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  5. We Asked, Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

The wait for the fifth-generation Toyota Supra seemed like it took forever. And there's a good reason for that. Because it did. 

Rumors that the legendary model would be revived began in earnest way back in 2010, when Toyota applied to trademark the Supra name, and really started to gain steam after the company unveiled the gorgeous FT-1 concept at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. But it would be four long years before a camouflaged Supra debuted at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and longer still before we got to see it with a factory finish. Fortunately, it was worth the wait.

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

When I first got behind the wheel of the Supra in 2019, I was thrilled, and highlighted it as one of my very favorite drives of that year. I also called it a future classic. After I got my hands on the 2021 model, which featured a 50 horsepower bump in poke, I was even more taken with the Toyota, and was positively shameless about my affection for it:

This is an outstanding car. I loved it. It's visually stunning, it's dead-easy to drive fast, it begs you to beat on it, and it sounds like the business. It also got more positive attention than any car I've driven in the past couple years.

Now, there were only a few small content tweaks, and no mechanical changes, between the 2021 and 2022 models. But if you're an enthusiast, and your local press fleet calls asking if you want to test the latest Supra for a week? The answer is yes. So my drive of the 2022 model didn't really warrant a full review. That said, while earlier models had a wind buffering issue which made windows-down driving above 35 mph uncomfortable, Toyota resolved that issue. It was a pleasant surprise, as I hadn't heard anything about the fix.

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

There is, however, another controversial fact about the Supra that's inspired loads of backfire from fans and critics alike, which I addressed in my review of the 2021 model:

The elephant in the room is the transmission. Specifically, the fact that there's no manual offered. In the lead up to the Supra's release, when information was coming dribs and drabs, I was one of the writers howling that it needed a stick, because save the manuals, because sports car, because "purity." But honestly, that position has been litigated to death, and I have to admit I didn't miss the stick during my time with the Supra.

Obviously, when I wrote that, I believed it. And I'd also like to point out that the eight-speed automatic is tuned exceptionally well, and gives the Supra a point-and-shoot functionality that's borderline addictive. But Toyota has just announced a big update for the 2023 cars, and well, you can probably see where this is going… 

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Yes, The Supra is Getting a Manual Transmission

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

Given how many rumors there were about a manual transmission Supra from the start, I wasn't sure how much stock to put in the recent rumblings. But late last month, Toyota confirmed the stick. 

Cue the choir, pop the champagne, and pour a little out for the three pedal cars we've lost. Yup, this is really happening. Since the Supra shares its mechanical bits with the BMW Z4, and European versions of the Bimmer are available with a stick, Toyota's engineers had a big head start. But  making the Supra a three-pedal car necessitated a bunch of tweaks to the hardware. Here's a relevant bit from the official press release: 

The engineering team modified an existing transmission housing, driveshaft and gear set and removed elements that were not required, such as the acoustic package, which reduced weight. At the heart of the transmission is a newly engineered large diameter clutch with a reinforced diaphragm spring. With a larger friction area and a stronger spring, this new component has the high-performance capability appropriate for use with the GR Supra's high-torque engine.

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

Care was also taken to make sure that the gearbox had the right feel, and as you'd expect, the cabin had to be taken into account as well: 

To avoid a sluggish take-off and a low in-gear acceleration feel, the final drive ratio has been shortened, from 3.15 (in the GR Supra automatic) to 3.46 (in the GR Supra MT). The result is response and gearing appropriate for sports car performance.

Close attention was also paid to how a manual shifter could be accommodated in the driver's cockpit. The lever ratio was specifically set to minimize the effort required to make shifts and engage reverse gear. While the weight and shape of the 200g gear knob, along with the quality of shift engagement, have all been precisely defined. Ergonomics were also top-of-mind, as the console unit and position of the drive mode selector were adjusted to provide a 1.7-inch clearance between the shift knob and the control panel.

Along with the stick shift, manual versions will feature a red Supra badge, as opposed to the standard black version, so you'll be able to tell which version you're looking at without peeking in the window. While the engineers were adding the new gearbox, they also updated the suspension, steering, and sound system of the 3.0-liter models, and Toyota is also throwing in a complimentary one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association. That means track time and some expert instruction, which is always a good thing.   

There will be no production limits on manual transmission Supras, but there will be a 500-model run of A91-MT Edition cars, with unique exterior colors (Matte White and CU Later Gray), and a Cognac leather interior. The 2023 models will begin arriving at your AutoNation Toyota dealer later this year, but if you want a limited-edition version, you'll need to act fast. 

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Go Big, or Don't Row Your Own

Toyota Delivered: Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Update

At this point, only the 3.0-liter Supra will be available with the stick. Buyers who opt for the 2.0-liter will get the eight-speed auto, which makes sense. Because even though the top-spec Supra starts at around $8,000 more than its sibling, in an era where manual transmissions are disappearing, the presence of three pedals could be a powerful incentive to ante up.        

For what it's worth, I think the arrival of the stick shift Supra means two things. First, Toyota wants to demonstrate its commitment to sports cars. Second, it makes me believe that the 2.0-liter model might not be long for this world. 

Sure, the less-powerful version is a nice middle ground between the more affordable GR86 and the range-topping Supra. But in a market where sports cars are increasingly niche products? The 2.0-liter will have to move plenty of units to cement its place on the roster. Personally, I found the 2.0-liter car to be plenty of fun, so if you're looking for a sexy sports coupe but don't need the grunt of the 3.0-liter car or a stick? It could be a great time to visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealer and score a deal! 

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 John Coyle | May 11, 2022

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