New & Used Toyota Supra: In Depth
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The Toyota Supra was a two-door hatchback, initially a spin-off of the Celica lineup when it was new for 1978. It was powered solely by an in-line six-cylinder engine in all four generations. In later years, it evolved into a sporty competitor for the likes of the Nissan 300ZX and Chevy Corvette, before it was dropped from the Toyota lineup in 1998.
The first-generation Supra evolved from the contemporary "beetle-backed" Celica. It shared most of its hatchback styling with the Celica of that era, but the front end was lengthened to accommodate a six-cylinder engine (the Celica was powered by four-cylinder engines). Over the course of its first few model years, the more luxurious Supra was offered with a choice of either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
With the second generation Supra, Toyota adopted a deeply wedged design for both the six-cylinder hatchback and for the four-cylinder Celica, which also added a convertible version and a notchback body style. The Supra had grown wider and larger, and was sold in sporty and luxury editions; leather upholstery and digital gauges were available, and front-end styling differentiated the Supra (known for a time as the Celica Supra) from the Celica itself. With a 2.8-liter in-line six with about 145 horsepower, an independent suspension and a choice of four-speed automatic and five-speed manual transmission, this Supra wasn't particularly fast, but its durability and comfort put it in a competitive class with cars like the contemporary Nissan Z and the Ford Mustang.
The Supra finally gained some distinction from the Celica in its third generation. The Celica coupes and hatchbacks were switched to front-wheel drive, but in 1987 the third-generation Supra retained rear-wheel drive when it was heavily redesigned with a sleeker, more rounded form. The in-line six was upgraded to 3.0 liters, and optionally, with turbocharging; power initially ranged from 200 to 230 hp, with a choice of four-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmissions. This generation of the Supra would add a targa top, a limited-slip differential, and anti-lock brakes, as it quickly transformed into a true grand-touring hatchback. However, the arrival of new sports cars--the Nissan 300ZX and Mazda RX-7--hastened this generation's demise, and triggered the development of a fourth-generation Supra more aggressive than any before it.
With the final production Supra, Toyota committed fully to the grand-touring arms race. The dramatically more powerful Supra had morphed into something like Porsche's 928; its in-line six-cylinder was available in normally aspirated form with about 220 horsepower, or twin-turbocharged form with about 276 horsepower. Straight-line performance was scalding: the bulbous new Supra could turn in 0-60 mph times in the mid-4.0-second range, and top speed rose to more than 170 mph. Handling was vastly improved, as was tire size; the Supra was far from the flyweight tossability of the RX-7, more like the hefty 300ZX in its steering and ride quality. Curb weight had grown to nearly 3,500 pounds. The Supra's appeal never regained its past luster, though: sales slowed to the point that only the automatic, twin-turbo car was produced.
The Supra was discontinued in 1998, but several concept cars over the years have hinted Toyota is interested in reviving the nameplate. None have been built, but it's possible that a hybrid concept like the Toyota FT-HS could one day join the lineup, now that Acura's NSX is making its own comeback.