Toyota has confirmed its all-new Supra sports coupe will reach Australia “from the third quarter of 2019”, ending a 25-year absence for the legendary nameplate in this country.
The new-gen Supra will also debut Toyota’s GAZOO Racing (GR) branding, set to be the company’s new global performance brand. Expect several GR-badged Toyotas to ride on the coat tails of the revived Supra, most likely a Corolla GR in 2019/20.
Jointly developed with BMW, the fifth-generation A90 will be the first Supra sold internationally since the previous A80 model was discontinued in 2002. It will join the four-cylinder 86 coupe in Toyota’s showrooms and marks a dramatic turnaround for one of the world’s most conservative car makers.
Powered by a BMW-sourced, Toyota-tuned 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six, and driven by its rear wheels, the A90 Supra’s development has been overseen by Tetsuya Tada, Toyota’s mega-passionate chief engineer also responsible for the 86. Tada honed his craft under the guidance of Isao Tsuzuki – chief engineer of the previous A80 Supra (1993-2002) – and demanded that no compromise be made in this new-generation sports coupe.
The new Supra will be built in both left- and right-hand drive alongside its BMW Z4 cousin in Magna Steyr’s factory in Graz, Austria. But the Toyota will be pretty much its own machine.
Besides the core packaging (wheelbase, track widths, engine placement) and several hard points such as the front-guard shutline of the clamshell bonnet, and the a-pillar rake and positioning, the hardtop-coupe Supra is quite different to the roadster-convertible Z4. Only the yet-to-be-unveiled interior architecture is likely to be quite similar, though the Supra and Z4 each feature unique steering-wheel and instrument designs.
It’s due to this joint venture, however, that the new Supra and Z4 even get to see the light of day.
“In a sports car, with a lot of specific parts you can’t use in family cars, it’s very expensive” commented Munich-based assistant chief engineer, Masayuki Kai, saying it was “lucky we found a partner like BMW.”
“Without them, we couldn’t have had a Supra.” or indeed an in-line six-cylinder engine – a Supra cornerstone.
The original A40 supra (1978) was merely an RA40 Celica with the front section of its wheelbase extended and the Cressida/Crown’s M-series straight-six shoved under its bonnet. In Japan, Toyota called it Celica XX, but the Americans badged it Celica Supra.
The second-generation A60 model – the first Supra to be sold in Australia (from October 1983) – was again badged Celica Supra, though it was the ‘Supra’ part that took font-size prominence on that car’s liftback tailgate. The ‘Celica’ bit was written much smaller. Like its predecessor, it shared much with the Celica it was based on, though with flared guards, fat 14x7s, and its own nose treatment, the A60 Supra was clearly a cut above.
The third-gen A70 supra (1986) really began to build the nameplate’s reputation. Sired during Toyota’s 1980s purple patch, it was an all-new car featuring a fresh twin cam, 24-valve six-cylinder engine series. A turbocharged version followed in 1987.
After 2895 sales spanning 10 years, the A70 would be the last Supra officially sold in australia.
The final A80 supra was an even more exotic beast, with a price tag to match. Debuting Toyota’s legendary 2JZ-GTE twin-turbo straight-six, the A80 Supra produced 239kW in European trim (though Japan doggedly held onto the old ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ of not claiming any more than 280ps, or 206kW). It became a modified-car icon the world over.
Declining popularity saw US sales of the A80 supra end in 1998. Production continued in Japan until august 2002.