inch wheelbase. The Lexus RC has a 107.5-inch wheelbase.
Toyota has also not hinted at what might be found under the hood. Every Toyota vehicle that ever used the name Supra, from the first one in 1978 to the last one sold in Japan in 2002, was rear-wheel drive and used an inline 6-cylinder engine. Toyota no longer has an inline six in production. However, BMW does. The one “problem” with the idea of a standard in-line six is that it makes the car too capable. And too expensive. When Toyota killed off its Supra in 1998 the reason was that prices had gone well beyond what its buyers could afford, a fate that many Japanese sports cars from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s suffered. Toyota already has a coupe with power from 241 hp to 467 hp. The RC Coupe sold by the premium Lexus brand offers four-cylinder turbo, V6, and V8 engines in that capable and premium-priced sports coupe (or Grand Tourer if you prefer).
As crazy as it sounds to type, video games may have more to do with the timing of the new concept car than actual production vehicles. The Supra is popular on PlayStation’s Gran Turismo video game series. Toyota says that the GR Supra Racing Concept will be featured in a new update of the Gran Turismo Sport video game, which is scheduled for release in next month.
Toyota’s press release today leads us to believe that the Supra is returning for a fifth generation and that it will likely be a 2020 model year car. Whether it will be a replacement for the small 86, or will be a much more capable performance car sold alongside the affordable 86 by Toyota dealers is hard to answer. Either way, fans of the Supra are dying to see what the next one looks like, and more importantly, how it drives.