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First Drive: 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 Is a Necessary Evolution

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Conner GoldenWriterJade NelsonPhotographer

As well-balanced and finely honed as the A90-generation Toyota Supra's chassis may be, cramming more power under that curved front hood was relatively low on the list of our "wants," at least without beefier brakes, stickier tires, and reworked suspension playing backup guitar to the hopped-up turbo-six's chest-thumping solo. That's not to say we're not tickled at the idea of more gumption in the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0, but the six-cylinder's prior tune was more than enough to shake free the Supra's angular, origami-esque derriere like it rode on a pair of lunch trays. In fact, the entire package was enough for us to name the 2020 Toyota Supra an Automobile All-Star.

2021 Toyota Supra 3.0: Mo' Powa, Baby

Like a kid who's already halfway comatose from a massive ice cream sundae … sure, we'll take another scoop. A ganache-laced, caramel-drizzled 47-horsepower scoop, to be precise. Gone is the "old" BMW B58B30 3.0-liter inline-six found in the 2020 Supra, good for 335 hp and 365-lb-ft of torque. As we long speculated, the range-topping Supra now uses the BMW B58M30O1 3.0-liter sixer borrowed from its platform mate, the BMW Z4 M40i, retaining the same single twin-scroll turbocharger setup. The car retains the eight-speed ZF-sourced automatic transmission found with the older 3.0-liter but swaps the pistons to lower the compression, and reworkes the exhaust for a mighty 382 hp and 369 lb-ft.

These are strong figures for something with a wheelbase 4-inches shorter than the one found on little bro Toyota 86. With this extra juice, Toyota claims the top-dog Supra's 0-60-mph time is now 3.9 seconds, down from the 2020 Supra that did it in a claimed 4.1. Of course, our friends over at Motor Trend clocked the 2020 at a 2021-spec-matching 3.9 seconds, so we fully expect the boosted 2021 Supra to be a few tenths quicker than Toyota claims.

2021 Toyota Supra 3.0: Chassis Changes

Along with the new engine comes a handful of chassis and drivetrain improvements, though most are stuffed behind the scenes. New aluminum crossmember braces between the strut-tower mounts and radiator support stiffen the front end, while new suspension bump stops and retuned dampers reduce body roll. Out back, the active rear differential is retuned, as is stability/traction control, and the electronic steering assist.

If you're looking for a reason to upgrade, be warned that the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 is evolutionary, not revolutionary. As mentioned, the 2020 Supra took home laurels as a winner at the 2020 Automobile All-Stars competition, and we hardly found it lacking for zing and zest after slip-sliding the sinewy little coupe around the Streets of Willow Springs road course. Fascinatingly, our judges were split; one group lauded the Supra for its playful rear-end, citing a fine degree of control over the resulting sashay. Others also praised the Supra for katana-quick turn-in, but perceived the lively backside as twitchy and unsettling for drivers. Regardless, both deemed the car a potent little drift machine.

Surprise, surprise—more power exacerbates the slipperiness, but the chassis and drivetrain revisions fill the gaps. Out on the wide, serpentine roads that slither through the San Gabriel mountains north of Los Angeles, the remixed 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 was the same ass-out hoot as it was before, only now you're able to dip further into the speedo before that back-end gets all loosey-goosey. Toyota (and BMW) did a bang-up job on the stability/traction control systems, as they allow for just the right amount of slip before pulling the plug. In practical terms, this means even high-strung, two-left-feet backroad warriors can enjoy the fruits of the ultra-short Supra chassis without stuffing that pointy noise into a rocky outcrop. Turn-in is wicked sharp, with strong bite from the newly stiffened front end, and doesn't induce understeer before the rear starts to step out just a hair. With everything on, the systems catch it lickity-split before anything turns unduly terrifying.

An electronically managed smidge of squiggle is fun, but any more of it can become sweat-inducing when your run-off options involve a tumble off a cliff, hitting a solid-rock cliff face, or maybe smacking an unyielding tree trunk. At speed, the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 feels poised on the edge of slip in nearly every type of corner, from sweepers to hairpins—so beware if you're the type to prioritize face-ripping grip over an active rear end.

2021 Toyota Supra 3.0: Straightline Superstar

Aim that pointy face down a straight road, and the results are equally stirring. Those extra 47 horses shove the Supra's straight-line hustle well into BMW M territory and past the prodding, jeering clutches of the naturally aspirated Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro crowd. As we noted in our recent shakedown of the BMW M2 Competition, BMW's lineup of six-cylinder engines are a masterclass of smoothness. The characteristic yowl of the inline-six builds with the revs like a deranged Dremel tool, returning strong acceleration that should match competitors like the Porsche 718 Cayman and the aforementioned BMW M2 Competition blow-for-blow.

That familiar eight-speed transmission is equally slick, though it's not as rapid-fire as the dual-clutch from BMW or the PDK from Porsche. For a traditional torque-tube auto, it's as snappy as you'd ever need it to be, cracking off quick upshifts and downshifts through the gear selector or steering-wheel shift paddles. When you're done acting like a hooligan, it settles down enough for painless daily use, acting no more aggressive or recalcitrant than the ZF eight-speed found in a garden variety BMW 3 Series.

2021 Toyota Supra 3.0: New Baby Brother

You will note with the 2021 model year also arrives the four-cylinder Supra 2.0, and with it a separation of roles. Toyota proudly proclaims the ostensibly softer, less luxurious four-banger Supra is the one to pick as a daily driver, and the hardcore Supra 3.0 is aimed at track-day junkies. Interesting distinction, considering the six-cylinder Supra is loaded with power seats, adjustable suspension, upgraded sound system, and available with luxe options like full leather upholstery and active safety systems.

Meanwhile, the new 2021 Toyota Supra 2.0 cuts 200 pounds compared to the six-cylinder, and wears a mechanical limited-slip differential and fixed suspension. After spending time with both, we reckon we'd pick the Supra 3.0 for daily or long-distance use based on niceties alone, though make sure to check back on our upcoming comparison of both cars for a full breakdown between the two variants.

Feeling stiffed as an early Supra adopter? Don't. The new engine and suspension tweaks do make the Supra 3.0 undoubtedly more capable, but without driving the two iterations back-to-back, we're unable to ascertain precisely how much better the 2021 Supra is. Our take? Bury the throttle in your 2020 and pitch it down your local backroad—you'll have just as much fun as we did in the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0.

2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 Quick Hits:

  • Potent new 3.0-liter turbo inline-6 engine
  • 47 extra horsepower compared to old model
  • Less drift, but still can hang it all out
  • How the new Supra should have been from day one
2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 Specifications
ON SALE: Summer
PRICE: $50,000 (est)
ENGINE: 3.0L turbocharged DOHC 24-valve I-6/382 hp @ 5,800-6,500 rpm, 368 lb-ft @ 1,800-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
LAYOUT: 2-door, 2-passenger, front-engine, RWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE:  24/31 mpg (city/hwy) (est)
L x W x H: 172.5 x 73.0 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE: 97.2 in
WEIGHT: 3,400 lb
0-60 MPH: 3.9 sec
TOP SPEED: 155 mph