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First Drive: New 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 Four-Cylinder Is One Sweet Sports Car

The lighter, less expensive, less powerful Toyota Supra makes a strong case for itself. No, really.

Conner GoldenWriterDarren MartinPhotographer

Pssst—don't lose your excrement, but after spending some time with both the updated 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 six-cylinder and the new four-cylinder 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0, the diehards probably are not going to like to hear which one we had more fun in. Here's a hint; it's not the one with the most cylinders, which might come as a double surprise considering we named the six-cylinder model a 2020 Automobile All-Star.

We can already hear those keyboards clacking, but we're sticking to our small-displacement, less powerful guns. So just stick with us for a moment as we make a case for the lighter, nimbler four-cylinder 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 that lands on our shores this summer for the first time since it went on sale in Europe and Japan in 2020.

Like many Supra precedents shattered by the A90-generation car, the Toyota Supra 2.0 is the first in the 42-year lineage to not sport an inline-six up front, instead using BMW's ubiquitous B48B20 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder shared with the co-developed Z4 sDrive30i and new G20-generation BMW 330i. In the Supra 2.0—as it's called on our shores—that spunky little four-banger puts down 255 horsepower and a thick 295-lb-ft of torque through the ZF-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission. (The automatic is the only gearbox Toyota offers on this model.)

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0: Less Power, Strong Performance

The 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0's power and torque outputs are a far sight from the Supra 3.0's 382 hp and 369 lb-ft, but the sans-two-cylinders Supra also drops more than 200 pounds of flab from the car's diminutive frame. Well, not actually the frame, but less mass and adjunct "stuff" under the front hood, as well as a de-contented interior and smaller wheels cuts the weight down to 3,181 pounds compared to the 3.0's 3,400 pounds. That's a significant difference.

Not only is there less weight, there is also less complexity. A sizeable chunk of the missing mass is chalked up to the removal of active hardware present on the 3.0 that is now mechanical on the 2.0. Compared to the six-cylinder, for example, the Supra 2.0 does away with the active suspension and active rear differential, though the electric power steering remains. According to Toyota, every aspect of the suspension and chassis is reworked compared to the more aggressive six-cylinder big brother.

The result of this devolution is a much more approachable—and more friendly—driving experience. Performance certainly isn't embarrassing; Toyota claims 0-60 mph takes 5.0 seconds against the Supra 3.0's 3.9, but it shares the same 155-mph top speed. After a few hard on-ramp pulls, we're convinced the figure feels closer to the middle-to-high four-second range. Recent instrumented tests prove Toyota (and project partner BMW) have a history of underrating the Supra (Z4), so color us nonplussed when those numbers start rolling in. Oh, not to mention: If that 5.0-second time stands, that's a measly 0.1-second off of our sister publication Motor Trend's testing figures for the revered 1997 Toyota Supra Turbo. Just some food for thought.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0: Under the Hood

This being a BMW engine, it's smooth, notably well-balanced, and docile while putting around town. If you don't kick it in the teeth constantly (like us) it's sure to return impeccable fuel economy—for a sports car. We don't have figures yet, but the Supra 2.0 shouldn't be too far off of the 2020 BMW Z4's 24-mpg city/32-mpg highway EPA ratings.

Unfortunately, a downside to those impeccable road manners is a less-than-thrilling character, aping many of the complaints levied at Porsche's much-maligned turbocharged flat-fours in the 718 Cayman/Boxster twins. But in the Supra, the 2.0-liter doesn't really come off as a "performance" engine, but rather an excellent "premium" turbocharged four-cylinder; even the Supra's more aggressive exhaust fails to liven the B48's character outside of muffled pops and rumbles on the overrun.

That relative joylessness burns off like morning dew the minute you escape into the hills. Toyota bills the hotter Supra 3.0 as the track-day regular's new favorite weapon, but anyone who regularly takes to backroads may be better off saving a few thousand bucks and sticking with the 2.0. Even laden with BMW's aggressive package of traction- and stability-control systems, the lighter Supra is remarkably analogue for something carrying a 2021 model year designation.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0: Smaller Engine, Bigger Smiles

Where the Supra 3.0 impresses as a stunningly quick sports coupe with a greasy, drift-hungry rear end, the Supra 2.0 battens it down. Even zig-zagging through a twisted tangle of canyon roads, the Supra was unflappable, possessing a rock-solid confidence that is rare to experience on any sports car priced less than $100,000 that doesn't wear a Porsche crest. Yes, that includes the ridiculously potent BMW M2 Competition we tested recently; the Supra 2.0 is not nearly as powerful as the 405-hp BMW, but stellar suspension damping, sharp turn-in, and 50/50 weight distribution allowed us to carry cornering speeds we're more accustomed to discovering in bigger, wider, quicker cars.

The experience wasn't unduly harsh or compromised, either. The fixed suspension soaked up any dips and crags we crossed with aplomb, and all inputs were well-balanced. The Supra 2.0 gets smaller brake rotors than the 3.0 model, and all four brake calipers are single-piston pieces compared to the four-piston calipers found on the 3.0. We can't say how big of a difference this makes during a track bay, but having fun on curvy roads never had us yearning for more braking power or feedback. Even the ever-present specter of fade from the brake-vectoring system didn't manifest as the day wore on, despite the eager coupe administering significant abuse to our local backroads.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0: No One Will Know It's Not the 3.0

All this low-rent fun, and you won't even have to worry about low-rent looks. As far as we could tell, the only visual differences between the 2.0 and the 3.0 are found in the smaller, redesigned 19-inch wheels, and in both the diameter and design of the dual exhaust outlets. Other than that, you'd have a hell of a time telling the 2.0 and 3.0 apart, even if parked next to one another. The 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 doesn't have the same level of both standard and optional equipment, but it's more than well-equipped for a premium sports coupe, with a standard 8.8-inch center infotainment display, leather-trimmed upholstery with microsuede inserts, carbon-fiber trim, and the same soft-touch plastic surfaces.

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Toyota has yet to announce pricing, but we expect the Supra 2.0 to sticker significantly lower than the top-dog Supra 3.0, just in case you needed to further sweeten the pot. Really, aside from the uninspiring-yet-potent powertrain, there was little we didn't love on the 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0. Yes, you heard it here, folks: One of the greatest Supras—and by extension, Toyotas—we've ever driven is the first four-cylinder, automatic-only entry-level 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0.

2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 Quick Hits:

  • First-ever four-cylinder Supra
  • Small engine, big heart
  • Less drift, more grip
  • Just as quick as a Mk. IV Supra Turbo
2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 Specifications
ON SALE: Summer
PRICE: $40,000 (est)
ENGINE: 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/255 hp @ 5,000-6,500 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 1,550-4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE:  N/A
L x W x H: 172.5 x 73.0 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE: 97.2 in
WEIGHT: 3,181 lb
0-60 MPH 5.0 sec
TOP SPEED 155 mph