Disguised prototype set to tease crowds on the Festival of Speed hill climb

The all-new Toyota Supra’s excruciatingly long gestation period is nearly over. But before we see one of the year’s most eagerly awaited new performance cars in full, Toyota is taking it to the Goodwood hill climb at this year’s Festival of Speed for its dynamic debut.

Although still covered in a body-disguising wrap, this is the first time we have seen a late full-body prototype in the metal, giving us all a better idea of what to expect when the car is finally revealed later in the year. In addition to this, one of our readers, Johnny Daly, sent in shots of a similar late-body prototype undergoing testing in the UK, giving us yet more insight into what the new sports coupe will look like.

Look beyond the swirly wrap and you’ll see that the expressive, dramatic bodywork first shown on the Toyota FT-1 Concept, and later the GR Supra Racing Concept, has remained mostly intact. While the Supra is paired in development with the new BMW Z4, Toyota has assured us that the differences between the two cars will be significantly more dramatic than the results of the GT86/BRZ project from 2012, amounting to not only different exterior styling and interiors, but also a more dynamically focused ethos for the Supra in comparison to the more laid-back BMW.

One thing that the two models will share is their basic drivetrains. The Supra is expected to exclusively use a turbocharged 3-litre straight-six engine, powering the rear wheels through an automatic gearbox, while the BMW will also be offered with four-cylinder engines and a manual option. The Toyota’s automatic gearbox is likely to be the same eight-speed ZF unit used by BMW, which is no bad thing.

It’s also expected that the Supra will be badged exclusively as a Gazoo Racing product, with the flagship model at launch producing 250kW and 450Nm of torque. Thanks to a leaked document, we can also tell you that the Supra will weigh in at around 1500kg and reach 100km/h in under four seconds, but these figures have yet to be substantiated – and that acceleration claim certainly sounds like a stretch to us given the power and weight figures.

Although we’ll still have to wait to see the finished car, the Supra’s dynamic debut at Goodwood should give fans a good idea of what the new car’s straight-six engine will sound like, not to mention see the model in context with rivals from Porsche and BMW. Toyota’s marketing machine isn’t stopping there, either, as the Supra is replacing the Camry (which is returning to the UK, incidentally) as the company’s NASCAR entry. Toyota certainly isn’t holding back with its new sports coupe. Now all it needs to do is finally put it on sale.

The Toyota GR Supra Racing concept first appeared at the Geneva motor show earlier this year and has now reached the Gran Turismo racing game franchise, giving fans the chance to get their first go behind the (virtual) wheel.

As for the actual concept car, it might look like a racetrack-only machine, but it does give us our best indication yet as to what the production Supra might look like. Complete with functional, production-specification lighting and glazing shared with late-cycle prototypes, peel back the stickers and take a few inches of width from the wheelarches and you’ll be looking at something very close to the production car next year.

The GR Supra Racing Concept – to give it its full name, for all Supras will be marketed under the Gazoo Racing sub-brand – isn’t said to conform with any racing formulae in particular, but that hasn’t stopped it from appearing authentic, all the same. Toyota lists the highlights and equipment that make up its ‘racing spec’, but doesn’t give any mechanical specifications or even a hint as to what lies under the brutal bodywork.

However, as we reported earlier this year, leaked information in Japan suggests the road car will have a six-cylinder engine producing 254Kw and 450Nm of torque, with 0-100km/h dispatched in 3.8sec. A weight figure of 1496kg has been rumoured, but has not been substantiated.

What Toyota has said is that the front and rear bumpers, front splitter and diffuser, side skirts, mirror housings, rear wing and bonnet are all made from composite material on the Racing Concept, and that the windscreen and side windows are plastic, not glass. The wheels are BBS centre-lock racing wheels shod with Michelin ‘racing tyres’, and the suspension is lowered, but of OE design. Braking is via a set of Brembo motorsport discs and calipers, with a race-spec exhaust and an interior fully equipped for modern motor racing (OMP bucket seat, roll cage and sophisticated steering wheel with its own display and numerous switches).

Like us, what you probably want to see is the finished Supra road car. In the meantime, you’ll be able to ‘drive’ the GR Supra Racing Concept on your Playstation.

Speaking to Tetsuya Tada

The Geneva show gave us the opportunity to discuss the Supra further with the car’s chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada. While Tada and the company are still being cagey at this stage, the chat was encouraging, and helped to illustrate that despite the car’s co-development with the BMW Z4, Toyota’s effort will be a very different car to its Bavarian counterpart.

How much can you say about the differences between the Z4 and Supra?

Unlike the GT86 co-developed with Subaru, with BMW we first decided on the concept of the car that each company would like to develop separately. Once these concepts were clear we looked into which parts could be common between the two projects – and the number of common parts and elements are much fewer than many may imagine.

Presumably it’s going to share the engine architecture, so how has Toyota developed the engine, suspension etc differently from BMW? Is it a more focused car?

From our side Toyota wanted to make a pure sports car, and BMW has a slightly different direction. Engine calibration is quite different between the two cars. Even if the hardware is the same in some elements, the calibration is completely different – the driving experience will be very different to the Z4.

Which other models have been benchmarked, and is there any reference to previous versions of the Supra?

We looked into Porsches – the 911 for example. As for previous Supras, we’re aware that there’s a huge fanbase for previous Supras, so we’ve interviewed them to hear their expectations before we started the project. People told us they wanted a six-cylinder engine and a front-engined, rear-drive layout.

Will it be offered with a manual gearbox?

We’re still in discussion about these details, so we don’t know what the final production car will use yet.

Is there any likelihood of a hybrid powertrain?

We are considering not only hybrid but also other powertrain tech, EVs, fuel cells etc. We’re looking at all these possibilities for our future sports cars.

The Supra will be sold under Gazoo Racing rather than as a Toyota. Given the love for the Supra as a Toyota product, why the branding difference?

It’s not our intention to change the brand, but we created GR as a dedicated sports car brand under Toyota, so it makes sense for all Toyota’s future models to be sold under the GR brand.

How much of the GT86 development has assisted in developing the Supra?

In terms of the number of engineers just a few, but we’ve taken on new engineers too, and the GT86 itself has been a significant factor in allowing us to develop the Supra. The reason we took on new members for this project was because most engineers dream of developing a sports car in their life, so we wanted to give this opportunity to our younger engineers.

Have you taken tuning into account during the development of the new car? Will there be aspects people can customise?

Just as with the 86, we have the same message with the new car – we’d really like people to tune the car themselves.

Will there be any factory modifications, or are you letting the aftermarket take over?

It’s difficult to define what is a brand or maker-approved modification. It was a concern we had with the GT86, but once it was launched on the market we learned that users on the market have quite high standards and respect the car, so the aftermarket developed on its own. I hope the same will happen with the Supra. With the GT86 we didn’t have to interfere too much into the market and what the users were doing – so as a brand we’re not likely to interfere with the market too much either.