By Ulysses Ang

WHEN CAN it be said that a vehicle captures the essence or “DNA” of its manufacturer? When it sets new benchmarks for quality and value? When it becomes a leader in its segment, selling many millions around the globe?

The answer, for Toyota, would be “all of the above,” with models like the Vios, Innova, Camry, and Fortuner perfectly matching those criteria for years or even decades.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a different set of standards defines another brand icon: the Supra. Specifically, the fourth-generation Supra, known inside Toyota as the A80 and by its many fans as the “Mk. IV,” has come to exemplify the brand’s illustrious performance and racing heritage. It is the car that most inspired the 2020 GR Supra, the A90.

The fourth-gen Supra was then the pinnacle of a series that began in 1979 as an upscale version of Toyota’s popular Celica sport coupe. The Supra evolved, in quantum leaps, into a benchmark sports/GT with supercar-level performance.

The “Mk. IV” Supra became a design and performance touchstone, achieved global acclaim and inspired owners to start clubs, Web sites, social media pages, and national events. It also became a pop culture star and is today a sought-after collectible.

The new GR Supra is the culmination of 50+ years of Toyota sports car heritage, infused with the spirit of the fourth-gen model thanks to its striking design, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and driver-centric focus on world-class performance. Supra’s journey to this point has not been simply a lineage of cars, but also a story of dedication from designers, engineers, racers, a Toyota CEO passionate about sports cars and, most critically, Supra owners and fans.

Years after production of the Supra had ended, many inside Toyota, including its CEO, Akio Toyoda, were eager for a sports car revival. The 86 got things started in 2012 as an affordable yet highly capable sports coupe praised for stellar handling. That model instigated talk that something more potent could be coming.

In 2014, Toyota created the FT-1 concept car. “FT” meant “Future Toyota” and “1” indicated “ultimate.” The car’s extroverted shape clearly alluded to the previous Supra, and it certainly got the boss’s attention.

The link between past and present is visibly clear today. The FT-1, at a quick glance, almost seemed like a fourth-gen Supra turned into a 21st-century superhero’s ride. Meanwhile, its “double-bubble” roof, wraparound windshield and side glass openings were distinct nods to the classic 2000GT, and those elements, which together suggest a racing helmet and visor, carried over to the GR Supra.

Toyota craftily worked with Polyphony Digital, creators of the popular Gran Turismo driving simulator, to put the FT-1 into the PlayStation game. Company executives then “drove” the FT-1 in timed laps around a virtual Fuji Speedway. Mr. Toyoda, an accomplished racecar driver, completed the circuit faster than his best real-world lap time at Fuji in his Lexus LFA.

The boss was sold. The Supra got the green light.

Fast-forward to 2019, the fifth-generation sports car is the first-ever Supra to be made available officially in the Philippines. Sold through 16 GR Performance-certified dealerships, the 2020 GR Supra is available starting at P4,990,000 for the Prominence Red color; P5,050,000 for the Lightning Yellow, Deep Blue Metallic, White Metallic, Silver Metallic, Ice Gray Metallic, and Black Metallic; and P5,090,000 for the Matte Storm Gray.