Finally, after a lapse of almost 17 years, Toyota’s iconic musclecar is back. Unveiled today at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the all-new Supra has been much-anticipated since the company said 8 years ago that it would bring back the model. During those 8 years, Toyota showed concept cars that indicated the design direction and it also quietly moved to protect the ‘Supra’ name by making trademark applications in major markets.

Much of the time, Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the 86 coupe and Supra, gave updates of the Supra. In 2012, it was revealed that Toyota would jointly develop the sportscar with BMW, which the German carmaker would sell as its own new Z4 (G29). The new Supra – designated ‘A90’ as a continuation of the model codes of previous generations – is the fifth generation of the model and the first global Toyota GAZOO Racing model.

Toyota President & CEO, Akio Toyoda, personally drove the new Supra onto the stage and introduced the model. He can be credited with bringing back the sportscar and tested prototypes to give feedback on suspension tuning. At the launch in Detroit, he was joined by Fernando Alonso (below), who was part of the team that gave Toyota its first ever Le Mans win.

The form of the new Supra can be traced back to the Toyota 2000GT of the 1960s, Japan’s first supercar.

Like previous Supras, the new generation also continues to have an inline 6-cylinder engine, this time with a twin-scroll turbocharger and 3-litre displacement to produce 335 ps/500 Nm. The power from the BMW-derived engine goes to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission that provides quick shifts, with short ratios selected for the lower gears. Normal or Sport driving modes are available along with a Launch Control function to maximise acceleration at take-off so the car can reach 100 km/h in a projected 4.3 seconds – which makes this the quickest Toyota-branded production model to date. The vehicle stability control also has a special TRACK setting that reduces the level of system intervention so the driver has greater control of the vehicle’s dynamic performance.

For high performance drivers, the Supra has an active differential that uses an electric motor and multi-plate clutches to control lateral torque. The active differential precisely controls torque distribution between the rear wheels, with stepless variable locking from 0 to 100%. The differential can control torque distribution between the rear wheels when cornering under both acceleration and braking, enabling greater momentum through a corner. The active differential is also effective at ensuring neutral handling by reducing both understeer and oversteer.

The Supra design has a 50:50 weight balance with optimized front-to-rear aerodynamic balance. To prioritise the car’s agility and handling, the engineers achieved a 1.55:1 ‘golden ratio’ between the wheelbase length and track width. High structural rigidity (greater even than the Lexus LFA supercar), a centre of gravity lower than the 86 coupe and ideal 50:50 front/rear weight distribution were fundamental to achieving the dynamic goals.

The desired weight balance was gained by moving the engine as far as possible rearwards, which introduced new production challenges. The high body rigidity allowed for more precise and detailed refinements to the suspension geometry and tuning of the shock absorbers.

The new Adaptive Variable Suspension design comprises double-joint spring MacPherson struts at the front and a 5-link system at the rear. The front suspension subframe and control arm mounting points have been made extremely rigid to yield precise cornering characteristics, while the use of aluminium for the control arms and swivel bearings reduces the car’s unsprung weight, giving superior agility and efficiency. There are also high-performance wheel hubs with sports-tuned electric power steering. The rear suspension benefits from a similarly lightweight design for the rigid subframe and the bracing that connects it to the body, helping ensure extremely precise wheel control.

The rear wheels and tyres are wider than on the front (rear: 275/35R19; front: 255/35R19) to enhance grip, and performance. Large brakes are used, of course, with 13.7-inch front rotors held by 4-piston Brembo calipers.

The cockpit for the driver of the new Supra combines traditional GT elements with ultra-modern functionality. Designed to help the driver focus entirely on the business of driving, it is directly influenced by the layout found in single-seater racing cars.

A low, slim horizontal dashboard maximises the forward view through the windscreen, helping the driver place the car with precision in high-speed driving. The principal controls are tightly grouped for quick and easy operation. The instrument panel, centre console and door trim combine in a seamless design that gives the cockpit a strong, unified feel.

A high-definition colour display forms the instrument panel, projecting a large-diameter, 3-dimensional meter dial that seems to float over it. The single-meter design consolidates information necessary for performance driving, such as the tachometer and shift-timing indicator, enabling the driver to easily focus on critical control information through the small-diameter steering wheel.

The display’s easy-to-read layout puts multimedia information, including audio and available navigation, on the right side. An optional full-colour Head-Up Display projects vital driving and navigation information ahead of the driver.

The shape of the cockpit flows down into soft, supportive knee pads in the door trim and on the side of the centre console, their shape calculated with the benefit of Toyota GAZOO Racing’s circuit racing experience.

The seats have a racing-influenced design that ensures comfort at all times and excellent support, in particular if the car is being used on-track. Body-hugging side bolsters are featured on the cushion and the high back and there is an integrated head restraint.

The new Supra (and also the Z4) are to be made by Magna Steyr in Austria, a move which makes sense given the sort of volumes the cars will be produced in which would not be suited for high-volume factories.

In the new version of the famous Supra logotype, the ‘S’ was inspired by a racetrack s-bend.

Deliveries start from the middle of this year and in the US market, the prices for the Supra start from US$49,990 (about RM205,000) and the initial 1,500 units for that market will be Launch Edition versions that cost about 10% more. For the extra money, customers will get a uniquely numbered carbonfibre badge on the dashboard complete with a graphic of Akio Toyoda’s signature besides other special features.

Related story: Remembering the first Toyota Supra

[Chips Yap]

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