Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

THE DECISION to pull the trigger on releasing the all-new GR Supra locally surely makes a lot of sense for Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) from both emotional and business standpoints.

An iconic nameplate now cycling on its fifth iteration, the Supra has made a reputation for itself as a capable sports car, with each succeeding generation pushing the limits of the performance bar its time. But it must be said that its allure has gone up steadily as a result of a prolonged absence of 17 years since the last Mark 4 rolled out of the production line.

Speaking of the Mark 4 or A80, it bore an SJZ-GTE 3.0-liter DOHC turbo inline six good for 320hp and 427Nm. It had a body extensively made of aluminum. A 0-to-60mph rate of 4.6 seconds is remarkable even by today’s standards, yet that Supra’s biggest claim to fame was a 70-0mph stopping distance of 45 meters — a world record that stood for more than 15 years.

Toyota Motor Corporation Technical Adviser David Lovett remarked to the group of regional motoring media at the Sportsland Sugo track in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, that the Mark 4 truly enabled the Supra to “push (towards) world-class sportscar models.”

Cognizant of the Supra’s undeniably rich history, Toyota believes it has released a worthy inheritor of the badge. That said, the GR Supra is expected to key TMP’s entry into the local specialty passenger car segment — currently able to move 60 to 85 units a month.

The “GR” prefix stands for Gazoo Racing, which “embodies Toyota’s commitment to overcoming every limit to make even better cars by forging new technologies and solutions under the extreme conditions of motorsports.” Made in the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria, the GR Supra shares a heart with the BMW Z4. The two vehicles also have a common transmission (a ZF eight-speed automatic), dampers, and steering rack.

There are two engine options available: the four-cylinder, 2.0-liter B2001 supplying 255hp and 400Nm, and the 3.0-liter, inline-six B30M1 blurting out 335hp and 500Nm. The Philippine market gets the more potent power plant, while the other is earmarked for territories more heavily taxing powerful engines.

The first leg of the GR Supra drive took us from Sugo to the Kamafusa Dam in Kawasaki. The scenic, undulating route proved an appropriate way to acquaint ourselves with the car. Sticking to the speed limit and ascertaining lower-rev poise allowed assessment of its everyday drivability. The car doesn’t seem anxious even when merely coasting along.

Much torque satisfyingly comes low on the rev range. Mr. Lovett had indeed noted earlier how one can realize maximum torque at 1,500rpm — a value helped along by the Supra’s 11:1 compression ratio — allowing the twin-scroll turbo to spool up even faster.

Engaging the Sport mode yielded an eagerness to rev up. “It’s an additional measure to enhance driving pleasure,” said Mr. Lovett. The car let out hearty “pops and burbles,” reaffirming what the Supra is really all about — heightened performance. That pleasing sound, helped along by the GR Supra’s sound system, isn’t artificial at all because the car’s advanced system actually doesn’t go into “fuel cut” when Sport is engaged, hence the real backfire.

On the outdoor, serpentine closed course of the Sportsland Sugo, we got a chance to stretch the legs of the GR Supra even more. After taking speed even through corners, the vehicle revealed excellent rigidity and poise — facilitated by a low center of gravity and an ideal 50/50 weight distribution ratio.

Inevitably, on the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA)-accredited track of Sugo, the GR Supra appeared and felt most at home. It is a track weapon, after all. Toyota also wanted to highlight its straight-line ability. But the GR Supra shines most around corners. It has a rear that won’t quit — keeping firmly planted even when much is asked of its front wheels.

The GR Supra stretches 4,379mm, is 1,854mm wide, and towers 1,294mm. By comparison, the Toyota 86 is 4,240mm long, 1,775mm wide, and 1,320mm high. But despite being larger than 86, the GR Supra’s wheelbase is shorter by 100mm. In tandem with a wide track width, it achieves what its chief engineer Tetsuya Tada calls a “golden ratio” of 1.55 (computed by dividing the wheelbase with the track width). The lower the number, the more the car adheres to a go-kart experience as far as easy cornering goes. Still, one cannot go too far down this number as straight-line stability suffers. For comparison, the previous-generation Supra had a 1.67 value.

The front-mid engine configuration in the new Supra was achieved by moving the engine as far back as it could to be entirely behind the front axle. Alternative materials such as aluminum (for the hood, front side members, suspension towers, and doors) and resin (for the trunk lid) were used to save on weight. There’s no vestigial back seat like the 86’s.

And true to the vision of the Supra, Mr. Tada had been adamant about the Supra being accommodating to modifications and customizations. “He wants people to modify. He wants them to get excited about cars again,” underscored Mr. Lovett.

Speaking of exciting, Velocity asked Mr. Tada about the possibility of a manual-transmission Supra. “If enough people ask for it,” he said with a smile.