A Toyota GR Supra manual? The car they said would never come!
Here it is: three pedals in the footwell, a gear lever in the middle of the center console. A center console that has been thoroughly redesigned, Toyota says, because it was never intended to go against a wobbly stick.
As you will probably recall, the GR Supra shares many components and fundamentals with the BMW Z4. Something you can’t have in any flavor of the current Z4 is a manual transmission. It is a car-only zone with eight speeds.
So when Toyota decided to put a six-speed manual transmission in its hardtop cousin — after blindly swearing that paddles were the best choice and sports car buyers only wanted a muddy car — the test drivers found they were knuckling on the climate. controls smashed in when they selected first, third, or fifth gear. The clearance was only 4mm.
To counteract this, a new center console shifts the gear lever back from where you find it in the car. This means that the handbrake switch, iDrive media controller and the mode buttons are also spread out to make room. So it looks a bit less tidy than in the car… but you forgive that quickly. And your knuckles now have 42mm to roam.
How much effort has Toyota actually put in here? Just more heated BMW offal?
The gearbox itself is a bit of a mishmash. Toyota says it “went shopping” for a collection of parts from ZF that could handle the torque of the 369 lb ft 3.0-litre turbo engine, but also keep the weight modest and fit into the available hole.
The gearbox is therefore cobbled together from ready-made parts, but as a whole it only exists in the Supra, not in a BMW. Think of it as a remastered album of the greatest hits: you’ve heard all the songs before, but they’ve been polished up and repackaged.
And then there’s the effort Toyota has made to shift gears to feel nice.
This sounds like it’s going to get VERY nerdy.
Hold tight. Toyota says it has experimented with three different shift knob masses for the Supra manual. Yes, that’s three different button weights.
They started with a 68g item, then dropped that for a 137g topper and finally settled with a 200g lever that adds just enough sluggishness to the movement between gears without feeling clunky.
That’s commendably picky. And Toyota is in good company here: The only part of the Gordon Murray T.50 that has been deliberately chosen as heavy as possible was the solid milled gear lever, because it also improves shift quality and mechanical feedback.
Two hundred grams! Could the Supra not lose some weight?
Absolutely, and it has. The manual is of course lighter than the automatic gearbox, and then there are the GR Yaris-esque wheels and a revised hi-fi. That’s all 38.3kg, which isn’t much, but it puts the porky Supra in the right direction, towards the 1.5-ton threshold.
So what’s it like to drive?
The shift is a peach: smooth, weighted just-so and free of nicks. The clutch pedal holds up for quick changes and it’s easy to heel-and-toe. The manual conversion has entered Supra life beautifully. It has also changed the character of the car: where there was once sloppy upshifts, there is now physical interaction and the danger of hitting the red line.
Obviously the manual will be slower off the line and less frugal on the highway with only six ratios instead of eight, but on first impression it has had a personality transplant… in that it is now has a personality.
But just as much credit goes to the team that had nothing to do with the gearbox.
There is more?
It’s not that Toyota knew that the GR Supra was a bit of a pudding, but… they haven’t been half-tweaking it yet. The chemistry of the rubber used in the suspension has changed, so it’s less pliable. The adaptive suspension has been re-tuned. There’s also a new calibration for the Supra’s numb electric power steering. And even the traction control had a sense of humor upgrade.
We’ve only had a handful of laps of a bone-dry Spanish racetrack to test this new Supra – all cars from 2022 will get the road holding. But the first impressions are very positive. Turn-in is sharper, the rear axle doesn’t feel like it’s lazily moving in your wake like a fish on a line, and you’ll have a clearer idea of when the rear-wheel-drive chassis can give way to skid for skid and giggle.
It’s not a night and day reinvention that suddenly takes the GR Supra to the Alpine A110 level of interactivity and balance, but it’s definitely heading in the right direction.
There was a bit of a ‘why did you bother’ feeling about the Supra – all those BMW bits that had been so unconvincingly reanimated. Neither the six-cylinder nor the 2.0-litre hit the spot. But now, here, today, the Supra seems to be getting really good. Finally.
Is anyone really going to buy a manual GR Supra?
Good question. On the plus side, when Porsche turned the GT3 into a PDK car, there was a frothy tumult, followed by queues around the block for the 911 R and manual GT3 Touring. So the ‘you can’t have DIY gear until we say so’ tactic can really pay off – on real hardcore specials.
On the other hand, how many F-Type manuals has Jaguar ever shifted? One in ten Caymans in the UK have three pedals, despite being blessed with a gear stick of the gods. BMW M2 DCTs outperform manuals by a similar margin. This could be a classic case of a car that avid geeks think Toyota should build, but don’t plan actually shelling out £50k+ for himself.
For what it’s worth, Toyota estimates the manual will take up 30-40 percent of sales. Which is quite an old piece. You wonder why they didn’t start with it in the beginning, huh?