Icons aren't made overnight. The 2021 GR Supra carries forth a legacy that goes back 40 years, and it's a legacy we don't take lightly. It was imperative to take the time to make it not only something that honors its heritage, but also, just like its predecessors, becomes its generation's leading definition of performance. Supra is the sports car we've been dreaming about for a long...long time, and its creation was a true labor of love. This is the story of the 2021 GR Supra.
Car designers get into the business with the dream of designing a sports car. The team at Toyota's Calty Design Research center was no different. But rather than wait for an official brief to create a sports car, the designers at Calty went and made one on their own, and on their own time. Their inspiration: What if the Supra line hadn't stopped after the A80? How would Supra have evolved? And what might it look like today? Their design: the stunning FT-1 concept.
When given an open brief to create their dream sports car, the design team at Calty brought a wealth of ideas to the table. Hundreds of sketches made their way through the building, with teams collaborating and building upon each other's work to make the most exciting, emotional sports car possible. The goal of everyone was to push the limits of car design, and not worry about the feasibility of putting it into production. But where there's a will, there's a way, and FT-1 would soon go from sketch to real-world object.
Toyota is a brand that looks to the future, not the past. So while the team at Calty was inspired by Toyota's sports car past, it was important that FT-1 feel fresh, not retro. They started with classic sports car proportions: a long hood, set-back cabin and short rear deck. Heritage-inspired elements, such as the double-bubble roof and duckbill spoiler, were married to the car's contemporary, aerodynamic proportions. FT-1 was taking shape, but there was still a lot of work to be done.
It's one thing to make a work of art that looks good in a two-dimensional space. It's a different skill entirely to bring that work to life in the real world, and in three dimensions. With a design locked in, Calty moved into the modeling phase. And as with all great sculptures, it was the subtraction of mass that helped FT-1 reveal its form. Great care was taken when creating the form's negative spaces, with Calty's artisans making things look as if they were sculpted by nature—not machines. The result is an elegant, flowing shape that proved to be more than just beautiful.
″Toyota lovers are waiting for the Supra. I think we need a Supra story again.″- Akio Toyoda, President, Toyota Motor Corporation
FT-1 was first and foremost designed to be beautiful. Creating a shape that brought function to the beauty was a very happy coincidence. When the design and modeling was finalized, the FT-1 was shared with the teams at Toyota Racing Development, who, after running the shape through their wind tunnel, found that the shape's aerodynamic properties were already phenomenal. The lesson learned by all: If it looks aerodynamic, there's a good chance it will actually be aerodynamic too.
Many will say that sports cars look best in red. It's a color that highlights the emotion of a design and shines a spotlight on each and every detail. Its highly reflective properties transform light into beauty, with the lines that dance across a car becoming just as important as the sheet metal itself. But red also exaggerates a design's flaws, which is why many concept cars are shown in other, more muted colors. Not FT-1. The team at Calty insisted on modeling FT-1 in red, ensuring that each line was nothing less than perfect.
The Toyota FT-1 concept made its debut at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. To say it created a stir would be a gross understatement. The motoring press—and the fans—were trumpeting the FT-1 as the proper return of Supra. However, the FT-1 was still just a design exercise, as there were still no official plans at Toyota to create a new Supra.
The global reception to the Toyota 86, as well as the FT-1 concept, proved that the public still carried a deep love for Toyota sports cars. Toyota Motor Company (TMC) in Japan, with the guidance of Akio Toyoda, confirmed that the time was right to bring back the Supra. It's one thing to create a dream concept; creating a sports car for production is an entirely different beast. Many platforms, powertrains and even exterior designs would have to be analyzed to ensure they were worthy of the Supra badge. And to do this, TMC assembled a sports car dream team.
Before he was the global president of Toyota Motor Company, master driver Akio Toyoda created GAZOO Racing to fuel his passion for motorsport. Much like his grandfather, Toyota founder Kiichiro Toyoda, Akio recognized that the extreme conditions of motorsports help reveal the true potential of a vehicle. Racing is key to Toyota's mission of creating ever-better cars for the road, and the lessons learned on the racetrack help us develop production cars that stir the soul with every turn of the wheel.
