Car enthusiasts and self-proclaimed purists have loved to complain about the fifth-generation Toyota Supra since it was first announced as a joint partnership with BMW, then released for the 2020 model year. It’s not a Toyota. It’s tarnishing the Supra name. I get it, but the current Supra is a really good car no matter what it’s called. Where enthusiasts have been legitimately annoyed, though, is over the fact that last year’s Supra got a lower-power variant of the BMW straight six under the hood. For 2021, Toyota got their hands on the “full” BMW B58 six, which produces 47 more horsepower and a smidge more torque (three lb-ft) than the 2020 Supra.
Enthusiasts have every right to feel a bit shorted, particularly if they bought the 2020 Supra. But power isn’t everything, and I spent a week with the updated 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 to see if the extra shove really mattered.
What Is It?
This is the second model year of Toyota’s “MkV” Supra, the fifth generation of its flagship sports-car-grand-tourer nameplate. It’s still produced in partnership with BMW and built in Austria by Magna Steyr. While the sibling BMW Z4 roadster uses the same basic drivetrain, Toyota made do last year with a variant of the B58 six that produced 335 horsepower for the Supra’s launch. This year, the 2021 Supra’s B58 makes numbers identical to the BMW Z4 M40i, with 382 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque. Power flows to the rear wheels through an excellently-tuned ZF 8-speed torque-converter automatic.
The B58 in question wasn’t just re-tuned, the hardware’s been changed. A different exhaust manifold uses six ports instead of “six into two” and revised pistons change the compression ratio from 11:1 to 10.2:1. Software does recalibrate things for the hardware revisions, of course, and the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 reaches 60 in 3.9 seconds instead of last year’s obviously far too slow 4.1 second sprint.
Toyota also worked on handling, adding aluminum braces that run from the strut towers to the radiator/core support, and revising damper tuning and bump stops. Finally, they added white “Supra” logos to the red Brembo brake calipers up front so the most hardcore fans know you have the hottest variant of the car.
My test vehicle was painted a fantastic $425 shade of Nitro Yellow, which I found way more fun than last year’s Renaissance Red loaner and totally worth the money. The only other option was a driver assistance package for $1,195, which added some utility on the highway but isn’t necessary. MSRP came to $57,210.
Same (ish) B58, More Power: Is the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 That Much Better Than the 2020 Supra?
When driving the 2020 Supra last fall, I didn’t find it particularly slow. So many modern cars are over-powered and honestly, the 0-60 claims are best left for winning Internet battles over who’s car is technically fastest on paper. What matters most is how that power is delivered and how usable the car feels, which is determined by so much more than how quickly something can launch-control itself away from a red light.
So, to answer the question of “how much better is this, really?” I took the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 to my college town, a few hours south of Washington, D.C. in the Shenandoah Valley. There are some incredible driving roads that will show off any car’s handling prowess, and I’ve been driving them since I was a freshman. After an outdoor lunch at Jack Brown’s, I met up with some Madison Motorsports students, and we set off to run up and down Route 33.
Crossing Route 33 into West Virginia provides a series of tight, on-camber turns that must be taken with care, punctuated by some short straightaways that’ll let you run out third or part of fourth. Once you reach the summit, you’re faced with more tight downhill turns that demand both engine braking and brake pedal management to avoid cooking the pads or fluid. As you descend and the road straightens out, you’ll find yourself in a scenic section of the George Washington National Forest. Throw your left signal on and pull over to take in the scenery and let everything cool down before you point the cars west and do it all over again.
Driving a public road with some mild aggression doesn’t compare to having a racetrack at your disposal, as I had with last year’s “slower” Supra. But in both cases, I never once found the car slow. Both 2020 and 2021 Supras make an abundance of power, and while the 2021 Supra is absolutely quicker on paper and pulls tremendously hard in practice, I enjoyed both cars just the same. They both have the ability to propel you from 35 miles per hour to well above 70 with a gentle prod of the throttle. Though Toyota tweaked both steering and suspension, revisions are minor and won’t be noticed much in most street-driving scenarios.
What’s most impressive about the Supra is how much of a non-event it was to drive up and down Route 33. The car is well-balanced and listens to the driver, allowing focus on every part of the corner you’re either approaching or attacking instead of fighting against your inputs.
So yes, the revised B58 with more power is a great upgrade and the revised suspension and steering are as welcome as any other continuous improvement. But buyers of the 2020 Supra shouldn’t feel bad, as it’s not a bad car by any means. Whether you’re shopping for a new 2021 or a pre-owned 2020 – just get the one that fits your budget.
Living with the 2021 Toyota Supra 3.0 Day-to-Day
Once I wrapped up my mountain run, I popped the shifter back to Drive and took the Supra out of Sport mode, set the iDrive to “home” and hit the interstate. Thankfully, the Supra is pretty livable as “just a car” though annoyances from last year persist to the 2021.
BMW’s iDrive is used (and rebranded) in the Supra, and while better than most iterations of Toyota’s native Entune infotainment system, it’s clunky compared to other, rival systems. I also had a difficult time convincing the center screen that I was in bright sunlight and to amp up the brightness to a sufficient level. It was often near-impossible to read during the day.
Wind buffeting continues to be a problem with both windows down at moderate speeds, from about 40 to 60 miles per hour. The aftermarket offers stick-on plastic pieces that go near the door mirrors and resolve the issue, but I’d have liked to see this fixed by Toyota.
Highway fuel economy was excellent, with the Supra returning surprising numbers for a car with this much power. Low-30s is easily achievable. Once off the highway, the Supra’s suspension and transmission tuning work well enough for city driving given the car’s sporting nature.
I complained about the Supra in 2019 before it was launched, and immediately reversed course once I got time behind the wheel. It is a tremendously good, if imperfect, enthusiast’s car that can do daily-driver duties and more than hold its own when things get twisty. My opinions haven’t changed since last year, and though I don’t think it’s for everyone, the fifth-gen Supra has only been made better for 2021. Owners of 2020 Supras shouldn’t feel slighted by Toyota (much) and those looking to buy now will be faced with two equally-solid choices. What’s 47 horsepower between friends, really?
Big thanks to Alec Michaels of ABM Photography for hanging out the side of an E46 BMW (carefully) to take these fantastic rolling shots (slowly) for this piece!