2021 Toyota GR Supra 2.0 review: More than enough, but something's missing
After a couple hours in the 2021 Toyota GR Supra 2.0 I thought to myself, "We waited two decades for this, a reskinned BMW Z4 with a fixed roof?" Don't get me wrong, this new, entry-level, four-cylinder Supra is stylish, sharp and plenty swift, but it still lacks a certain magic, that somethin'-somethin' that compels you to take a late-night drive to get some milk even though there's still plenty in the fridge.
Mazda's pint-sized Miata has exactly this enchanted feel; its spellbinding dynamics harmonize with your soul. Something like a Ford Shelby GT350 with its bellowing V8 can provide similar feels, albeit on a much larger, louder scale. But the Supra gives me no such tingles. I feel no more connected to it than I do to my work laptop. Both are purposeful and highly responsive, but I'm in love with neither.
This sentiment was completely unexpected because the Supra does the sports-car thing well, Bavarian underpinnings and all. The car's ride is properly pounding, any suppleness traded in for exemplary body control and zero roll through corners. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, which are gummier than hot tar and envelop a set of stylish 18-inch wheels, provide seemingly inexhaustible grip. This machine's hefty steering is immediate and exacting. Despite being slightly smaller than what's fitted to its six-cylinder sibling, the GR Supra 2.0's brakes are potent and progressive, with a nice, firm pedal feel. But despite ticking all these boxes, something's still missing, and I can't quite put my finger on it.
That isn't to say the Supra isn't objectively impressive. The Supra's 2.0-liter engine option is new for 2021. Borrowed from BMW, this four-cylinder turbocharged unit is superb, both snappy and smooth, cranking out 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Those figures pale in comparison to the heat six-cylinder Supras pack, but this car still absolutely rips, shooting from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat (the 2021 Supra 3.0 can do the deed in as little as 3.9 seconds). The engine is linear in its power delivery and extremely refined. Honestly, there's no need for a higher-end Supra -- the performance this base model provides is shockingly good.
An eight-speed automatic transmission helps keep that engine roiling. Quick and crisp, it's a willing accomplice when driving delinquency is demanded, though it's still no substitute for a manual. At least for now, a row-your-own gearbox is not offered in any version of the Supra, and perhaps that's partly why the car leaves me feeling less than enraptured. But hey, at least the automatic helps reduce consumption. According to the EPA, my tester delivers 28 miles per gallon combined, a figure derived from its city score of 25 mpg and its highway rating of 32 mpg. In the real world, however, I obliterated those figures, averaging more than 36 mpg after an extended drive, a performance that underscores this powertrain's all-around excellence.
Yes, I love the Supra's giddy-up, but I've also fallen for its design. The car's handsome proportions, nose-to-the-ground front end and perky backside make it look like nothing else on the road, especially when dressed in Nitro Yellow. That double-bubble roof is oh-so-cool, and those broad hips draw your eye with every glance in the side-view mirror. Despite the curvaceous metalwork, this machine isn't particularly wide, or large in any dimension for that matter. It's longer than a Miata and shorter than a Mustang , slotting neatly between those two competitors. This car is also something of a 'tweener in Toyota's lineup, a stepping stone between the affordable 86 sports car and the more potent Supra 3.0.
I find my tester's leather-and-Alcantara-covered seats comfortable, offering plenty of support thanks to the firm padding, though the bolstering may be too aggressive for some. Manually adjustable unlike in higher-end models, the chairs' various levers and ratchets make it easy to find a good driving position, though no amount of tweaking will improve the rear sightlines. Those massive roof pillars that help give this car such sexy styling are also great at obliterating visibility. The small backlight is no help, either. Making matters worse, blind-spot monitoring and other useful features, such as rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and parking sensors, aren't standard. Instead, they're bundled in the $3,485 safety and technology package.
As for other features, the Supra Command infotainment system is like forgotten leftovers: starting to stink. Basically an older version of BMW iDrive, it comes with an 8.8-inch display and a convoluted interface. It's not particularly easy to navigate, though you can operate it with control buttons on the center console or via the touchscreen, which is nice. Embedded navigation is also included with that safety and tech package, as is wireless Apple CarPlay. Android Auto isn't offered, so sad trombone if you're a fan of The Google. Another downside is that this Toyota won't be updated to iDrive 7, BMW's latest and greatest infotainment system, even though its sibling, the Z4, already has it. Yeah, I'm as confused about this decision as you are, but so it goes.
Technological curiosities aside, the rest of the Supra's cabin is a nice place to be. There's plenty of soft plastic, which has a dense, high-quality feel and an attractive pattern. For better or worse, the climate controls and other switches are borrowed from BMW. Aside from the Nokia brick-phone electronic shifter and cheesy-looking gauges, everything meshes quite nicely. As you might expect, the Supra is not a particularly versatile car. In-cabin storage is scarce, limited to a small cubby on the center tunnel, another bin ahead of the gear selector and tiny door pockets. The trunk is also petite, though it should be spacious enough to carry luggage for two people.
Compared to six-cylinder models, the Supra 2.0 is down on power and torque, it also has smaller brakes, no strut-tower-to-radiator-support reinforcements, fixed rather than adaptive dampers and a standard differential. On the plus side, it's also about 219 pounds lighter and, most importantly, way more affordable -- like, a whopping eight grand cheaper. Out the door, my tester checks out for $47,895, a figure that includes the $3,485 safety and tech package, a $425 paint job and $995 in delivery fees. In comparison, the Supra 3.0 starts at 52 big ones and goes up from there.
Of all the Japanese sports cars available today that are engineered by Bavarians and assembled in Austria by a third-party manufacturer, the Toyota Supra is hands down my favorite. But all jokes aside, even in base, four-cylinder guise it offers potent acceleration and crisp dynamics. But after extensive time behind the wheel, I think I'd still rather have a Mazda Miata or even a Mustang EcoBoost with the high-performance package. Toyota's Supra does many things right, but it somehow leaves me completely whelmed, neither over nor under.