Call me old fashioned if you like but I’m a firm believer that a sports car needs to be engaging.
There’s a buzz to be gained from pedalling a car close or past the point of mechanical grip, of matching engine and road speed for perfectly timed and deftly executed down and up-shifts, or using the car’s weight transference to aid your turn in point or to tailor the amount of acceleration out of a turn.
It’s a bit like patting your head and simultaneously rubbing your tummy. Multi-tasking with your feet, hands and seat of your pants - get it all right and it can be immensely rewarding because, well, it’s really difficult.
That’s what sports cars are for, right? The thrill of driving.
The new £54,000 (as tested) A90 Toyota Supra has promised to be a pure driver’s car since the day we were first teased information a couple of years ago. Toyota made great truck about the near mythical status of their engineers and test drivers, their own unique suspension settings and rear diff spec to differentiate their car from the almost identical BMW Z4 (they’re even produced on the same production line in Austria).
Joint ventures, shared powertrains, shared platforms are not a new concept and in a low-volume £50k + sports car it makes a great deal of sense. And where else would you go for a three litre straight six-engine other than BMW? It’s been their stock in trade for at least half a century.
It’s a fine motor with some compelling headline figures. 335bhp and a 0-60 time of just 4.4 secs. There is a ‘but’ coming, though. Because it’s turbocharged, the spread of power is wide but over quite quickly so if part of your sports car enjoyment is the cacophony of a screaming engine with raucous induction noise, this might not float your boat. The rev limiter chimes in at a distinctly un-giddy 7,000rpm.
Currently there is only a BMW eight-speed auto box on offer which, apart from being about as engaging as a PlayStation game, is also prone to some weirdly (and needlessly) aggressive downshifts in Sports mode. This car is crying out for a nicely weighted clutch pedal and a short throw, close ration six-speed manual gearbox option.
The Supra’s weight (1.5 tonnes) works against you in rapid direction changes and also in braking zones where you’re deeply aware of the extra weight pushing the nose on.
Suspension engineers have obviously had a bit of a battle to come up with a spring and damper rate that keeps this weight in check without also compromising ride suppleness.
To a certain extent, in terms of body control and roll suppression they’ve achieved this successfully but (and the battered surface of the M23 was a good case in point) there’s a lot of suspension clonking and tyre noise over poor surfaces. Perhaps those 11inch wide Michelin rear tyres are a touch too much?
On that point, the cabin noise at 70mph on said crumbling motorway, is ridiculously loud. Maybe the fact that there’s no load hatch or bulkhead between you and the boot floor is to blame but I suspect it’s the fact that the Supra is simply massively over tyred. Ear plugs for a long trip. It’s that loud.
So, as a combination of all the above plus the fact the Supra’s cabin has so little glass area it feels extremely claustrophobic I’m afraid my sports car budget would still, very definitely, go the way of the utterly engaging, normally aspirated, six-cylinder, manual gearbox Porsche Cayman which offers far more driver’ enjoyment for very similar money.