2023 Toyota Supra MT Review: Perfectly Impractical, Better With a Stick

This is how the successor to the legendary Mk 4 Supra was always meant to be.

  • 30
2023 Toyota Supra MT Review: Perfectly Impractical, Better With a Stick © 2023 Toyota Supra MT Review: Perfectly Impractical, Better With a Stick

Toyota has built up a reputation for being quite a conservative car company. Between the Prius and the Camry, buying a Toyota meant buying something economical with good fuel economy and decent space. Something you don’t mind taking on a road trip or eventually gifting to your eldest child on their sweet 16. That all changed when Toyota decided to get back in touch with its youth with the GR Supra.

Now, we’ve reviewed the Supra before. And for the most part, the 2023 Toyota Supra is very much like last year’s Supra with one little exception: the six-speed manual gearbox. That one small detail is so incredibly important to the Supra’s identity as a sports car, and with it finally being equipped as an option for the 2023 model year, I feel like the car has finally been perfected as a sports car.

So buckle in and listen up—if you’re in the market for a no-frills and all-thrills sports car, this is it.

<em>Rob Stumpf</em>
Rob Stumpf

2023 Toyota GR Supra MT Specs

    The Basics

    Look, we all know what the Supra is. It’s a wolf in another wolf’s clothing. A BMW Z4 wearing a Toyota badge. We've all heard the jokes and the nitpicking about it being a parts bin car (we’ve made them too), so don’t come for me in the comments. But I’d like to remind you that if the Supra existed without BMW’s help (and that’s a big if), the Supra's chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, said that it would have cost upwards of six figures. I don’t know about you, but that puts it right out of my price range.

    Either way, Victoria Scott has already documented just how many of our favorite Toyota sports cars of years past have their roots dug into other OEMs, so let’s just enjoy the Supra for what it’s meant to be—a sports car.

    There’s no mistaking the Supra as anything else from the outside either. The overall exterior design, which hasn’t changed from its 2020 introduction, is quite brilliant, less the plethora of fake vents. You’ve got the double bubble roof from the 2000GT, the A-pillar from the original Mk 1 Supra, the squared-off nose of the Mk 3, plus, the sweeping hood and body lines of the Mk 4. There is quite a lot of heritage balled up into a modern package if you stare long enough, and it's surprisingly smaller than you might think, too. Still, Toyota has managed to give the Mk 5 its own qualities that make it utterly unique.

    Rob Stumpf

    And my God, does the car have presence. It’s a head-turner that just about breaks the neck of any enthusiast who passes by. I couldn’t count the number of times that a cell phone came out at an intersection, or I caught someone pointing my way in a parking lot. It doesn’t even matter if it was a “Is that a Supra?!” Snapchat to their friends, because my point is that the car absolutely craves attention, for better or worse.

    Inside is a different story. There’s nothing that feels overwhelmingly special about the GR Supra from behind the steering wheel. It’s not overly cramped for being a two-seater, and there aren’t many things to fidget with once you’re up and running—every button and knob has its own place with its own use.

    Rob Stumpf

    And maybe that’s for the best because most people buying the Supra are doing so to enjoy the driving experience. The nannies and tech-focused features in this car are far and few between; there’s no lane centering, traction control is defeatable, and the 8.8-inch infotainment screen—which is fairly small, by the way—isn’t begging you to use it to control every setting in the vehicle.

    Visibility, however, is a big problem. With my wrist resting on the steering wheel, I was able to touch the headliner above the windshield. The low-slung roof means very little forward visibility, so stopping short for traffic lights or leaning forward might be something you have to get used to. The C-pillar also gives me anxiety when pulling out into traffic at an angle, but that’s nothing new with the Supra platform in general.

    And, something that bugged me for an irrational reason, you can’t sync the driver and passenger HVAC temperature without manually turning each knob. That’s weird, right?

    Rob Stumpf

    All of those intricacies go away when you’re actually driving, though. The Supra is a proper performance machine that really begs to be driven. A gas pedal that wants to be pressed to the floor, and a gear lever that wants to be slapped around. You will want to bury that pedal constantly to recapture the thrill you felt driving the car for the very first time. It just doesn’t get old.

