Driving the 2019 Toyota GR Supra at Phillip Island

We drive the new Toyota GR Supra around the Phillip Island GP Circuit to see if it can match the pedigree of its predecessors

Every so often a manufacturer will announce that they are reviving an old model in order to push the ‘nostalgia’ button and cash in on the hype that will inevitably ensue. The Toyota GR Supra has no doubtedly created that hype the world over.

Not only has Toyota made a massive splash in the media with the revival of one of the manufacturer’s most revered models, it’s done it in a way that not everyone is on board with… they’ve teamed up with BMW to create it.

For some, this is enough to turn them off the new Supra all together, but for those who understand the importance of driving dynamics and engineering in modern sports cars, the GR Supra promises to deliver something special right out of the box.

The GR Supra is pitched as a ‘no-compromise’ sports car. It’s been designed by Toyota’s inhouse performance brand, GAZOO Racing to be just at home on the track as it is on a run to the shops. You’d be hard pressed to disagree with this sentiment once you’ve had a chance to drive one back to back on the track and the winding roads approaching Phillip Island.

First Impressions

The first thing you’ll notice is how easy the GR Supra is to sink into. The seats are very welcoming with fully adjustable everything, including adjustable bolsters that can offer bear hug levels of lateral support for the occasional spirited drive or indeed, turn 4 at Phillip Island.

The most surprising thing about the interior is the visibility from the cockpit. From outside, the rear window looks far too raked to be useful, but when seated, the window fills the rearview mirror perfectly. This is a very important factor when promoting the GR Supra as a ‘no-compromise’ sports car because more often than not, visibility IS a compromise on many modern performance cars.

Storage space is also a surprise, with the hatch section providing more than enough space for a weekend away. Just don’t expect to fit Fido in the back, as the rear bracing and slanting hatch tapers off quite aggressively once you move beyond the seats.

On the road

Switch on the engine and you’ll be greeted with a beautiful, deep growl coming from the turbocharged straight six. From there it’s a quick flick of the paddle shifter and you’re on the move with no sign of lurching or hesitation.

The 8 speed gearbox is nothing unique to the GR Supra, with the same model founds across an array of mostly European models (including BMW, of course). The box does provide a good mating with the smooth-as-silk straight six, making upshifts and downshifts quick and satisfying. The only downside to be noted, is that 2nd gear seems to be a little too short.

The upside of this however, is that 3rd and 4th gear now provide an amazing driving experience when carving up the backroads. The downshifts are particularly entertaining delivering a great combination of sharp crackles from the exhaust and a subtle kick in the back with each pop.

Driving the GR Supra on at low speeds is as easy as any Corolla or Camry. The car does not feel big or too low, with engineers making sure the ride-height would not turn your standard car park into a minefield. The ride is firm, but not rough, ensuring a great compromise between a sports car and an everyday grocery getter.

Toyota Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada (responsible for the Toyota 86 among others) played a crucial role in ensuring that the GR Supra provides a level of immersion that he himself would be happy with as a driving and racing enthusiast.

Everything from the weight distribution and ride-hight all the way through to aerodynamics were considered to provide the driver with the best and most exhilarating experience possible when strapped in. Driving through some of Victoria’s curvy back roads proved this. The GR Supra feels extremely planted and balanced on both sharp, short corners as well as long, fast corners. You can really feel the width of the car and the tyres doing a great job at keeping the car from squirming too much, resulting in a predictable, yet thrilling drive.

What may seem insignificant to some, but is actually a very good decision by Toyota, is to have one, single ‘sport mode’ button in the centre console. You can still set your preference for what that sport mode button does (ie. custom driving modes) but when you are on the road, and you want to tighten everything up, you just slam that ‘SPORT’ button and off you go.

On the track

So the GR Supra is a delight to run to the shops and an absolute scamp on the back roads, but how does it perform on the track?

As with the road test, first impressions on the track are also how solid and planted the car feels both under acceleration and cornering. There’s a definite premium feel to the car in general and although it seems odd to apply the descriptor ‘premium’ to anything related to an on-track test, it seems fitting for the Supra.

Acceleration off the line is an impressive 4.3 seconds 0-100km/h which the GR Supra seems to be able to do with ease, over and over again.

The first fast corner at Phillip Island (turn 1) is a great initial test to get a feel for the balance of the car. Many cars would be quite unsettled through this corner with an initial approach speed of 240km/h off the main straight. But the Supra maintains its composure with only a slight hint of oversteer if you go in a bit too hot. Steering feedback is also very well balanced as the predictability of the GR chassis is noticed on the track just as much as on the road.

Tighter corners see the car really shine when it comes to maneuverability, with the massive brakes bringing the Supra to a comfortable stop with ‘just’ enough rear end liveliness to make things interesting and fun. This energy is then transferred to the front end where grip doesn’t seem to be an issue at all, allowing even an amateur to find the apex and power back out of the corner like a pro.

Pricing and Specs

The Toyota GR Supra is available in 2 specs in Australia, GT and GTS.

The GT Model starts at $84,900 +on roads and the GTS stretches out to $94,900 +on roads

Both the GT and GTS get the 3.0 Turbocharged Straight Six engine with the GTS getting a few extra goodies such as larger rear brakes, painted red calipers all round, larger 19 inch alloys, head-up display, upgraded JBL audio and upgraded seat material (red leather or Alcantara).