Toyota finally confirmed the comeback of the Supra at last week’s 2018 Geneva International Motor Show, where the automaker also showed off a thinly veiled concept of the new sports car that would bear the iconic nameplate.
The new Supra has been a long time coming—the last one bowed out of production in 2002—but there’s still a while to go until we the final car. The reveal won’t take place until 2019, with the debut most likely happening at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next January.
With such a long way to go, Toyota understandably is keeping quiet on specs. However, we managed to learn a few details on the car after talking to its chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, at the debut of the GR Supra Racing concept last week in Geneva.
Work started in 2012
Toyota committed to the new Supra in 2011 but work didn’t really start until the following year when Tada met up with BMW, which was looking to renew its Z4, to determine whether a sports car partnership was possible. Toyota and BMW then took another two years to determine which elements could be shared and which needed to be developed independently.
The car’s internal code is A90
The “90” emblazoned on the sides of the GR Supra Racing concept is a reference to the new Supra’s A90 internal code. The original Celica-based Supra was the A40, and the three generations that followed were the A60, A70 and A80.
Tada’s mentor developed the previous Supra
Tada learned his trade from Isao Tsuzuki, who led the development of the last Supra. He previously used lessons learned from his mentor to hone the 86 sports car, and now he’s working on the new Supra. However, Tada first started out as a chassis engineer for more mundane models like the Corolla.
An inline-6 was a must
Tada sought feedback from Supra fans for the new car. He and his team spoke with owners at events to make sure the new Supra pleases what he called the car’s “fanatical” U.S. fan base. And at the top of the list of must-haves was an inline-6 engine (also important was a front engine/rear drive layout). Fortunately for Toyota, its partner in the project, BMW, had just the engine. Expect the new Supra to be powered by a 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-6 in standard guise. A more powerful version with hybrid technology is a strong possibility, however.
A shorter wheelbase than the 86
The new Supra will be a strict 2-seater. This has allowed Toyota to scale down the proportions.
A lower center of gravity than the 86
The 86 and its Subaru BRZ twin are praised for their low center of gravity, which is helped along by having a flat engine. Beating this with an inline-6 engine proved to be a challenge for Tada, who wanted to avoid opting for expensive solutions such as a rear transaxle. Tada hinted at a cleverly mounted steering rack as one of the factors engineers have used to achieve the target.
Twice the rigidity of the 86
The Supra will have a body twice as rigid as the 86. It will also have a perfect 50:50 weight balance.
Driving experience will be different to the Z4
Despite sharing a platform with BMW’s new Z4, the Supra will have a very different driving experience. For starters, the Supra will be a coupe whereas the Z4 will be a convertible. Tada explained that even if some of the hardware is common, the calibrations used will differ to suit the characteristics of each car.
The GR Supra Racing concept meets GTE specs
Toyota says it chose a race car theme for the concept to highlight the potential of the new Supra on the race track. No doubt we’ll see the car serve as the basis of Japan’s Super GT touring car series. However, there’s a good chance we also see it as the basis of a Toyota entry into the production-based GTE class of the World Endurance Championship, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That’s because the GR Supra Racing concept was designed to meet GTE specifications, which incidentally are almost identical to the GT Le Mans specifications of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.