    Driving the Toyota GR Supra MT

    As mentioned before, the Supra has been in the hands of owners for some time now. I could tell you that it’s irrationally fun to drive (it is) and that it has gobs of power (it does) that will keep on pulling all the way up the power band through every gear (it will), or, I could really drive the point home by raving about how grippy the factory Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are around your favorite curvy road (again, duh). Need I say more?

    Well, actually, yes, I do, because that’s the entire reason that you’re reading this review.

    What’s different this time around is positioned perfectly at your right hand and left foot: a stick and clutch pedal. These two magical mechanical elements make the 2023 variant of the GR Supra so much different to drive than the launch edition of the car, or any one of the variants equipped with the eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox. In fact, I’m not sure what Toyota was thinking when it originally decided to launch the Supra without this because after driving one with a proper manual transmission, my love for this car was reinvigorated.

    <em>Rob Stumpf</em>
    Rob Stumpf

    That being said, I think it is worth reiterating how phenomenal the overall driving experience of the car really is.

    The BMW-sourced 3.0-liter inline-six is remarkable. Its 382-horsepower output is more than enough to get you into trouble with Johnny Law before you hit the top of second gear, and its properly-tuned clutch grabs right as you take off or row through the gears—spirited or not.

    The transmission itself is a masterpiece. The shifter is small and low-slung, weighted nicely in the hand with minimal slop. Throws from one gear to the next are easy; smooth and only slightly notchy as you land in the right spot. Everything is placed naturally and feels like an extension of your manual-loving body rather than an appliance. Interestingly, the manual transmission has taller gears—that seems kind of obvious, considering that the car has two fewer gears than the automatic option. That also plays into the zero-to-60 mph sprint taking just a little bit longer—4.2 seconds, 0.3 seconds slower than the automatic—but you’ll hardly notice whilst managing wheelspin and shifting manually.

    <em>Rob Stumpf</em>
    Rob Stumpf

    Now, the one thing that took a bit of getting used to was the car’s auto rev-match functionality. It’s not that the feature is implemented poorly, but as someone who is used to driving significantly older vehicles with a row-your-own transmission, having the car blip the throttle for you is a bit … weird. However, downshifting resulted in extremely accurate throttle blips, making those engagements buttery smooth.

    It’s not just straight-line driving where the Supra does well. While the Mk 4 Supra felt more akin to a grand tourer, the Mk 5 feels like a proper sports car. It’s nimble in the corners and can come out of a turn with decent grip. That being said, it’s entirely possible to kick out the rear-end into a slide if you were to, say, take it to your local drift event or privately owned track. The power produced by that B58 can far exceed the grip of the Michelins.

    Rob Stumpf

    Steering is quite light, which can be attributed to the vehicle’s electric power steering rack. Still, it was slightly unexpected given my experience driving every generation of 3 Series BMW from E30 to present. If you’re coming from another vehicle with electric power steering, the switch should feel fairly similar, but any owners coming from any sort of driver’s car with a hydraulic rack will immediately notice just how lifeless the steering feedback feels.

    The suspension makes up for what the steering lacks, though. It’s the perfect blend of comfort and responsiveness, with the ability to shred through corners with virtually no body roll while still eating up bumps and dips on the highway. One area of concern for those tracking their car, or at least a good note for those who regularly drive spiritedly, is the probability of bump steer. Under harsh braking, the Supra has a tendency to undergo a few changes to the rear suspension geometry as it unloads due to weight transfer, making the rear end behave a bit unpredictably.

    The Highs and Lows

    The Supra is a fantastic sports car. There’s no “one” perfect thing that makes it that way, rather, it’s the amalgam of features that you just don’t see very often: good design, turbocharged inline-six, rear-drive, two-doors, and all paired with a manual transmission.

    It makes its mark as a driver’s car. Again, that’s nothing new. But the driving experience is truly what separates the Supra from your everyday boringmobile. It’s also what makes it incredibly impractical as an only car.

    Rob Stumpf

    For example, quite a few creature comforts that you might expect from a brand new car are missing. I would have liked to see optional lane centering (not just lane departure mitigation), adaptive cruise control, and a more refined infotainment system. Yes, all of these convenience features kind of negate the purpose of a driver-focused car, but at its core, this is a $60,000 vehicle built in 2023. For many people, this is the car they will be driving—not a weekend car, not a store-and-forget car, not a track weapon. So to have the option to equip these comforts for daily driving or long highway trips would be nice.

