The phrase “Toyota sports car” seems oxymoronic, but there was a time when Japan’s largest automaker was known for making cars that were as great to drive as they were reliable.
Amid the myriad 2000GTs, AE-86 Corollas, and Celica GT-Fours, one name stood out: Supra.
The Supra is to Toyota fans what the 370Z and GT-R are to Nissan fans, but it’s been out of production since 2002.
Without an exciting halo model, Toyota has developed a reputation for blandness and lack of imagination in the decade since, which is why fans – and even company officials – have pined for a new Supra.
To prepare for that possibility, here’s all the gossip on the new Supra.
The new Supra will most likely be defined by its powertrain. While previous Supras were known for turbocharged four- and six-cylinder engines, the new model may very well be a hybrid.
The Supra rumor mill began turning back in 2007, when Toyota unveiled the FT-HS concept at the Detroit Auto Show. The FT-HS was a hybrid sports car with a 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor under sleek two-door bodywork.
That setup was thought to be slated for a production Supra, but more recently Motor Trend reported that the car would get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain instead, but with the same 400 horsepower as the FT-HS.
Yet another report from Yahoo! Autos pegged the Supra as a near-supercar answer to the Nissan GT-R, with a 500 hp hybrid system and a dual-clutch transmission. However, Toyota may be saving this setup for the supercar it’s developing with BMW.
While a bit untraditional, a hybrid powertrain makes sense. Toyota’s most recognizable car is the Prius, after all, and the company plans to make a hybrid version of each of its models.
Hybridization would also tie the Supra to Toyota’s TS030 Le Mans racer, and invite comparisons with the many other high-performance hybrid racecars and supercars that have been crawling out of the woodwork lately.
There’s also the matter of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE), which requires automakers to attain a fleet average of 54.5 mpg by 2025. A hybrid sports car would help Toyota keep its numbers as high as possible.
Supras of yore, like the Mark IV made famous in The Fast and The Furious, were front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports cars. The reborn model will almost certainly follow that pattern.
How Toyota will come up with a chassis for it remains a bit of a mystery, though. It would have to repurpose the platform from the smaller GT86 (a.k.a. Scion FR-S) or one of the Lexus sedans – its only global rear-wheel drive cars – or create a new one.
The Nissan 370Z gets by on a modified version of the FM (Front Midship) platform used by the old Infiniti G37, but Toyota needs to make a bigger impression with the Supra. A bespoke platform would do that.
Just as many rumors have pointed to the FT-HS concept as the source of the Supra’s new powertrain, it may also be the source of the production car’s styling.
Since it was unveiled in 2007, many of the FT-HS’ design cues have found their way onto production Toyotas. Just look at the pointy nose of the Scion FR-S … or the FCV hydrogen fuel-cell car.
So while a production Supra based on the FT-HS would have looked futuristic six years ago, it would have somewhat of a family resemblance to other Toyota models now.
Regardless of what Toyota uses for styling inspiration, the designers won’t have to deal with a major handicap: heritage.
Evocative cars like the Ford Mustang are often limited by retro or referential styling, which is deemed necessary because fans will want the new model to look like the ones they remember.
That probably won’t be an issue with the Supra.
The car has been out of production long enough for people’s sentimentality to cool, and the four generations were so different from each other that it would be hard to pick elements that “must” be included.
If the Supra makes it to production, it could be part of a three-tiered lineup of Toyota performance cars.
In a speech earlier this year, Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada said he would like to see a resurrected Supra sit above the entry-level GT86/FR-S in the lineup. The Subiyota was, after all, designed to emphasize thrift and fun, not outright performance.
That leaves the Supra in the middle, along with an assortment of sports cars ranging from the Porsche Cayman to the Chevrolet Corvette.
With that in mind, it seems likely that a new Supra would start well above the FR-S’ $25,255 base price, but would stay well below $100,000.
That’s not very specific, but remember that Toyota hasn’t even confirmed this car’s existence.
Perhaps the company will finally commit and unveil the rumored Supra concept at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. Until then, expect the rumor mill to keep turning.