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Fastest Toyota yet in SA: What the next-gen Supra sports car means for Mzansi

2019-07-19 14:00

Lance Branquinho

Toyota GR Supra

Image: Motorpress

The country’s most popular brand now has a true sports car. But what will it be competing against? 

For South Africa’s most popular automotive brand, new product introductions became routine after a while. Toyota’s dominance of the local market is so absolute, that we perhaps ignore when they do something niche. 

When the Toyota 86 was introduced back in 2012, it gave hope to followers of the brand, who yearned for a return to its RSi/RXi themed driver’s cars of the 1990s.

Although the 86 is a brilliantly balanced rear-wheel drive sports coupe, it struggled with the asthmatic influence of South Africa’s high-altitude motoring landscape. ‘If only it was turbocharged,’ was the common refrain from enthusiasts. 

Seven years later Toyota has finally made good on the potential shown by 86. The brand’s fifth-generation Supra is now available in the local market and it becomes the most focused driver’s car ever offered to Toyota South Africa’s customers. 

The styling and design are very bold, supported by a turbocharged engine and impeccably crafted technical details, all pivoting on the promise of delivering a superior driving experience. Issues? Well, the new Supra does share a platform, engine and many components with BMW’s Z4, but the cars are different. How different?

The suspension configurations are completely unique to each and the Supra has an advantage in being a fixed-roof coupe, as opposed to the Z4 – which is a convertible. That means the Toyota has superior overall structural rigidity and should interpret your inputs from the helm, with greater accuracy. Powering up to 250kW and 500Nm, Supra is the fastest Toyota ever offered locally.

It positions Toyota in a market where the brand has never competed in South Africa: two-door, rear-wheel drive performance cars. For years Nissan was the sole Japanese brand that marketed a powerful rear-wheel drive car in the local market, with its 370Z.  

Toyota GR Supra

                                                               Image: Motorpress

It should be noted that the two-door sports car market is very small in South Africa, with models often trading in the thin 15-25 unit range. Ford would be a natural rival for the Supra with its Mustang, of which an updated version is also being launched this month.

In terms of price the Mustang, with its larger 5-litre V8 engine, undercuts the Supra a touch – with the pony car range starting at R872 100. The most affordable Supra is priced at R953 000. Nissan still lists its 370Z, and it is much cheaper than a Supra at R719 800 but finding supply might be an issue.

The Z-car is also a decade old and will not have the measure of a Supra in any terms of comparative driving experience. Jaguar’s F-Type is another Supra competitor, although it only prices in context to the Toyota sports car when configured with a four-cylinder engine. The six-cylinder F-Types are  lot more expensive. 

No Japanese brand has ever given a strong account of itself in the South African sports car market, but with Toyota’s marketing acumen and a product which has the appearance, technology and performance to be ranked as an authentic sports car, the Supra might alter many perceptions. 

It becomes the most expensive Toyota badged passenger vehicle to ever go on sale in South Africa and certainly the most exciting too. The enlivening of Toyota’s product appeal amongst keen drivers, which started with 86, is now being matured by Supra. 

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