    Those technological deficiencies aren’t necessarily a dealbreaker, though. But it certainly adds to the impracticality when paired with the lack of cargo space, limited number of seats, poor visibility, missing external trunk release, or relentless wind buffetting that prevents you from driving with the windows down above 40 mph.

    Toyota GR Supra Features, Options, and Competition

    Toyota likes to keep things fairly simple when speccing out the Supra. There really isn’t much to add—what you see is pretty much what you get. The base of the base is the “2.0” trim, which is aptly named since it’s equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Make no mistake, that little engine isn’t lacking in power, but it is lacking in the availability of a manual transmission.

    To get the manual, you’ll have to spring for the 3.0-liter inline-six. This bigger engine comes with additions like folding mirrors, power seats, a better sound system, better tires, and four-piston Brembo brakes. The 3.0 Premium trim gets nicer leather-trimmed heated sport seats, sport pedals, a wireless charging pad, a head-up display, and an available Driver Assist Package (blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and parking sensors). There’s also the limited-run A91-CF, which comes with special matte black wheels, interior appointments, and carbon bits.

    <em>Rob Stumpf</em>
    Rob Stumpf

    If a Supra isn’t your thing, or you just can’t find one for a decent price, there are always other options to consider. The most obvious choice is the BMW Z4, which is mechanically similar given it is the Supra’s sister car built on the same factory line at Magna Steyr. And if we’re going to talk about the Supra being a parts bin car, look no further than the BMW M240i, which, by the way, has an arguably better interior.

    There’s also the Porsche 718 Boxster if you’ve got some more cash to burn, or the new Nissan Z if you’re partial to Nissan’s Z-car rivalry. You could also reach into the domestic market with the upcoming top-trim Ford Mustang Dark Horse. What a time to be an auto enthusiast.

    Personally, the Supra is my pick of the bunch. And I’d spec it exactly how my press loaner came: 3.0 Premium with a manual transmission. Though, I am partial to Absolute Zero white paint. This is all assuming, of course, that you can actually find one. Against my wife’s advice, I actually tried to find an identically-spec’d car after my time with the Supra. None of my local dealers had any allocations, and the dealers within driving distance that actually did have one either wanted several thousand dollars above MSRP or wouldn’t sell out of market.

    Sustainability

    When it comes to fuel economy, the Supra isn’t anything special. At 21 mpg combined, it sits in line with the Nissan Z and 718 Boxster. But if it weren’t for the manual transmission, the Supra would jump another 5 combined mpg, just like its sister car, the BMW Z4. That’s right, the manual knocks quite a bit off the top.

    <em>EPA</em>
    EPA

    It could be worse, though. This car’s American muscle competitors—the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang—fare far worse with combined fuel economy numbers in the teens.

    And in my testing, lead foot aside, the Supra really did get decent fuel economy. In fact, long highway trips seemed to sip gasoline at around the same 30-plus mpg rate as the automatic Supra and Z4 are rated for, so as long as I kept a feather on the accelerator.

    Value and Verdict

    We all want cheap thrills, right? Of course, but by no means is that the Supra. Don’t get me wrong, the car certainly offers you thrills with an absolutely incredible driving experience. However, being priced at $59,790 means that the cost-to-thrill ratio is kind of lopsided, especially when you consider the lack of modern amenities and conveniences.

    Looking back at the Mk 4 Supra, fast has never really been cheap. The 1998 Supra Turbo cost around $74,400 in 2023 dollars, which should speak to how much of a steal the 2023 really is.

    It’s time to stop making fun of the Supra for being a BMW underneath. Because, at the end of the day, who the hell really cares? It has all of the main components that we should care about in a sports car of its lineage—the turbocharged inline-six, the manual transmission, the sharp body lines, and power sent to the rear wheels. Get over it and enjoy the car, even if it’s simply a BMW wearing a Toyota body on top.

    <em>Rob Stumpf</em>
    Rob Stumpf

    Got a tip or question for the author? Contact them directly: [email protected]

    Commnets 0
    Leave A Comment