First Drive: 2023 Toyota GR Supra, Now With Manual Transmission!

12/05/2022

First Drive: 2023 Toyota GR Supra, Now With Manual Transmission!

12/05/2022

When Toyota unveiled the fifth-generation Supra at the 2019 North American International Auto Show, longtime fans of the Japanese automaker’s revered sportscar were thrilled by the news. At a time when consumers were flocking to crossovers and SUVs in droves, the return of the iconic nameplate after a nearly two-decade absence seemed like nothing short of a miracle.


This time around, though, the Supra came with a notable caveat. In order to curb the massive cost associated with developing a new vehicle platform, Toyota joined forces with BMW to create the Supra’s architecture (which also underpins the Bavarian marque’s latest Z4 roadster).


2023 Toyota GR Supra 6M Paint

While most of the Supra is familiar, there are updates to be found. The Stratosphere Blue paint is new for 2023.


The company had previously employed a similar tactic when it hooked up with Subaru to create the Scion FR-S (now know as the Toyota GR86) and Subaru BRZ, and the partnership had proven fruitful enough to justify the second-generation versions of the car that debuted in 2021. But the Supra name naturally came with increased scrutiny, and it didn’t take long for interested parties to figure out that BMW had done a lot of the heavy lifting on the mechanical side of the project. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; BMW has a long history of producing great performance cars, after all. But the situation also created some compromises.


Since BMW supplied the engines and transmission for venture, the Supra was effectively limited to whatever powertrain hardware that BMW had in the parts bin, and a manual gearbox that was compatible with the platform – and strong enough to handle the inline six’s power – wasn’t in it.


Since the Z4 generally appeals to customers who’re more interested in luxurious open-top cruising rather than maximizing the connection between man and machine, BMW wasn’t in any particular hurry to develop a specialized gearbox for a niche group of customers. And that meant that the Supra debuted with an eight-speed automatic as the sole transmission on offer.


2023 Toyota GR Supra Manual Transmission

The new six-gear transmission the Supra features, the "GS6L50TZ", was co-developed with transmission manufacturer ZF and BMW. While the basic transmission is used in other BMW products, the TZ features Toyota's iMT (Intelligent Manual Transmission) rev-matching function, bespoke internals, and a shorter final drive ratio (3.46:1).


Three years later, Toyota has thankfully decided to rectify the situation: An honest-to-goodness six-speed manual gearbox is now available exclusively in Supra 3.0 models as a no-cost option.


The last time that we drove a 3.0L Supra, we noted that while it offered a head-turning design and plenty of speed, it seemed like there were still a few kinks left to be ironed out beyond the lack of a third pedal. Toyota has been hard at work getting the two-seater sorted in the years since, though, and the 2023 model brings a number of updates alongside the new gearbox offering.


So, is the latest Supra finally the car that we’ve been waiting for? Time to find out.

Refining The Formula

While the fifth-generation Supra’s exterior design hasn’t changed much since its introduction, Toyota has made a number of improvements underneath the curvaceous bodywork. The 2021 model year saw the optional 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine score a significant power bump that raised peak output from 335 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque to 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet, figures which brought turbocharged B58 inline six-cylinder engine up to par with BMW’s top-spec Z4 M40i. Revised damper tuning, new front and rear bump stops, additional structural bracing, and a range of software tweaks to the car’s steering and stability controls were also part of the deal.


The 2023 model year sees another batch of changes enter the fold. Along with the availability of this new manual transmission, Toyota has retuned the suspension dampers once again to improve both ride quality and roll control, and the electronically-assisted power steering system has been revamped with new mechanicals and software. The traction and stability control systems have been revised to counter snap-oversteer in the default driving mode, while Track mode has been recalibrated to allow for heroic drifts with less potential for spinning thanks to more sophisticated torque management. A new Hairpin+ function serves a similar purpose, allowing for a greater degree of wheelspin when exiting tight corners in order to make the car a bit more playful.


2023 Toyota GR Supra GR 19-in Wheels

All Supras equipped with the manual gearbox also gain these new 19-inch forged wheels.


The aesthetics have seen some attention, too: Our tester’s forged 19-inch wheels are new for this year, as is the Stratosphere Blue paint.


This particular example is a 3.0 Premium, which carries a base MSRP of $55,650 ($58,365 as-tested with destination fee). Premium models include creature comforts like a full-color heads-up display, a 12-speaker JBL sound system, and a wireless charging pad, while heated leather seats and an active rear differential are now standard on all Supra 3.0 models as of this year.

Welcome Back, 3rd Pedal

Toyota says that engineers developed this manual transmission specifically for GR Supra, but at helm it’s immediately clear that this new six-speed has some BMW lineage.


As with M cars past and present, the shifter has a distinct, love-it-or-hate-it rubbery resistance when transitioning between the gates. While that design clearly communicates the whereabouts of the shifter while it’s in-hand, that sense of friction can throw off the timing of your shifts if you’re not used to it. We missed the 2-3 upshift more than once while hustling the Supra during our initial stint out in the canyons, but before long we had our technique recalibrated and the shifter’s ‘BMW-ness’ became a non-issue.


2023 Toyota GR Supra active exhaust

Although the Supra comes standard with an active exhaust system, we still found ourselves wishing for a bit more noise.


The clutch is nicely weighted and the engagement point is right where you expect it to be, and makes it easy to jump into the Supra and get acclimated to it very quickly. However, the pedal stroke is so long that we found ourselves side stepping the clutch about three-quarters of the way through its upward travel in order to avoid letting the engine revs drop too low when transitioning between first and second gear in normal driving situations. That’s also something we’d probably be able to refine over time, and it’s worth noting that the new gearbox has a defeat-able automatic rev-matching feature, so this isn’t really an issue when you’re downshifting unless you insist on doing the heel-toe tango.


Manual-equipped Supras get a shorter final drive ratio than those outfitted with the eight-speed automatic transmission (3.46 for the manual versus 3.15 for the automatic). In practice the gearing still feels pretty long – you’ll be into triple-digit speeds before you hit the top of third gear – but depending on your sporting interests, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those who’re looking to live out their Fast and Furious fantasies might be a little disappointed that minor fluctuations in speed don’t necessitate a gear change, but those who autocross will likely be pleased to find that first and second offer enough gear for the vast majority of course configurations. Enthusiasts who’re brave enough to use the Supra as a drift weapon will likely find this gearing to be beneficial as well, and we also noticed that the car stayed well-behaved in traffic when crawling along in first gear.


2023 Toyota GR Supra 3.0L Inline-Six

The Supra’s BMW-sourced B58 turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine dishes out 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque.


Outfitted with an eight-speed automatic, the Supra 3.0 is legitimately quick machine capable of sprinting to 60 mph from a standstill in under four seconds. Having three pedals undoubtedly puts this car a few tenths behind in that metric, but the torquey three-liter ensures that there’s more than enough grunt on tap to keep things lively, and the greater sense of engagement offered by the manual gearbox is more than worth the performance penalty.


Importantly, the rest of the car now also feels up to the task. Last time around we noticed that the rear end was a bit nervous under heavy braking, and the car just didn’t inspire an overwhelming amount of confidence when pushed hard. But between the suspension revisions and the recalibrated software, the latest iteration of the Supra 3.0 feels like a noticeably more balanced and intuitive performance machine. It may have taken Toyota three model years to get here, but the GR Supra is finally ready for primetime.


2023 Toyota GR Supra head-on


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