So I was racing down some fabulous back roads, diving off a ridge down into a valley, trees and golf course greens flashing past, winding out third gear into some ridiculous triple-digit speed when it hit me: The 2023 Toyota Supra GR with a 6-speed manual transmission is PERFECT. I mean, there is nothing wrong with this car. Everything – EVERYTHING – about it is fantastic.
We last drove the newest iteration of the Supra back in Autumn of 2021 – two years ago. We loved it despite it’s automatic transmission. The paddle shifters worked exceptionally well and we were able to paddle our way all over some fun Michigan roads. But still…working that third pedal and a manual gear shifter would have made it…better. More satisfying. So when Toyota announced that they were going to offer a 6-speed manual version we started calling our Toyota rep to see when we could snag a ride. The when turned out to be now and…what a ride it has been.
Nothing has changed about the design in the last two years. It’s still the same gorgeously curvaceous road rocket that it was then. It’s eye catching for sure, from the sharp F1-inspired nose up the long arching hood, the faux fender vents, the aggressive roofline with bubbles over the driver and passenger providing a few extra inches of headroom clearance for helmets, to the sexiest rear fenders this side of a Dodge Viper GTS, and finally that ducktail spoiler that has to provide some serious downforce at speed. It’s gorgeous. Truly the least expensive exotic you can buy today.
Inside is just as well-thought out. The cockpit is a mixture of rich plastics, leather, and genuine carbon fiber, all tastefully integrated. Serious drivers will appreciate how well laid out everything is: The important stuff is primary in the interior design and the peripheral stuff is tucked out of the way where it won’t be a distraction. Tachometer? It’s the focus of the instrument cluster. The speed reading is digital and resides to the left of the circular tach. It’s also thrown up on the windshield so you don’t have to be distracted when driving at speed. The stick-shift falls readily to hand in the center console. The “Sport” button and “Traction Control Off” buttons lie between you and the stick. The knob that controls the sat-nav screen is on the passenger side of the console – within easy reach if you need it but out of your way when driving. Beautiful. If the devil is in the details, Toyota has gone to great pains to exorcise that devil. There is plenty of legroom for tall people – just watch your head as you’re getting in because the roofline is low. The trunk is pretty spacious under the rear hatch and Toyota provides a privacy screen to hide your stuff from prying eyes.
Under the hood lies a BMW turbocharged 3.0L inline-six (it’s a joint project, if you recall). It has to be the silkiest, smoothest engine I’ve ever had the privilege of driving. It makes 382 hp and 368 lb-ft of torque. That torque comes on hard at low rpms and carries it right up to it’s 7000 rpm redline. It’s a ridiculously strong engine with no weak points anywhere in it’s rev range. Heck, I managed to spin the tires leaving a parking lot in second gear. Speaking of second gear, it’s similar to God pushing you up the road. My neck about snapped back into the headrest several times as I grabbed second gear and planted the throttle. Each redline shift drops you back into another strong upward sweep of the tach. The engine sounds fantastic, especially with Sport mode engaged. The active exhaust opens up and that frenetic free-revving inline six just sings out the two large exhaust pipes in back.
Having a honest-to-God six-speed manual in this car perfects it. It’s SO nice to have a third pedal in the pedal box, so nice to rest your hand on the shift knob at a light, to feel the direct linkage when you shift, feeling the engine slip into a different range of power, to have that control and have it so tactilely in your hand. A good manual just makes a car. The clutch is light and set a little higher than we’d have liked, but it wasn’t a detriment. The dash display tells you what gear you’re in, which is a nice reminder at times. When you downshift, the car rev-matches for you, perfectly blipping the throttle for your downshift. While it seems a bit disingenuous, it IS helpful and I liked it. Out back, an electronically controlled LSD put down the power as evenly and fully as it could.
The Supra 3.0 GR will accelerate to 60 mph (100 kph) in about 4 seconds. It’s electronically limited top speed is 155 mph. When you’re driving something that accelerates like that and can reach 155 as quickly as it does, it pays to have good brakes. The Supra is fit with Brembo four-piston calipers up front over 14” ventilated discs and single-piston rear calipers over 13.5” rear discs. They clamp down with enough force to stop the 3400 lb car with brain scrambling speed. We never got caught out by a situation in the Supra. If traffic backed up suddenly during our rush hour commute, we were always able to break faster than the guy ahead of us. All that braking ability is ensconced inside 19” wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sports. While ferociously sticky, they can be coaxed into sliding around with exceptional balance – something we did quite a bit of as the temps turned cooler here.
The suspension is Toyota’s adaptive variable suspension, which does a good job of making the ride feel super smooth. Sharp bumps and expansion strips in straight line driving upset the suspension a bit. You could feel the car bounce to one side or the other when you hit a access cover in the road. The suspension felt tight. Minor imperfections in the road are eliminated completely. Glide through a set of curves and you’d swear the suspension was using AI to figure out what stance to take, then adjusting the suspension to best handle the angles and attitude of the car. The result was that you could take corners with little effort and come out feeling like a professional driver. The Supra just eats corners and curvy roads like an athlete at a buffet after training.
Our car, whether aligned to factory specs or not, had razor-sharp steering. An inch or so of turn could handle nearly any s-curve without breaking a sweat. It also made it feel twitchy on the highway as the Pilot Super Sports tramlined in the cut grooves on the concrete sections and in the tire depressions of asphalt sections. It was unsettling enough that you really wanted to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. With time though, we grew more comfortable with it.
Sometimes a sports car is capable of posting fantastic performance numbers but lacks that magical human-machine interaction. The Supra isn’t one of those cars. You feel one with the car when you’re driving it and that’s the sign of an excellent car. We had several fantastic drives on back roads while we had it. The cornering, the acceleration, the braking, the balance – all inspire total confidence in the package and that confidence makes it an extremely rewarding car to drive fast. On a track, this car would be an absolute pleasure to pilot. Accelerating, winding through the gears to redline, downshifting while braking, tucking into corners too hot but feeling the car come alive and balance on a knife’s edge of controllable slip, getting it straight again and powering to the next curve, hearing the throttle blip as you downshift, working that stick and clutch, feeling the suspension set up beneath you and the car glide effortlessly through the corner, back flat on the throttle, listening to the revs build, the engine smooth as silk. Its heady stuff. Stuff you want to enjoy over and over again. Toyota and BMW have nailed it with this car and it really is perfect. I’m in love.
The starting price for the 3.0 GR with a stick in the US is about $60,000. A fantastic price for the performance you’re buying into. The only real option package is a bunch of electronic safety features and cruise control. Everything you need is already there. This is one of the most rewarding, most economical deals in the automotive world right now. Nice job, Toyota. You’ve made the perfect sports car.