For those who don’t know, it’s just a Toyota, for those that do, it’s a childhood dream come to life, says James Fisher.
If there’s one thing that makes you want to sit down and write about cars, it’s those moments when the reality of being a fully-fledged adult really hits home. It’s suddenly remembering, while looking out at the rain, that you left the windows open at home. It’s opening the fridge in the morning and there being no coffee and the bread is green. Remember when you didn’t have to worry about such inevitable and unexpected atrocities? When life was just about upcoming sleepovers and all-night Nintendo sessions and how many Pringles you could fit in your mouth? Those were simpler times for simpler minds. To clarify, this isn’t a cry for help. This is about cars.
‘Very fun to drive, surprisingly economical, and looks like the Batmobile’
Some of you will have to guess my age, but when I was a child, wrapped up in the nonsenses of what flavour of Petits Filou would be suitable for my packed lunch on any specific school day, I would daydream about what kind of car I might buy when I was an adult. The concept of car ownership seems like folly now, of course, but at the time I had grand ideas. I’d be a successful businessman you see, with a cool glass penthouse apartment and a sweet garage. In said garage would be a few things: a motorbike, a nice Mercedes and a Toyota Supra.
That was because, when I was younger, there wasn’t a cooler, more relatable film to a rich white boy living in Suffolk than The Fast and The Furious. I’ve run out of fingers to remember which instalment we’re on now, but I remember the original very clearly. The first film was about fast cars, driven fastly, and it was made long before the deluge of CGI scenes of a Russian sub bursting through the ice while Vin Diesel and The Rock shrug and say: ‘looks like it’s time to go to work’. Back in 2001, these new films were just the fever dreams of some coked-out Hollywood executive without a shred of respect for originality.
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The star of the original film was never Paul Walker or Michelle Rodriguez or Vin Diesel, it was always the Toyota Supra. That’s the car I wanted in my imaginarium garage more than any other, because it was a street fighter. It was fast, it was ‘underground’ and it looked great. To be honest, to this day, owning an original Supra is still a dream. However, a quick browse of Autotrader doesn’t throw up much promise. How kind then of Toyota to release a new one. Just in time for me to drive to work, but not soon enough for me to drive away from an unexpected Council Tax bill. Remember, this is a car column.
So, to business. People, who you may describe as boring but I will leave that judgement up to you, have already thrown their hands up in the air and complained that this new Supra isn’t in fact a supra at all. ‘It’s just a z4 with a fancy dress on’, they cry, most boringly, alone at home. It might be true, but there’s a reason for this.
A Supra, by law (Toyota’s law) must have a straight-six engine, which is a plant that Toyota just doesn’t make anymore. So rather than build an entire new factory to produce one, they have decided to ask BMW, who do already make them, to borrow one of theirs. They have also borrowed the various parts that an engine requires, such as a drivetrain, gearbox and various electronics. Again, the purists got a little upset about this. But you wouldn’t know, because they are at home, and alone. Regardless of who made the engine, the Supra is very fun to drive, surprisingly economical, and looks like the Batmobile. These three things are what really matter.
We begin with the interior, which would probably be, again, very familiar to those who may already drive a modern BMW. It’s dark, but the right side of menacing, with little dashes and strips of carbon fibre to remind you that this is a car with some clip behind it should it be so required. The interfaces can be a little bit overwhelming, but it’s very much a ‘get in and go’ kind of driving experience, with everything that you want to use, such as Bluetooth and satnav, easy to access and programme.
The seats are snug and comfy, and while seeing out the back isn’t the easiest thing in the world, the side view mirrors are more than wide enough to make up for it. The boot, considering it’s a sports car, is much larger than you would expect. You can drive this car to the golf club, but whether they’ll let you park it out the front is a matter between you and the secretary.
The engine makes a more than satisfying grunt when you turn it on, and is terrific when you’re driving. In ‘normal’ mode, you can cruise along quite happily, and there’s more than enough pickup when you need it. In ‘sport’, things become a bit more uncivilised, which is great when zooming around the lanes of Oxfordshire, as I did one weekend, with a wake of boy-racers desperately following me to catch a glimpse of the car.
Which brings me on to my next point. While all of the above may be interesting, perhaps even expected, for some, the real beauty of the Supra lies somewhere else. It lies in the knowledge that for those who know, this car is the pinnacle of their childhood car dreams. This is Fast and the Furious come to life, this is Need for Speed Underground 2. This isn’t Toyota’s attempt to corner the market of sporty cars under £55k, this one is simply ‘for the fans’. Which would explain why there are only 300 of them coming to the UK.
But that’s a good thing. The exclusivity should be enough of a selling point as is: here’s a car that nobody else will have, is relatively cheap, looks great and is very very fast. The added bonus is that when you’re driving it, you’ll have that knowing look from every other petrol head on the road. You will go to parties, and should the conversation turn to cars, you can say ‘I drive a Supra’ and 90% of people will ask you what that is.
But that one person who knows, who looks at you and says ‘I’ve always wanted one of those’, that’s the power of the car. It happened to me, and it will happen to you. And, if you like cars, very little else compares to that feeling.
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