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5 Questions with 2020 Toyota Supra Chief Engineer Tatsuya Tada

Tada-san dishes on some of the new Supra's finer points.

A single day isn’t nearly enough time to ingest, let alone digest, all of the sensory and technical information a new sports car provides—a fact all the more true when the sports car in question is the revival of an icon like the Toyota Supra. Back for its fifth generation, the 2020 Supra builds on the strengths of the fourth-generation car while stepping out of its shadow entirely.

How did the Toyota team, led by chief engineer Tatsuya Tada, manage that bit of finesse? We sat down with him and an interpreter at the new Supra’s media launch at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia this week for a quick chat.

AM: So we’ve spent most of the day driving the new production-spec Supra, but we also were lucky enough to drive the prototype last year at Jarama. Can you give us a quick rundown of what’s changed since then?

Tetsuya Tada: A lot of minor updates. The tuning of the shock absorbers, the steering feel was revised. And at that time [in Jarama] the cars were all taped up and camouflaged and everything. And when you take everything off it, it actually does affect the aerodynamics slightly, and it improves stability to where you could feel it.

At higher speeds?

Yes. But actually you’d be surprised at how much it will go into the low-speed range also. Another change involved the seats that you were in [at Jarama] weren’t the final version. The bolstering capabilities of the seat were much less. So this time you should have had a better feel as you were going around the track. And of course the engine-software updates. There have been many of them since then. And also the transmission tuning. So it’s gone through several updates.

So now we know what’s been updated for production since the prototypes. What sort of changes or variants can we expect looking forward as the Supra matures through its life cycle?

Every year, we’re going to be looking to make improvements. And of course, all kinds of variations like when you have a Porsche—Porsche always comes out with the GTS, you know, all kinds of versions and variants. The Supra, we’d like to think of it in that context. And if we don’t do that, actually, it’ll just get forgotten right away—if you just release and you’re done with it. You have to keep it going.

With the Supra clearly positioned against the Porsche 718 Cayman, will there be a four-cylinder version of the Supra to compete with the similar Cayman?

Tada: Well . . . if the American market demands it, then that’s possible, but from an engineering standpoint, anything is possible. [Leaked documents suggest a four-cylinder car is indeed coming our way—Ed.]

We’ve already combed over the car looking for Easter eggs, and have come up with surprisingly few. Are there any hiding in plain sight?

Actually, the S in the Supra logo, that wasn’t just a designer coming in and drawing it. The Supra was developed on the Nürburgring, and at the eight-kilometer point on the ’Ring, that [shape is] the actual corner, the S. So even for just an emblem, there was a lot of thought that went into it, to give it that heritage.

Our first drive of the new Toyota Supra is embargoed until Sunday, May 12 at 3:01 pm Pacific/6:01 p.m. Eastern, so be sure to check back. 

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