The cars we loved.
Starting with the Japanese market Soarer (Lexus SC300/400) subframe and suspension, the new Supra would feature two inline 6 cylinder engines, a naturally aspirated 3.0 producing 220 hp and a twin turbocharged version making 276 hp. Models destined for the USA were even more powerful with upgraded fuel injectors rasing power to 320! The new car caused a sensation in the press. Some testers recorded 0 to 60 times as low as 4.9 seconds with a top speed of 177 mph. Certainly faster than anything Toyota had sold in the States by 1993. Part of the reason the twin turbo model’s performance was so impressive was due to the way the turbos worked together. Many twin turbo cars at the time had turbos that worked in pararell. The result was usually some turbo lag with a big burst of thrust higer in the power band. With Toyota’s twin turbos, they operated sequentially by supplying two stages of boost that made power delivery very smooth and leanier as one stepped on the gas. The only other car in its class using this type of setup was Mazda’s RX7. Other popular high performance cars like the Mitsubishi’s 3000GT and the Nissan Skyline GT used a parell system. The Supra could stop as well as it accellerated, due to a sophisticated four channel ABS system. A Car and Driver test in 1997 recorded a record braking distance from 70mph of 149 feet in. The record was broken by a Porsche Carrera GT in 2004.
Turbo cars used a 6-speed manual gearbox while the non turbo models featured a standard 5- speed manual. Toyota went to great length to reduce weight with magnesium alloy steering wheels, lighter carpet fibers and even a plastic gas tank lid. The rear wheel drive two seater came loaded with airbags, leather seats and traction control in addition to all the creature comforts of a premium sports car. Despite being loaded with technology, the Supra was still lighter than the Nissan 300Zx and Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4.
There were very few changes made to the Supra over the course of its short run to 2002. In 1996 the Turbo model was available with a four speed automatic transmission to meet OBD-II regulations (standardized diagnostic system). The following year the manual returned along with small revisions to rear lights. 1997 was also the 15th anniversary of the Supra and all models recived special badging. Sales had always been small. The cost of the Supra was much more than anyone was accustomed to paying in a Toyota dealership. It was a wonder that it never went under the lexus name, but then there was the SC300/400 with similar capibilities at a similar price point. Sales ended in Canada in 1996 and in the US a year later. By then the turbo was not available in many states due to new emission regulations. Like the 300ZX and Mazda RX-7 production continued in Japan for a few years after sales ended in North America.
For many people, especially in America, the Supra was THE Japanese supercar of the 90’s, especially since the Nissan Skyline was not officially imported and only a few ever had the chance to drive one here. Sure there was Honda’s NSX, but it went after Ferraris, leaving Mazda, Mitsubishi and Nissan to grapple over the high middle ground. Being a Toyota meant that the Supra’s quality and day to day drivability would be no different from a Corolla which couldn’t hurt when that kind of quality came with Corvette like performance.