You remember the scene. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker are cruising the Pacific Coast Highway in a bright orange Toyota Supra. They pull up alongside an Italian supercar and Walker peers across: “Nice car. What’s the retail on one of those?”
The driver revs his engine and sneers: “More than you can afford, pal. Ferrari”. Diesel mutters “Smoke him”, the lights go green and the Supra – tuned to around 650hp, including a 100hp shot of nitrous – leaves the F355 Spider and its well-heeled owner for dust.
The Fast and the Furious catapulted it onto the big screen, but the Supra has long been a mainstay of modified car culture. In Japan, tuning firms such as HKS and Top Secret boosted its legendary 2JZ motor to 1,000hp and beyond. And in 1998, Kazuhiko ‘Smokey’ Nagata hit 194mph on the A1(M) in Cambridgeshire for a feature in Max Power magazine. Both Smokey and his Supra were deported soon afterwards.
While nobody condones speeding – or sitting through The Fast and the Furious – Toyota is rightly proud of the Supra’s heritage and fanboy kudos. To that end, the latest car undertook a ‘tuning tour’ of the UK before arriving in showrooms, ‘designed to encourage and accelerate support for the model within the thriving aftermarket scene’. Even Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer for the new A90 model, said he plans to customise his own Supra.
Toyota dealers are also getting in on the action, buoyed by the success of the GR Yaris hot hatch and Gazoo Racing team. Which brings me to Listers Toyota in Warwickshire, where I’ll drive a standard Supra back-to-back with a modified ‘Stage One’ version.
We might have swapped sunny Los Angeles for soggy Stratford-upon-Avon, but the latter car can still outgun a Ferrari F355 – and without a NOS bottle in sight.
I’m greeted by Richard Burt, general manager at Listers in Stratford. An avowed petrolhead who recently sold his 280hp turbocharged Toyota GT86 to buy a BriSCA Formula 1 stock car, Burt helped develop the upgraded Supra. “We set it up on a rolling road, and the result was 450hp at 6,300rpm,” he explains. “That’s up from 340hp at 5,000rpm in the regular car. It’s just phenomenal to drive.”
The core of the Stage One conversion is remapped ECU from Litchfield, the Tewkesbury tuning company best known for beefing up the Nissan GT-R. Combined with a Pipercross panel filter and manifold-back Milltek Sport exhaust, it liberates 32 percent more power from the Toyota’s 3.0-litre straight-six.
The full kit costs £3,000 and can be fitted to any new or used GR Supra. Alternatively, you could buy the grey 2019 car here, with 5,569 miles on the clock, for £43,991.
Interestingly, Burt decided against bolting on stiffer suspension. “We did change the springs and dampers, but the ride was too firm. We wanted a car that wasn’t compromised, that could be driven every day.” Indeed, the only visual clue to the Supra’s extra grunt is the larger twin tailpipes. “The car turns so many heads anyway,” grins Burt. “It looks like absolutely nothing else.”
Undoubtedly one reason the Supra attracts so much attention is rarity. I covered the original launch in 2019 and I’ve scarcely seen one since. At the time, I thought the design a bit busy (chief stylist Nobuo Nakamura calls it ‘Condensed Extreme’), but on a dull day in the West Midlands, it looks genuinely exotic. Especially when you see two Supras side-by-side.
The double-bubble roof evokes Zagato Aston Martins, while the air vents (some fake, admittedly) might have been carved by a whirling samurai sword.
The GR Supra was jointly developed with the BMW Z4, and some journalists were quick to criticise its very ‘Bavarian’ interior. For anyone buying the car (who probably hasn’t borrowed a BMW the previous week), it’s unlikely to be a problem. Quality is excellent, the iDrive media system is intuitive and a bespoke driver display – dominated by a spiky, Manga-style rev counter – gives the Toyota a splash of its own identity. The real difference between the two cars, however, becomes apparent when you start driving.
While the Z4 is geared towards top-down cruising, the Supra is closer to an Ultimate Driving Machine. At the launch, Tada-san took great pride in telling us about its perfect 50:50 weight distribution, lower centre of gravity than the boxer-engined GT86 and stronger chassis than the carbon fibre Lexus LFA.
Granted, it isn’t as fleet-footed as an Alpine A110 or as polished as a Porsche 718 Cayman, but its brawny six-cylinder engine bests them both. In standard guise (the blue car in our photos), it blasts from zero to 62mph in 4.3 seconds.
Burt doesn’t have performance figures for the Listers Supra, but we can safely assume it ducks below four seconds. If you can put the power down, that is. On damp January roads, the hot-rodded Toyota will easily break traction in first, second and third gears.
When it comes to corners, there’s ample potential to indulge your wildest Hakone-Hill-Climb drifting dreams. “You need to drive it with discipline,” says Burt, partly in jest, partly with the air of a protective parent. This is his baby, after all.
Even in such conditions, this is still a fiercely fast car. Those extra 110 horses draw out the Supra’s claws; it soars to its 7,000rpm redline as you gain speed like a dive-bombing buzzard. With a modest 1,495kg to shift, it’s nigh-on supercar-quick.
The Milltek exhaust also helps the big-lunged engine find its voice, from a throaty gargle at idle to over-run pops like distant mortar fire. If you upgrade nothing else, this alone adds real character to the car.
Frankly, though, I’d go for the full Stage One package. It’s as painless to daily-drive as the standard model, while £3,000 represents less than six percent of the £54,340 Toyota asks for a Supra 3.0 Pro. The five-year manufacturer warranty remains valid on parts unaffected by the upgrades, too.
Burt’s next job is a faster and more furious take on the GR Yaris. I can’t wait to drive it.
Tim Pitt writes for Motoring Research
PRICE: £57,340 (new) or £43,991 (as tested)
TORQUE: 442lb ft
0-62MPH: 3.9 seconds (est.)
TOP SPEED: 155mph
MPG COMBINED: 32.0 (est.)