A fan of racing—and fast Toyotas—from his youth, Tetsuya Tada joined Toyota Motor Corporation in 1987, when he immediately set about creating a rally-inspired ABS system. Studying under the tutelage of Toyota master engineers, Tada-san learned not only how to make cars perform, but also how to ensure they would work in harmony with the people who drove them. Tada went on to lead the development of the GT86 before following up with his dream project: the 2021 GR Supra.
Inspired by the Italian super cars that took over Japanese pop culture in the late 1970s, Nobuo Nakamura decided early on that car design was his life's calling. Having spent decades at Toyota—which included a stint imagining concept cars at Calty—Nakamura-san sought to bring an emotional connection to the 2021 GR Supra. Through his vision, he helped ensure that this pure sports car is as captivating to look at as it is to drive.
What makes a Supra, a Supra? Some will say it takes an inline-six engine, Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD) and a shape like no other. But we all know those features don't even start to tell the full story of Supra. This iconic nameplate has grown to stand for strength. Beauty. Speed. Power. Emotion. It's a sports car that uses those fundamentals of sports cars to create something truly transformative. So when it came time to design the 2021 GR Supra, each and every aspect couldn't just be perfect—it had to be game-changing.
″This project allowed me to pursue my childhood aspiration–to build a great-looking car–in a very pure way.″- Nobuo Nakamura, Project Chief Designer
It's the fans who transform something from object to icon. So during our initial research phase, we reached out to Supra fans to find out just what it is that makes Supra, Supra. Their answer: "A straight-six turbo and FR configuration. That's all." This feedback reinforced our conviction to keep this combination intact. Now all we had to do was refine this formula to create a supremely fun-to-drive car for the modern era.
Straight-six engines are renowned for their balance and smooth power delivery. But with GR Supra, we knew we could make things even better. Advanced technologies like a twin-scroll turbocharger, high-precision direct fuel injection and variable valve control all work in harmony to provide instant throttle response and a wide, tractable powerband.
Engine up front. Drive wheels at the rear. Commonly referred to as an "FR platform," it's the classic sports car formula, and it's key to GR Supra's dynamic personality. GR Supra was designed to be the ultimate embodiment of the FR platform, boasting near-perfect weight balance and sharpened, responsive performance.
Not even production deadlines could stop our engineers from refining GR Supra until they felt that the entire package was perfect. Engine placement was a particular point of obsession, with teams scrutinizing every last ounce, axis and dimension. The inline-six was shifted as far rearward as possible to help optimize front/rear weight balance. Oil pans were shaved, as were the bottoms of transmissions, to help bring the powertrain closer to the ground for a lower center of gravity. This scrutiny resulted in our purest sports car chassis yet, and set the benchmark for the next generation of sports cars.
A sports car should excite all the senses, so we put a lot of effort toward perfecting GR Supra's signature sound. This sports car is quiet in Normal Mode, but activating Sport Mode opens things up, allowing its perfect exhaust note and backfire sounds to sing from GR Supra's twin exhaust tips. Active Sound Design technology enhances this engine note throughout the cabin, encouraging drivers to keep pressing the accelerator pedal.
The creation of the 2021 GR Supra pushed our engineering and development teams beyond their limits. The Supra teams were united in creating the purest driving experience, period, and they had to push the limits of car manufacturing technology just to make GR Supra a reality. But the hard work was more than worth it. GR Supra shattered our engineers' own benchmarks, proving to be faster, stronger, lighter and more rigid than they ever thought possible.
″There is not one single aspect where we've sacrificed the feeling by prioritizing the specs–you can be certain of that.″- Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer
An announcement as big as the return of Supra requires a reveal that's equally as big. The world got its first glimpse of the A90-chassis Supra at the Geneva International Motor Show, with the debut of the GR Supra Racing Concept—a pre-production Supra that had been built to Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance (LM GTE) racing specifications. Then came the Supra Xfinity Series race car—an earth-shaking, TRD-built NASCAR machine. And it was at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, that the fifth-generation production Supra made its worldwide debut. The buzz: deafening. The subsequent first-drive impressions: overwhelmingly positive. And now, with the car officially hitting the streets, the next chapter of the Supra story is about to begin.
″The 2021 Toyota Supra is here, and it looks glorious.″- Jalopnik