Toyota considers Supra revival

The Japanese giant is set to rediscover its sporty mojo.


Two more sports cars could be developed by Toyota, including a spiritual successor to its cult car, the Supra. The man responsible for the development of the company's new 86 sports car, chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, says there is room for a three-tier sports car line-up in the Toyota range, with one car sitting below the 86 and one above it.

If they were to be made, the three new sports cars would return Toyota to its former two-door glory days, when sports cars were as important to its line-up - and as iconic - as the LandCruiser.

''Right now the 86 will be a mid-size sports car,'' he told Drive through an interpreter.
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''I would like to have one smaller and one larger. One would probably be a Supra follower. Nothing has been decided yet. It would [be] like a Supra successor.''

He said the car could be another joint venture with Subaru, which co-developed the 86 (or BRZ as the Subaru is known) but it would depend on the concept.

Subaru has a chequered history with two-door sports cars. The wedge-shaped Vortex of the 1980s and the chunky, expensive and oddly styled SVX struggled to find buyers in the 1990s.

Toyota's sports car history is more comprehensive, encompassing the Celica, mid-engined MR2 and flagship Supra. Each was successful but they have all been discontinued in the past decade. The Supra was an iconic sports car that Toyota produced from the late '70s to 2002. Powered by an in-line six-cylinder engine, it was popular in Australia in the early '90s - although it was discontinued here in 1993 - and fast became a favourite of car tuners.

Grey imports (sold through small importers, not Toyota dealers) were common and gave buyers access to relatively affordable, sleek-looking, high-performance sports cars. Even today the Supra is a popular coupe with enthusiasts and those looking for something different. Modified Supras can still fetch more than $30,000.

It's not yet known if any Supra successor would use the Supra nameplate. Many expected the new coupe to adopt the Celica label but Toyota instead chose to name the car loosely after the AE86 Corolla/Sprinter, which was a favourite of drift enthusiasts.

Heritage counts for plenty in the sports car world - Porsche's 911 is the most iconic, even leading to a buyer uprising when word spread of plans in the 1980s to shelve the rear-engine coupe and replace it with a more conventional front-engine V8 - but all-new models can also squeeze their way into a market segment that's more about image and branding than outright sales. The Audi TT is one example.

Toyota is trying to shake off its reputation for building dull but dependable cars and the 86 is a key part of the company's push to have cars that are ''fun to drive''.

Toyota adopted the catchphrase ''Fun to drive'' in the 1980s but discontinuing sports cars such as the Supra, Celica and MR2 has taken lustre off the brand in recent years. Under president and car enthusiast, Akio Toyoda, the company is looking to return to its sports car roots.

''Personally, I love the smell of gasoline and the sound of an engine, so I hope that this type of vehicle never disappears,'' he told the media at the Tokyo Motor Show this week.

''I hope that motor vehicles will continue to provide dreams and inspiration to people for all eras. I believe that if it is not fun, it is not a car.

''I truly believe that no matter how advanced cars become, it is important to retain this feeling.''

Tada said Toyoda was keen to have a Supra replacement if the numbers added up.

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