The Supra is a perfectly capable cruiser if you want it

Image for article titled The Supra is a perfectly competent long-distance grand tourer if you will

Photo: Lalita Chemello

Last week, Lalita Chemello and I embarked on a trip to Skip Barber Racing School at Virginia International Raceway to learn how to be fast on a track. Getting there turned out to be a strange excursion, as we each flew to Dulles airport – short flights for the two of us but especially me, who was only in the air for 30 minutes – in order that we can take one car to drive four others. hours in Danville, near the track. Why did we do this? Because we were going to get a Toyota Supra.

It wasn’t the ideal adventure to really get the most out of a Supra. While we were in the car for over 10 hours total, the vast majority of that was highway driving. In Virginiano less – a state that takes the Monopoly approach to incarceration when it comes to speeding. And no, we weren’t allowed to take her to the track. We asked.

What do you make of a 382 horsepower rear-drive sports car on a long, mostly straight, and otherwise sleep-inducing ride? You kind of feel like the point has gone over your head, like you’re losing a golden opportunity. Of course we did get off the beaten track and dip here and there in crumpled ribbons of asphalt, and the roads closest to VIR proved to be the best for enjoying the Supra.

Image for article titled The Supra is a perfectly competent long-distance grand tourer if you will

Photo: Lalita Chemello

I have to say our tester was a 2022 model. I have never driven a Toyota first stab at the A90, but he had a reputation for causing drama. Later tweaks to the adaptive suspension, stability control systems, differential and chassis stiffness must have helped, as ours never felt wobbly on those back roads, let alone the highway. The steering was always confident, precise and firm.

Nevertheless, such a glorious mismatch between tool and mission inevitably leads you to pay attention to different things. Like how really well suited a vehicle like this is for long distances; like how weird an interior can be, especially when it wasn’t designed by the company whose badge appears on the steering wheel.

Lalita and I had ample opportunity to drive the Supra, and we each noticed how surprisingly compliant it was throughout our trip. Admittedly, she’s from Michigan—a place where paved roads might as well not be—and I drive a Fiesta ST as my daily life. We have low bars for added comfort, and the Supra obliterated them all effortlessly. I actually found it easier to see than my shoe-sized hot hatch, which surprised me. Also, my lower back and buttocks normally get sore in any driver’s seat after about two hours, but I only now realize that this never happened in the 500+ miles I was at flying.

Ours didn't have Alcantara seats and the leather trim was red, but otherwise it looked pretty much like that.

Ours didn’t have Alcantara seats and the leather trim was red, but otherwise it looked pretty much like that.
Picture: Toyota

It’s a surreal experience sitting in the Supra for reasons, any self-proclaimed Supra fan won’t lose their breath telling you, and here’s the part where I’ll controversially align myself with the crowd that believes there are at least some redeeming qualities for this car to be a BMW under the skin. Because I care about materials and touchpoints and overall interior build quality. I’m obsessed with the gadgets, the feel of the switches, and how smoothly the small handle of a climate vent slides. I come from a technical writing background, okay?

In all of these respects, I appreciate the Supra’s German roots because they’ve made it a nicer place to live than the interior of any Toyota I’ve ever owned. The only bugbear, as always, was iDrive.

Image for article titled The Supra is a perfectly competent long-distance grand tourer if you will

Picture: Toyota

Disclaimer: I have limited experience with iDrive, and every infotainment system has its learning curve. That said, the layout of this one could be better. The Supra’s screen is large but ultimately small and doesn’t always make the best use of space. Screens and menus you’ll likely return to frequently, like media controls, are buried several taps or clicks of the wheel in the software. And then there’s the digital instrument cluster.

On a long trip like ours, it’s important to know the estimated range and mileage. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to access either. It’s on me, cause while I thought I had pressed each button in a desperate attempt to switch the information displayed on the screen to the right of the tachometer, I apparently missed the small button at the end of the turn signal stalk. I’m still not sure why the control for this was shod there and not baked into one of the 20 inlets on the steering wheel face, but I digress.

The real headache was the vast expanse of real estate on that instrument cluster display that apparently isn’t used for anything. It sat empty our entire time with the car – confusing, as the new one certainly wasn’t. M240i that I recently drove, or one of BMW’s recent vehicles. There were no swappable modules or info pages to store there, though. YouTube tells me there is a secret menu of digital gauges accessed by pressing and holding the trip odometer reset button for about 30 seconds, then entering the last six digits of your VIN. Weird.

Again, the simplicity of the Supra compared to the Z4, M240i and other fast BMWs deserve praise. As much as I love technology, I never know what to do with an assortment of driving styles. A singular Sport setting — a – is really all I would ask for. And when you activate Sport mode in the Supra, which you do by pressing a large button whose purpose is clearly defined and obvious, you experience the difference in a multi-sensory way. Engine note deepens, exhaust pops and buzzes Continued. If you’re at high speed, the transmission will probably drop three gears, making everything stronger in a different sense corn also sharpens throttle response. The auto stop-start also turns off, which is a little flimsy in this car, all things considered.

Although I haven’t driven a Z4 myself to compare the Supra to, luckily I have some experience with the M240i. I think this car could be the real rival of this Toyota. After all, like the Supra, the M240i is a fixed-top car coupé built on BMW’s CLAR modular platform; it has the same B58 three-liter turbocharged straight-six, producing the same 382 horsepower; and at $49,545, its price is closer to the Supra’s low of $51,640. (The good Supra, I mean; I am always pretending 2.0 doesn’t exist.)

I really like the M240i. But it weighs 500 pounds more than the Supra, due to its all-wheel-drive system. It’s ugly. It technically offers more cargo space, but much of it is taken up by unusable rear seats, more the Supra’s trunk is surprisingly spacious.

Image for article titled The Supra is a perfectly competent long-distance grand tourer if you will

Photo: Adam Ismail |

The more I thought about it, the more certain I became: why wouldn’t anyone just have the Supra?

If you really care about getting the most out of a car seemingly bought for fun, a two-door coupe is a poor choice. Growing up, I swore by the two-door M3, until I reached an age where I realized there was no point in driving a saloon-sized car with fewer doors than a sedan. It was then that I knew I had crossed the threshold of adulthood. If you’re already considering a 2 Series but don’t need all-wheel drive, go all out. Engage yourself. Get the most playful car with a look that truly matches the joy it brings to you, the driver. And if Toyota finally gets the hang of this rumored manual, well, the choice becomes really obvious.