Driving: the manual 2023 Toyota GR Supra is an ode to enthusiasts

The wait is officially over and manual transmission GR Supras are arriving at Toyota dealerships across the country. It’s the first time in more than two decades that the Supra has been available with three pedals and a manual shifter. After a full day with her on and off the race track, we can assure you it’s worth the wait.

Toyota vice president of vehicle marketing and communications Mike Tripp said the brand had been working on a manual Supra since 2019 after fans made it clear they wanted to swap the cogs themselves. Now it’s possible again with the Toyota GR Supra MT.

Read more: We drive the manual 2023 Toyota Supra, what do you want to know?

Fast facts >>>

> Model: Toyota GR Supra MT 3.0 2023

› MSRP: $53,595

› 0-60 MPH: 4.2 seconds

> Powertrain : 3.0L six-cylinder turbo engine l 6-speed manual l RWD

> Production: 382 hp (284 kW) / 367 lb-ft (497 Nm)

› APE: 23 MPG City / 31 MPG Highway (east)

> On sale: Now

Last week we went to the Utah Motorsports campus to test the new GR Supra manual with the new GR Corolla. You’ll have to settle for what the GR Corolla looks like on the track for another week, but today we can tell you everything you want to know about the Supra MT. Toyota didn’t just pull a gearbox out of the parts bin here. He adapted this transmission to the Supra and it is easily felt behind the wheel.

Not just another BMW part

It’s easy to think of a transmission swap as simply changing physical components. For better or for worse, in the age of highly computerized automobiles, it’s not that simple. To that end, Toyota relied on its engineers Gazoo Racing, Toyota Motor Europe and the transmission gurus at ZF to create the gearbox.

It is also not a standard unit that comes from a specific BMW model. Most of the major components are sourced from BMW, such as the case and gear train, but Toyota also sourced a few custom components for the Supra itself. This includes an all-new shift lever, a new large-diameter clutch and a reinforced diaphragm spring designed to handle the high torque (367 lb-ft / 497 Nm) of the Supra.

Toyota also claims that the weight and shape of the gear knob itself, as well as the shift engagement, have all been refined. It also shortened the final drive ratio from 3.15 in automatic to 3.46 in manual.

Keep nannies away from software

Beyond the physical components, Toyota had to readjust its software to accommodate the new transmission. This included adapting the traction control system to the manual transmission and adjusting the human element now controlling gear selection. Toyota also didn’t want the system to take away the fun, so it added a feature called Hairpin+.

When the car senses that it is going uphill (any grade of 5% or more) on a high friction surface, it allows for a greater difference in wheel slip between the left and right wheels. This should result in some smoky antics. The manual Supra and automatic Supra also get an updated anti-roll program which, in concert with vehicle stability control, should help reduce oversteer.

iMT aims to keep you from stalling

The intelligent manual transmission is a program integrated into the new gearbox aimed at improving the experience as a whole. In short, the software takes into account shifter position, clutch position, and other factors to smooth out shifts. It can briefly increase or decrease engine power to achieve this goal.

For example, if a driver does not provide enough accelerator pedal input from a stop, the iMT software can add torque to keep the car from dying. Additionally, it is the same software responsible for producing the rev-matching function when downshifting. Please note that iMT programming can also be completely disabled.

Prices and versions

The base Supra 2.0 with its four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission starts at $44,635. The base 3.0 six-cylinder Supra with its 382 hp (284 kW) has an MSRP of $53,595. Buyers can choose manual or automatic transmission for this price. The Premium version starts at $56,745 and the brand new A91-MT version costs $59,440. For a detailed description of each trim along with color combinations and options, see our article here.

Rowing our own speeds in the Supra manual

Our time in Utah with the Supra was spent in the 3.0 Premium trim both at a race track and on the roads surrounding the facility. After our day with her, we think most buyers will walk away very satisfied.

The clutch pedal itself fits into the Goldilocks zone of not being too firm or too soft. The equipment throw is short and easy to place. The clutch disc bite point is just above the midpoint of pedal travel, which allowed for smooth starts, including when dumping the clutch. Drop the hammer just right and Toyota says the Supra will go from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. Although we could not confirm this in this context, we are confident that it is possible. There is no sort of launch control program other than the analog pilot inputs in the Supra MT.

Beyond the tactile sensations of the cog swap in the Supra, the most important factor is its immediate comfort. As the laps piled up I found myself thinking less and less about the details of how the synchs worked or how the iMT rev-matching system engaged and more about the correct line and pushing the limits of traction. With all safety and convenience systems disabled, the new Supra MT is raw, powerful and downright fun.

On the street, the gearbox is smooth, easy to use and ergonomic too. There is also more than enough space between it and the control panel. The cupholders, positioned far behind the gear lever, are even slightly offset towards the passenger to make room for your elbow. It is a very complete design that combines sporty performance and commitment to everyday driving.

We’ve actually driven an automatic Supra back-to-back with the manual and they feel like considerably different cars in practice. The automatic is still as athletic and in some situations it’s quicker, but the manual was a lot more fun. The automatic feels like a cruiser while the manual seems to encourage more rowdy behavior.

Refinement compared to its peers

There’s no doubt that when it finally hits dealerships, the Nissan Z will steal sales from the Supra. It has more power (400 hp / 298 kW) than the Supra and starts at just over $40,000. However, no matter how much one spends on the Z, it remains to be seen if they can achieve the same refinement as in the Supra.

In fact, it’s this refinement that largely sets the Supra apart from other sports cars and GTs available around the $50,000 price tag. Cars like the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro all offer similar power and performance increases to the Supra at this price point, but none feel quite as lofty. The addition of a manual transmission to the Supra is just one more reason for enthusiasts looking for the luxury sports coupe experience to turn to Toyota.

Drop the clutch

The new Supra manual is a great example of solving one problem and not messing up something else in the process. The Supra’s automatic transmission worked well and the car was already a pleasure to drive. Now it’s still fun to drive, but it’s much more engaging and satisfying.

Toyota has dropped the clutch on the rest of its peers and got away with offering something not widely available elsewhere. The new Supra MT is a balanced, highly refined and highly engaging sports car that fits in just as well on a race track as it does on the street.

more pics…

About Irene J. O'Donnell

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