Toyota’s high-performance 2019 Supra goes to England to hide in plain sight

Toyota is serious about building cars that appeal to the heart, not just the mind. It’s bringing back the Supra, one of its most emblematic models, in a bid to rekindle ties with its illustrious performance past and once again lure enthusiasts into showrooms. We’ve examined the countless leaks, spy shots, and rumors to single out the relevant and credible information about the Japanese brand’s hotly anticipated coupe. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Toyota veils the elusive Supra for its global debut

We thought we’d see the Supra at the 2017 Tokyo auto show but the event closed its doors with no sign of a Toyota coupe anywhere. We then speculated it would make its global debut in January at the 2018 Detroit show but one of the company’s top executives admitted the car wasn’t ready yet. Three wasn’t the charm, either; it didn’t break cover at the Geneva show, though Toyota introduced a race car-like concept car to whet our appetite.

Bypassing the auto show circuit, Toyota showed the production version of the car for the first time at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, an enthusiast-oriented outdoors event held annually in England. There’s a catch, and it’s a big one: The car is wearing colorful camouflage that hides its design. Though it leaves a lot to the imagination, it gives us a basic idea of what to expect from the model.

What does it look like?

The Supra nameplate made its debut in 1978. Toyota used it on four generations of the coupe until it made the final example in 2002. Designers could easily go retro, they certainly have the heritage to back it up, but they won’t. They prefer looking toward the future. The next Supra instead gets a sleek, modern design loosely inspired by the well-received FT-1 concept introduced at the 2014 Detroit auto show.

Its front end is characterized by a long hood, horizontal headlights, and large air dams integrated into the bumper. The roofline peaks right above the driver and gently slopes down into a ducktail spoiler, a styling cue that gives the model an almost fastback-like look. And, like the original Supra, the fifth-generation model receives a hatchback that enhances practicality. It’s supposed to be a sports car you can live with every day, not merely a track toy that sits in the garage during the week.

German genes

It’s no secret that the sports car segment is declining all over the globe, so it’s increasingly difficult for companies to justify spending money on new entrants. That is why Toyota teamed up with Subaru to design the 86. The Supra will share its platform with a BMW roadster envisioned as a replacement for the Z4. We have often spotted prototypes testing with other BMW models which suggests the German brand is in charge of fine-tuning the Toyota’s chassis to ensure it falls in line with its “ultimate driving machine” ethos.

The Supra and BMW’s next drop-top will use the same basic architecture, which relies on carbon fiber to keep weight in check, but they will look completely different. For starters, the Supra will only be offered as a coupe while the roadster won’t spawn a hardtop model. Brand-specific sheet metal will ensure the Supra looks like a Toyota and the Z4 like a BMW. Fear not, enthusiasts, this won’t be another case of indolent badge-engineering.

They won’t drive alike, either. “As far as the design is concerned, it will be absolutely unique. Not only in terms of design but how they drive and how they handle,” promised Marc Werner, the head of BMW’s Australian division, in an interview with website CarAdvice.

What’s under the hood?

Toyota confirmed the Supra will launch with a straight-six engine borrowed from the BMW parts bin. The turbocharged, 3.0-liter unit is expected to make about 335 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque in its most basic state of tune. Rear-wheel drive will be the only configuration offered, though transmission options remain unconfirmed. Some rumors claim the model will be automatic-only, while others assert a six-speed manual transmission will be offered in some markets.

Enthusiasts who want even more power will need to go hybrid. Sources familiar with Toyota’s plans told Autocar the Supra’s second powertrain will be a gasoline-electric hybrid built around a turbocharged four-cylinder engine borrowed from BMW and powerful electric motors that draw electricity from endurance racing-inspired supercapacitors. Again, the hybrid powertrain might be automatic-only. It’s a bad time to be a fan of stick shifts, especially in the United States.

“If we can have a World Endurance Championship racing car with hybrid technology, it can happen on a road car,” Johan van Zyl, the president of Toyota’s European division, told British magazine Auto Express.

What will its rivals be?

Historically, the Nissan Z has been the Supra’s arch nemesis. The snake and mongoose-style rivalry will continue when the Supra returns. The 370Z is one of the oldest coupes on the market so it might be out of production by the time the Supra lands. Nissan has previously confirmed it will replace the model, though the company instructed its designers to take their time. The Supra will also compete against the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, plus an array of European-bred coupes like the Audi A5 and the BMW 4 Series.

When will I be able to buy one?

An introduction at a major auto show in 2018 looks likely, but Toyota could also choose to introduce the Supra at an Apple-style stand-alone event to make sure its born-again coupe is the center of attention. Either way, we expect to see it before the end of the year. The Japanese company confirmed it will ship the first examples to buyers during the first half of 2019.

Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung reports contract manufacturer Magna Steyr will build both the Z4 and the Supra in its Graz, Austria, facility, alongside the Mercedes-Benz G-Class. Combined production will be limited to approximately 60,000 units annually.

Update: Added information about the Supra’s Goodwood debut.

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