It wasn't too long ago when Toyota had foregone truly exciting sports cars.
Actually, it was just in the previous decade when the global economy of the time saw a downturn of interest in automobiles that stirred the soul. In 2002, they concluded the production run of the Mk. IV A80 Supra, followed by the seventh generation Celica in 2006 and the MR-S (the successor to the MR2) in 2007.
Toyota's product line evolved to focus on profitable models like Corolla, Yaris, Vios, RAV4, Innova, Fortuner, Land Cruiser, so on, and so forth. Truly exciting Toyota sports cars, it seems, had been relegated to the history books..
Now the Supra is back, the first time that the legend of the 1990's officially resurfaced in almost two decades. It joins the 86, a name that's likewise a legend of the 1980's, as the company's two exciting models: two-door coupes to reignite driving passion. The Philippine launch of the Supra also marked the first time that the model was officially offered by Toyota Motor Philippines to the market.
But the story of the Supra's launch, however, doesn't begin to show what happened behind the scenes. The Supra actually represents a story that goes far deeper than engineering. The story stems from the passion, and it was reignited at the top.
In 2009, there was a game changer for Toyota: his name is Akio Toyoda. If you like cars, you've probably heard of him. He's the president of Toyota Motor Corporation, and the grandson of the founder. While it may be easy to say he got the job because he is a direct descendant of Sakichi Toyoda and Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio is the perfect many for the job: he's a car enthusiast and avid driver.
The Toyoda at the helm of Toyota had a mission: to make better cars. The timing, however, proved to be a challenge. Toyota had decided to pull out of Formula One, an endeavor they didn't have much success in apart from a few podiums.
The company, under his direction, focused on quality control, especially with their parts suppliers. But Toyoda had another plan that was taking form: he wanted to make more exciting cars, ones where he could enjoy on an open road, and on a race track. For this mission, he tasked Tetsuya Tada, a Japanese engineer who was already deeply entrenched in Toyota's small compact cars and MPVs like the Raum, bB, and Wish. But like Toyoda, the engineer had a passion for sports cars. And rock music.
Toyota sought out a partnership with another car company to co-develop and produce the 86 sports coupes. The result was a resounding success, quickly becoming one of the most popular sports cars not just in the Philippines, but worldwide. It was so popular that the factory in Japan had a hard time keeping up with demand in the years following its launch in 2012.
But that wasn't all: under Toyoda's leadership, Toyota had been recapturing its passion for driving through motorsports. Toyota actually kicked this off in the Philippines with the launch of the Vios Cup in 2013 using the third generation Vios, a one-make race that spawned regional counterparts in Malaysia, among others.
And then Toyota re-entered the world of global motorsport, and they used Gazoo Racing as their brand. They entered in the World Rally Championship, and brought in the experience of four-time WRC champion Tommi Makinen as their team principal. They debuted in 2017, and won the contructors' championship in 2018 and have 10 rally wins to their name.
Toyota wasn't content with just WRC though: they aimed at Le Mans, specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They suffered a heartbreaking engine failure after running so dominantly in the lead of the grueling 2016 race, but under the banner of Toyota Gazoo Racing, they successfully won in 2018 (with no less than two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso), and defended it in 2019.
Distilling the success and passion that drivers Toyota Gazoo Racing forward into another road car was again the job of Tetsuya Tada, and that was to become the Supra project. Like the 86, he and Toyota sought out the expertise of another brand, joining forces with BMW to create a sportscar that isn't just worthy of the Gazoo Racing name, but is the purest expression of it.
That's where the Supra comes in.
The Supra represents the pinnacle of Toyota's high performance line, utilizing the classic qualities that made the Supra legendary: an aerodynamic shape of a low slung sports coupe, a long hood, a 335 horsepower straight-six turbo engine, a pure 2 seater cabin set far back with a double bubble roof, and a fastback rear profile. Oh, and it's only rear-wheel drive, as a proper Supra should be, and comes with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters that gives it a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 4.3 seconds and onto a top speed of 250 km/h.
But the Supra, now known as the Mk. V or A90, isn't just about being stylish or fast in a straight line. Toyota made sure it has driving dynamics that is worthy of the Gazoo Racing, or GR, badge that they attached to it. They gave it the rigidity that it deserved to be able to tackle corners at high speed, perfect 50:50 weight distribution as well as the perfect 1.55 to 1 ratio between the wheelbase and the track, lending it an innate ability to handle impeccably and confidently at the limit. They gave it a limited slip differential, front and rear vented disc brakes, lightweight 19-inch wheels and Michelin high performance tires.
The Supra isn't just a performance machine though, as Toyota needed to make sure it can give the joy of driving comfortably. Power adjustable seats with adjustable lumbar supports are standard. There's an advanced infotainment unit with a JBL audio system for your listening pleasure. It comes with an adaptive suspension system that adjusts for comfort or sport. And for safety, it's unparalleled too: traction control, vehicle stability control, anti-lock brakes, and even a full suite of seven airbags.
The Supra was honed and tested on snow, on hot climates, on Germany's de-restricted highways, and on many racing circuits around the world. So confident was Toyota that Akio Toyoda himself was keen to try out the Toyota Supra, and decided to race it at the 24 hours of Nurburgring this year. The Supra was successful, earning a podium position in its class with Toyoda as one of the drivers. Many wouldn't have known because as with the 2009 race, the Toyota boss used his fake name: Morizo.
It's been 10 years since Toyoda took over the company his grandfather founded, and as many of us can see with exciting models such as the GR Supra, they truly are charging forward to build better cars in reliability, design, safety, and now, high performance that is deserving of the Toyota Gazoo Racing name.