(Pocket-lint) - It was back in 2014 that we got our first glimpse of the would-be Toyota Supra 2020, in the FT-1 - a car that had made an appearance in the PlayStation video game Gran Turismo 6 - in real-life concept form at the Detroit Motor Show.
This was dramatic stuff from Toyota, a Japanese brand that in recent years has been better known for ruffling the design feathers with its green-focused plug-in hybrid, the Prius, which is now over 20 years in the making - about the same period of time the Supra has been absent from production.
The 2020 Supra represents a step-change for Toyota, just as the LC500 has for Lexus, in focusing its talents in a multitude of directions. As its GR badge attests - that's Gazoo Racing, Toyota's motorsport division - this is a thoroughbred sports car with a racing focus, manifested in road car format.
With much of the GR Supra based on the BMW Z4 in a redressed, rebalanced and retuned Toyota style, does this two-seater coupe live up to expectations, and just what's it like to live with one as a 'normal' on-the-road car? We lived with one for a long weekend in London - taking a number of hours to drive through the Kent countryside and beyond - to see what it's all about.
There's no doubt about it: the GR Supra is dramatic looking - and in a very good way. Given that this car has only just come into existence you're highly unlikely to see one on the roads at the time of writing, which is why people turn heads and snap supposedly discrete smartphone pictures. It's no run-of-the-mill BMW Z4, that's for sure.
The low-to-the-ground design delivers a low centre of gravity, but it also means any passer-by's vantage point onto the car is raised, too, giving a focus on those details that are distinctive, like the “double bubble” roofline, which bumps upward for both passenger and driver sides, in the slightest manner.
There's a whole heritage of history surrounding the Supra, which Toyota has tried to pull upon in this fifth-generation version. At first glance the almost retro front-end might make you gawp in a not-so-good way, but spend a little time glancing at different angles and we love those extended lashes of the front headlamps, which stretch towards the car's nose, each encasing six LED lights that are eye-catching in themselves.
The rear has an almost F1-style rear fog light, while the busier arrangement of spoiler, rear haunches and, again, dramatic lights is our favourite part of the car. It's more aggressive, more distinctive than anything of this type - and certainly doesn't resemble a BMW Z4 in any manner.
Oh, it's impossible not to mention the wheels too. All GR Supra models - this is the 'Pro', adding £1,300 to the £53,00 base price; there's also a super-limited A90 top-end version, which adds £3,000 - come with 19-inch alloys, with these black and silver variants very special indeed.
Interior and tech
Step inside - in very mid-life crisis fashion, most likely, given the low-slung sports seats - and the Supra is, well, it's close to being a BMW Z4. It has practically the same infotainment system - that's iDrive from its German cousin - and controls, dials and buttons.
Which, far from being a criticism, is actually a rather good thing. We've long moaned about some Japanese systems - Lexus' in particular - so to have an easy-to-use 8.8-inch touchscreen with a rotational physical dial controller positioned to the main tunnel is a marriage of both worlds (touch and non) that's immediately logical to grasp.
The only thing we find a little strange is the squareness of the dash, in that it's very flatly aligned across, with no tilt of that floating screen towards the driver for easier contact - like you'll find in any modern Audi, like the Q8. But then, really, this Toyota is a car for driving, not one for faffing about with deep spec stuff whilst you're out on the road.
In addition to that 8.8-inch floating screen - which sits just perfectly out of the line of sight, as to not disrupt your view (something the car's A pillars succeed in greatly instead!) - there's a second driver display of the same size beyond the steering wheel. This digital dash means you'll get digitised rev counters and speedometers, presented brightly and fluidly, which we think look even tidier than BMW's offering.
The car is rather well padded too, with scent-free stitched leather not uncommon in all the contact points within the car. There's some nice carbon fibre trim, too, but that's broken up by some altogether more plasticky segments. Sure, keep the car light, but the interior falls short of feeling truly special in every regard as a result.
