The #VOTY2020 Victory Lap

Last October, you helped Toyota achieved its first brand #VOTY by naming the GR Supra to our annual award. 

Now, it has returned for its victory lap. 

Well…not exactly the same GR Supra that scored #VOTY2020. The color is clearly different. Although, it does look like the GR Supra we love so much. 

The big difference lies underneath its clamshell hood. The engine I’m about to talk is rather controversial. Some have called it sacrilege. 

Since its introduction in 1978, every Toyota coupe with the name Supra on it has always been powered by a six-cylinder engine. Some of which have been turbocharged. When the GR Supra arrived a year or so ago, it was initially introduced with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine. 

However, that engine only registered 335 horsepower. A number that was at par with the A80 Supra with a turbocharged six-cylinder engine – the last generation that “Fast and Furious” fans consider the last great Supra. 

Even with 335 horsepower, you voted the GR Supra as #VOTY2020. Yet, you wanted more. You wanted more horsepower to match the excitement of the baddest A80s ever sold.

Toyota and BMW sat down to hash out the horsepower question for the Supra. After all, the GR Supra is a collaboration between Toyota City and Munich, built in Graz, Austria. 

You see, BMW has a 3.0-liter turbocharged in-line six-cylinder engine that produced 382 horsepower. Toyota wanted that engine. BMW figured, “OK, fine, you can have that version of the 3.0-liter engine…as long as you take our four-cylinder turbocharged engine.”

Sounds like a great deal, right? 

Imagine the response from the Supra purists. “OMG! A four-cylinder Supra! What sacrilege! You might as well call it a Celica!”

Let’s go back in history again. As I stated before, the Supra was introduced off of a new 1978 Celica. They took the four-cylinder Celica’s front end and subframe and extended it forward to accommodate the in-line six-cylinder for the Celica Supra. At first, Toyota marketed the Celica Supra as a luxury model to capture personal luxury coupe consumers with a sexier offering. The upshot of doing so was a growing number of consumers that bought them and loved them to death.

It was not until 1982 when the Celica Supra became a contender in the large sports coupe segment, transforming itself away from being a luxury, bigger Celica. The six-cylinder Supra was given more beef in the horsepower department and brought enthusiasts running to Toyota dealers to snap one up. 

Fast forward 38 years. Toyota dropped the 2021 GR Supra’s specifications while trying to meet deliveries of the 2020 model. By upping the six-cylinder’s top end by 47 horsepower for the 2021 model, they simply made the 2020 GR Supra a collector’s item. Well, at least I hope they did. 

As for adding the four-cylinder model…that’s where I come in. 

You see, the yellow GR Supra you see on this page is the 2.0 model. It looks almost the same as the 3.0 model, save for a few details. 

Obviously, my mission was to give the GR Supra a victory lap for its current reign as #VOTY2020. Now, we have a plot twist. Which brings me to my question of whether the four-cylinder GR Supra can validate this winning combination of two-seat performance and excitement. 

What if I told you that this Nitro Yellow 2021 GR Supra 2.0 performed as well as the Renaissance Red 2020 award-winning 3.0 Premium?

In short, I found no significant difference between the 255-horsepower 2021 four-cylinder model and the 335-horepower 2020 six-cylinder version. 

Translation…the GR Supra continues to be a fun-to-drive two-seat coupe for both serious enthusiasts and those who drive for the enjoyment of it all. 

Not exactly a bombshell. However, it certainly validates a lot. Let me break this down further…

The BMW-supplied 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine pumps out 255 horsepower. It keeps the GR Supra motivated like a distance runner. This engine refuses to run out of puff. Highway traffic offers nothing to thwart the GR Supra 2.0’s quest for a destination – that is, if you’re looking for one. 

However, it is the 295 pound-feet of torque that will excite you. The acceleration is superb. The four-cylinder is as rapid as the 2020 six-cylinder. You cannot tell the difference between the two engines. 

One thing I need to point out is transmission behavior between the two drive modes. In Normal mode, you get all eight gears. On the highway, I like the fact that it can run the engine at around 1,900 RPM in eighth speed and it felt relaxed. When you press the Sport button, you can go only go up to sixth speed and it needs your engagement when it starts getting stuck on a ratio. I would not suggest Sport mode when you’re driving on a freeway, especially when you’re working the paddles to calm the engine down. 

Where Sport modes comes into play is on a curvy section of road. That way, you can control the gears going in and coming out of a curve. You just have to know – and hear – when you need to engage the paddles to pinpoint the gear you need to be. 

If you want to know how the GR Supra drives, think of this word: Playful. If you are looking to have some fun on a county highway somewhere, the GR Supra invites you to play. That also means having some fun while sticking the car into a groove between straight line jaunts and working it through the curves. The suspension is on the firm side for a reason. It can give you ample, but controlled shock travel on bumpy sections of road, while maintaining an equilibrium on smoother stretches. 

The steering system is sharp and precise. The response from the thick-rimmed steering wheel is quick. The GR Supra has a tight turning radius that will get you out of trouble. 

While playful, the GR Supra has a serious side. No matter which drive mode you are in, the car reminds you that you can have all the fun in the world, but you will need to be reined in. The electronic systems are there to keep you in your lane, distanced from the car in front of you, and making sure you’re paying attention. While not equipped with a head-up display, its driver assistance features will ensure you of safer travel, even if you want to pass the slow poke in front of you to avoid the trolling gawker on your driver side a half a length on you. 

If there was one thing I would change on the GR Supra, it would be the tires. I may have pointed this a few times, but the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires shod on this GR Supra are made for track dominance rather than road mastery. If you can afford it, swap the stock tires for another set of road-worthy ones. I have seen some GR Supras wear the Pilot Super Sport’s successor, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. The latter tire work much better on this car, as they calm it down and offer less resistance to the road. 

How much would you pay for a four-cylinder Toyota GR Supra? One of the pushbacks on this car from last year was the price. When enthusiasts found out that the GR Supra 3.0 would cost over $50,000, the seething of teeth was real. However, there is good news. The 2021 GR Supra 2.0 starts at $43,090. My Nitro Yellow tester came with a sticker price of $47,895. 

Overall, I did not expect this second round with the GR Supra to be absolutely perfect and pristine. It is a wonderful car that soothes the soul, provides you the right amount of therapeutic driving sessions, and makes more necks snap even standing still. 

What I was unprepared for was hearing from people that this screaming Nitro Yellow GR Supra that it was the first time they’ve seen one in person. 

First off, the GR Supra has been on the streets for well over a year now. There had been a few of them around. If you attended the Twin Cities Auto Show, there was one at the Toyota booth – in Nitro Yellow. 

In fact, there were four at the Wise Guys show in Roseville, Minnesota this past weekend – two in Nitro Yellow. One of them was the one you’re seeing on this page. In fact, my neighbors have seen two of them in a span of 13 months.

Just because they may be hidden from your view, the GR Supra was present at Toyota dealers waiting for enthusiasts to take them home and make it their own. 

The fact that the Toyota GR Supra won #VOTY2020 last October was not because of some obscure reasoning. This is a living, breathing sports coupe that needs the right kind of driver who will not only appreciate what it can offer them. They will fall in love with it. They will also champion its cause. 

The victory lap is finished. Validation completed. Even with just four cylinders underneath its hood, it is still a winner.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America

All photos by Randy Stern

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