The word S U P R A didn't always enjoy the respect it has today. The S U P R A's beginnings were humble. Back in the days of roller rinks and AC/DC 8 track cassettes (enjoy your iPod, youngsters) there was the Celica. Unlike the modern Celica, the 1970s era model was a little car, scoffed at by Firebird-driving Burt Reynolds fans. Then came the ‘80s (okay, ‘79), and a new kind of Celica...the Celica S U P R A! But it wasn't Super. Its suspension was better suited for back seat lovin' than high speed racing and everyone knew it. It made do with a single overhead cam CRESSIDA engine. But hey, it was better than the Celica, and a step in the right direction, with disc brakes all around.
In 1981 another Celica S U P R A was released. It was DOHC this time around, and had independent rear suspension, but was still basically a Celica.
By 1986 the first true S U P R A was born. No longer just a “sporty” Celica, this S U P R A was designed to stand on its own. Toyota went all out with its new Flagship. It sported a new engine design (the 7M-GTE) built around a 3 liter inline 6 cylinder engine and—get this—a TURBO and INTERCOOLER!! This packed 230 bhp @ 5600 rpm. Impressive stuff in ‘86. Sadly, Toyota released the car in America WITHOUT the turbo and intercooler, which dropped output to 200 bhp. And the car wasn't light at over 3400 lbs. Critics panned the styling as generic and overly conservative (looking eerily like a Porsche 944 knockoff). But again, it made strides of progress with reworked suspension geometry, fatty (for the day) tires, improved brakes, and Toyota's TEMS “Electronic Modulated Suspension” for on-the-fly selectable shock absorber rates. Just press “Sport” and go. But was it a true sports car? Not really. The third generation S U P R A was more of a Grand Tourer.
In ‘87 the 3rd Gen Turbo and intercooler setup finally came stateside in the “S U P R A Turbo” and caught the attention of the mullet crowd. Still, the S U P R A was not quite an icon. Perhaps it was the extra gristle, which took the car's weight up to a portly 3600 pounds (if you got the sport roof). Its 6.8 psi of boost was commendable, but not enough to lay a solid claim to the throne held by domestic muscle, or exotic style.
But all that would change in 1993 with the 4th generation S U P R A...the JZA80. This is the S U P R A that has become legendary. THIS is the S U P R A you will use in SRS to lay waste to the competition.
Unlike any previous S U P R A, this one was so completely restyled that it was as if it just fell out of the sky. It had TEN insectoid looking lights forward of the front wheel well! And that Spoiler! WHOA! It was huge, functional, and didn't block your scanning for Police in the rear view. Gone were the harsh wedge-like angles of the ‘80s, replaced by the muscular curves that would come to symbolize 1990s automotive design. Back seats and cargo space were an afterthought. The JZA80 was new from the ground up, and built with the goal of producing incredible power and saving weight in every conceivable way.
And save weight it did. As if obsessed, the engineers trimmed in ways only they could have conceived of. When the assembly line rolled in Motomachi, Japan, they started with conventional wisdom to save weight. They built the hood, roof and bumper supports out of aluminum. Makes sense. They used cast aluminum 17 inch rims. Sounds good. But get this, further weight savings came via a PLASTIC fuel tank and hollow anti-roll bars. That's dedication. Then they just lost their damned minds. They used hollow head BOLTS wherever structurally feasible and (I'm not making this up) even went so far as to create hollow fiber CARPET in an effort to tip the scales.
With weight minimized, they looked to power. Toyota's name for power is 2JZ-GTE. Simply put, the 2JZ is 3 liters of DOHC 24-valve, Inline Six, “middle finger” to anyone who doubted Toyota's ability to build a race ready engine. It is the ultimate weapon in Toyota's production arsenal and has seen tuned versions exceed 800 bhp! This block would be called upon to do double duty not only for Toyota's S U P R A line, but would almost single-handedly carry the Lexus brand as well. The Lexus SC300 and GS300 would come to use this mighty platform, and even the IS300 uses a detuned version of it.
That detuned version can also be found in the base model JDM S U P R A (SZ-R). In that configuration the 2JZ is naturally aspirated and can crank out 220 bhp at 5800 rpm. Not exactly pure power, but like I said...base model. Now in JDM S U P R As like the mighty RZ the 2JZ engine shows its potential. The RZ sees the glorious return of the turbo. It straps on sequential twin turbos and an intercooler, which catapult it into the 276 bhp (or 280 PS) range. The car is capable of much more, but Toyota willingly limited the power to 280 PS to maintain the “gentleman's agreement” that was in place among Japanese auto manufacturers at the time.
Fortunately for S U P R A fans, America doesn't count. In general, Japanese sports cars are released in America in a watered down form. Look at any J-Spec rocket, and compare it to the U.S. Spec. It'll make you sad. One of the only exceptions was when Toyota unleashed the S U P R A on America. Unshackled from the agreement in place in Japan, the U.S. S U P R A Turbo is a monster that even an RZ owner would fear.
Power jumps up from 276 bhp in the RZ to 320 bhp of whup-ass thanks to 11.6 psi of boost in the U.S. Turbo. It has torque enough to bench press a Celica without breaking a sweat, twisting 315 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm, and through some sort of mad scientist wizardry, 90 percent of that torque is available from 1300 to 4500 rpm. Mate this to a GETRAG six speed (short throw) and you've got serious neck SNAP potential.
This S U P R A can crush you into your seat for the 5 seconds it takes to hit 60, and can run a quarter mile in the mid 13s if you are brave enough to push the needle to the 6800 rpm redline. And while the S U P R A is electronically limited to 155 mph, the Speedometer's 180 mph max is telling. With limiter disabled, the car can hit 170, stock.
Left to mere mortals this much power would get most of us killed, but Toyota has provided some assistance for the ham fisted and lead footed. For a start the S U P R A has a Traction Control System which detects wheel spin, and in those hairy moments between “Oh $#!T” and “Call a tow truck,” applies rear brakes, retards engine ignition timing and controls a sub-throttle valve until the wheels regain grip. Then there's a Torsen (Torque-sensing) LSD at the rear, to keep the corners manageable. And the brakes are massive, nearing 13 inches in rotor diameter with 4 piston calipers up front and 2 piston in the rear. These are thankfully slotted up front, and functional brake scoops channel air to cool the rear brakes, as if they somehow knew you'd need to stop from ridiculous velocities without pesky brake fade. Lateral G-sensing 4-channel ABS controls front and rear inside and outside brake assists independently so that even when stomping wildly into corners (as this car could prompt you to do) the brakes resist lockup.
Thank you, Toyota. After over a decade of trying, the S U P R A has surpassed its namesake. It's no wonder the words “S U P R A” and “Legendary” became synonymous with the JZA80. Sadly, like so many Japanese greats, this wondrous car is no longer in production. But much like with the RX-7, there are whispers of the return of the S U P R A in the next few years. With a new GT-R coming from Nissan in 2007, will we see the S U P R A return in all its glory? Let's hope so.
Supra is a car. You have a supra. That is a supra.