There are some great assistive touches included, such as the rear camera view that makes reversing far easier, while the wing mirrors automatically adjust angle to give a great view of the kerb and ensure that you don't scuff those incredibly pretty (and incredibly expensive) alloys.
Not your everyday drive
Once sat inside, you could spend all day playing with the electronically adjustable racing seats. Usually these are Alcantara covered, but the Pro edition goes all leather - which makes them rather warm in a UK summer heatwave - with a hugging fit to keep you well in place should you get a little feisty around those corners.
Driving the Toyota GR Supra is, well, almost scary in the most exciting of ways. We've not been nervous-excited about getting into a loan car for quite some time and this gave us all the tingles we could have hoped for each and every time (or could have hoped to avoid, however you see it).
Under the hood is a 3.0 litre turbocharged straight-six engine, which is positioned to the front, driving the wheels to the rear. That means it's a whole lot of fun, with a great rorty sound and lots of power, but with that kind of torque propelling the rear wheels you've got all kinds of back-end spin to control - certainly in the wet (something we learnt to handle when taking the Toyota GT86 out on ice, fortunately).
Turn the traction control off and you can drift to your heart's content. Or end up sideways in a bunch of wheelie bins, we're sure. We largely let the on-board computer handle any necessary handling corrections, except when being in a private car park and having a bit of a spin (literally).
As a vehicle that's engineered by the Toyota GR team, this is a sports car first. It can hit 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds via launch mode - which, when activated, feels like the car is trying to tear its own rear haunches as it pushes and pulls on that engine's high torque before firing away in a(n almost) straight line. It's very pitted to the ground, given the low position and aerodynamic body. It's as quick off the line as the top-spec Porsche Cayman GT4.
All of which adds up to a car that doesn't feel like your everyday drive. It's super stiff with the dampening, so hit a drain or pot hole and your whole insides will know about it. The steering is sharp. Down an average-speed 50mph motorway for an hour that feels tiresome, largely for the simple fact you want to unleash the beast and let it go wild - which is where this car comes, kicking and screaming, into its own.
That something so motorsports focused has two large and very practical cupholders and a stop-start system for greater efficiency almost feels tongue-in-cheek. But then this is a road car, or at least it's trying to bring some casual swagger to its otherwise racing roots, including some useful features like lane departure warning and adaptive cruise control (just to make sure you never do exceed that average 50mph burden, eh?).
It is only available in automatic form, too, with a super smooth (yet sharp) 'box that glides between its 8-gear setup. Sports mode hits the revs hard, keeping the gearing low for rapid changes. It's incredible how this engine handles: it can casually glide along at 70mph under 2000rpm, then hammer up to 6,500rpm and shoot off to unknown speeds in a heartbeat.
Even though a casual drive involving excessive speed bumps and London pot holes can become more tiresome than a high-riding, soft-suspension crossover alternative, there's something about the sheer rowdiness of the Supra that will have you dreaming about getting back behind the wheel. It's a lot of fun, it's got a lot of heart, and you'll feel absolutely everything.
A car with such a long history, yet which has been on hiatus, comes back singing in its 2020 form. The GR Supra might be an all-out racing coupe, but Toyota has given it enough day-to-day features - start-stop, adaptive cruise control, 8-speed autobox, BMW's infotainment system - to make it feel more approachable.
At its core, however, the GR Supra is wild-at-heart racer. You don't want it to feel entirely approachable; you want to feel like you're taming the beast every time you get behind the wheel. Which is easily achieved: after all, it's quicker than a Porsche Boxster and on point with a Porsche Cayman GT. And that makes every drive feel special, even if you're just speeding to the shops.
Despite being based upon the BMW Z4, Toyota has also managed to refine and tune the 2020 Supra into an altogether more standout package - and a quicker-off-the-mark one, too - that will be a rare sight on the UK's roads. But if you do see one, soak it in, open your eyes - and more so ears - and enjoy it for the great reintroduction that this car represents.