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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 first drive review: Trading power for poise

With plenty of punch, less weight and better balance, this 2.0-liter I4 Supra makes a strong case for being pick of the litter.

Steven Ewing Former managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Steven Ewing
6 min read
2021 Toyota Supra 2.0
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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0

The big way to tell a 2.0-liter Supra apart from a 3.0-liter model? One-inch-smaller wheels.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

I feel bad for anyone who bought a 2020 Toyota Supra

. Yeah, I know, some people get a bizarre sense of pride just from being first -- they're the ones whose comments say as much on YouTube -- but great as the 2020 GR Supra is, the 2021 model is better. And I'm not even talking about the more powerful 3.0-liter Supra.

The Supra gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine option for 2021, and what it lacks in outright power, it makes up for with better balance, lighter weight and lower cost. It's a slightly softer Supra, yes, but in a lot of ways, that also makes it the one to buy.

2.0-liter engine is a winner 

Just as the Supra's 3.0-liter I6 is borrowed from its fraternal twin, the , so, too, is this new turbo four. It makes 255 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 1,550 rpm. While that's a pretty significant decrease compared with the Supra's newly updated 3.0-liter and its 382 hp and 368 lb-ft, this engine is a real sweetheart. It pulls hard off the line, and the full brunt of its torque stays strong up to 4,400 rpm. Toyota says the 2.0-liter Supra will accelerate to 60 mph in 5 seconds, which is respectably quick. The Supra 3.0 will do the same sprint in 3.9 seconds, but unless you're routinely flooring the Supra when pulling away from stoplights (don't be that guy), the 2.0 offers perfectly strong get-up-and-go.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0
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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0

The Supra's 2.0-liter turbo engine is shared with the BMW Z4.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

An eight-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, and it's the same smooth-shifting ZF unit you'll find in the Supra 3.0. It's not a dual-clutch gearbox, but it'll change gears just as quickly. fits the Supra with a pair of steering wheel-mounted paddles, too, but they're not my jam. Besides, the transmission is nicely behaved on its own, and is happy to drop a gear or two when digging into the throttle.

Because this engine is all about torque, it's easy to keep the Supra running at low revs most of the time. There's enough turbocharged twist to get this coupe out of its own way in a hurry, without having to rev the engine to high heaven. This makes the Supra easier to drive every day. It sounds nice in its lower and middle registers, too, and I can't help but giggle every time I upshift and the exhaust lets out a cute little fart.

As an added benefit, the Supra 2.0 ought to be a bit more efficient than the higher-strung 3.0, too, though official EPA ratings for the I4 aren't yet available. Toyota says the 2021 Supra 3.0 should return 22 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined, and the 2.0-liter version will likely do a bit better. Standard stop/start tech helps, but this feature is pretty rough in operation, and best left turned off.

Comparison: 2020 Supra vs. 2021 Supra

2020 Supra 3.02021 Supra 2.02021 Supra 3.0
Engine 3.0-liter twin-turbo I62.0-liter turbo I43.0-liter twin-turbo I6
Power 335 hp255 hp382 hp
Torque 365 lb-ft295 lb-ft368 lb-ft
0-60 mph 4.1 seconds5.0 seconds3.9 seconds
Weight 3,397 pounds3,181 pounds3,400 pounds
Fuel economy 24 / 31 / 26 mpgTBD22 / 30 / 25 mpg

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0: Turbo punch with added thrift

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Supra-sharp handling

There's one big advantage the 2.0 has over the 3.0: weight, or rather, a lack thereof. Largely because of the engine, but also thanks to different brakes, smaller 18-inch wheels and a few other mechanical minutiae, the Supra 2.0 is a full 219 pounds lighter than its more powerful sibling. That's despite both cars using the same MacPherson double-joint front strut and multilink rear suspension setup, as well as shared 23.5mm front and 18mm rear stabilizer bars.

Compared with the current 2020 Supra, the new 2.0-liter coupe feels every bit as agile. The chassis is fantastic -- communicative in all the right ways, letting just enough pitch and roll factor in to give you a proper sense of speed and grip. Speaking of which, the Supra 2.0 rolls on Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, just like the 3.0, with 255/40ZR18s up front and 275/40ZR18s out back. These tires have 5 more millimeters of sidewall than the Super Sports that wrap the Supra 3.0's 19-inch wheels, but the front and rear contact patches of both cars are identical in width, so traction is in equally high supply.

I'll be honest, I have yet to drive the updated 3.0-liter car, but I can't imagine its added power and inch-larger wheels vastly change the driving experience outside of a racetrack -- especially considering the chassis components are basically the same. The only real advantage the Supra 3.0 has is when it comes time to stop, its 13.7-inch Brembo front brakes with four-piston calipers surely providing significantly more speed-scrubbing force than the 13-inch rotors and single-piston calipers of the 2.0-liter car.  

On the other hand, the Supra 2.0's smaller rolling stock and slightly cushier rubber mean it's more comfortable in the city, especially on pockmarked streets. No, the 18s don't look as cool as the 19s, but they fill the wheel wells nicely. And if for some reason that pesky missing inch is a dealbreaker, the remedy is just a click or two away.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0

BMW switchgear, BMW tech.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Familiar switchgear and iDrive tech

How else can you tell the two Supras apart? The four-cylinder model has gloss black side mirrors, while the I6 car's caps have a matte black finish (unless you get the special A91 Edition, which has carbon fiber). Get on your knees and ogle the tailpipes, and you might notice the 3.0 rocks brushed stainless-steel tips, while the 2.0's are only polished. Otherwise, the cars are virtually indistinguishable, from their huge headlight housings up front to the fake vents all over the body. No matter which Supra you buy, you'll still bump your head every time you get in.

As for the cabin, the discrepancies between the models are more obvious here. The 2.0-liter Supra has manual seats, while the 3.0-liter car gets power-adjustable chairs. Full-leather upholstery is only offered on the 3.0 Premium, as well as a color head-up display and heated seats. The base car makes do with a tinny-sounding, four-speaker audio system, while the 3.0 and 3.0 Premium get 10- and 12-speaker setups, respectively.

Every Supra comes with an 8.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system (the 2020's base, 6.5-inch head unit is gone), running a slightly reskinned version of BMW's iDrive 6 software. That means Apple CarPlay is standard, while Android Auto isn't available. Since Toyota has no plans to update the Supra's multimedia tech to BMW's latest iDrive 7, it's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. Embedded navigation comes standard on 3.0-liter models, but it's optional with the 2.0T. 

As for driver-assistance features, forward-collision avoidance and one of the most aggressive lane-keeping systems I've ever tested come standard on every Supra. A few optional extras are available, too, including blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, parking sensors and adaptive cruise control, and they're bundled with the 2.0's aforementioned embedded nav add-on.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0
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2021 Toyota Supra 2.0

With hardly any performance trade-offs, the less-expensive 2.0 feels like the Supra to get.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

A compelling, lower-cost option

I can't reveal official pricing figures just yet (come back in June), but suffice it to say that the 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 should come in well below the 2021 3.0 when it goes on sale in a few months, and it'll almost certainly undercut the $49,990 base price of the 2020 Supra, too. For my money, the 2.0 is every bit as entertaining to drive as the 2020 Supra, and likely close enough to the new 3.0 to make the price jump kind of unnecessary. In other words, it seems like the version to buy.

Of course, Toyota is committed to incrementally updating the Supra, and I've heard rumors about everything from a manual transmission option to some kind of track-attack package. Does that mean this Supra will be irrelevant in a year? Maybe. But for now, at least, this turbo-four makes the 2021 model supersweet.