Toyota GR Supra 3.0: The transition from hot hatch to sports car
Hello everyone, my name is Jasper and I was invited by James to write and document my car journeys on lenspeed.com. To share a short introduction about myself, I currently drive a MK5 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 and have owned it for about 5 months now. The Supra replaced a Volkswagen Mk7 Golf R, which I had owned for 3 years previously.
There was actually no intent to sell the Golf R, considering how fun a car it is, and the extent of which it had been modded to as well. Way back in 2019, the car was comfortably clocking 2:32 at Sepang in stock turbo form and relatively stock suspension components. It was a fantastic car all-around, with the potential of pushing upwards of 500hp comfortably yet reliably on a stock engine with just a couple of bolt-on parts such as upgraded fuel pumps, a hybrid turbo, an intake, exhaust and intercooler, whilst also still being able to comfortably ferry 5 adults and remaining under the radar whilst giving supercar owners a run for their money. The boredom that COVID-19 brought in the form of border closures soon tempted me to go all out with preparing the car for when borders reopen. This meant the install of the REVO stage 3 ECU tune and REVO ETR V2 hybrid turbo developed by Owen Developments, a second set of Bilstein B16 Damptronic coilovers (and MITIN coilovers with custom spring rates for Sepang), the full suite of Superpro polyurethane bushes, and an AMS carbon intake. However, a year after enjoying 500hp on tap, a deal almost too good to pass was offered on the table, and soon after I found myself searching for its replacement.
As I figured there was no better time for myself to own a sports car, requirements for the Golf’s replacement was simple: 2 doors, 2 seats, 6-cylinder engine. Having had the privilege of experiencing multiple sports cars from Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini through various generous friends gave me a very strong idea of what to expect from a sports car in terms of driving feel, experience and emotion. After much deliberation, I had narrowed down my options to various offerings from Porsche and BMW M such as the 991.1 Carrera S, the BMW M2 Competition and last but not least, the Toyota Supra.
The 991.1 Carrera S was a beautiful car to drive and offered the biggest driving emotion and best steering feel amongst the 3. Along with Porsche’s rich history, racing heritage and timeless design, it was an extremely strong contender. However, with the model now approaching its 10-year mark, finding an unmolested, low miles unit in pristine condition wasn’t easy, and higher running costs stemming mostly from increased road tax and maintenance had me thinking twice about purchasing the car.
The BMW M2 Competition, while not as enjoyable to drive as the 911 in terms of all-around experience, is an extremely quick car, comparatively speaking. But with the price of BMW M cars soaring in recent times, it did not make much sense from a financial standpoint. The car, with its legendary S55 engine, was also now coming close to being 8 years old. The exhaust note wasn’t much to speak of either in my opinion, and simply put, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for as the car has 2 additional seats in the rear.
Now, the Supra. The Supra ticked all of the right boxes – creamy inline-6 exhaust note, check. 2 seats, check. New technology from both an engine and chassis development perspective, check. Tuning potential, check. Affordable running costs, check. I can go on and on, and simply cannot think about any flaws with the car. I was hooked as soon as I went to view one. The car has a very GT-style silhouette with its long bonnet and short rear, and sitting in the driver’s seat is akin to sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet.
After viewing multiple units, I eventually pulled the trigger on an Absolute Zero White unit that came with a number of tasteful goodies such as the Xpel Stealth Paint Protection Film, Milltek axle-back exhaust, ProTuningFreaks Bootmod3 stage 1 tune as well as various chassis braces from Cusco. As the car was imported and modified by Maximus Racing, the 5-year warranty covered the mods too, which gave further peace of mind. The only so-called drawback was that the car came with the much-dreaded OPF filter, in place of a traditional resonator box that the Borneo units come with.
Driving Dynamics & Performance
The result of a collaboration between Toyota and BMW is a very strong and capable platform with huge potential, outpacing the M2 Competition(stock to stock) at highly acclaimed race tracks across the globe such as Laguna Seca and Nurburgring Nordschleife.
At the same time, the car also provides a jekyll and hyde kind of personality thanks to having 2 driving modes to choose from: normal and sports. This allows the car to be comfortable enough to drive on a daily basis, whilst also allowing the driver to enjoy the car a bit more spiritedly by simply pushing the “sport” button, which increases the damper stiffness, steering weight and throttle responsiveness.
Right out of the factory, the car sounds very impressive on paper – its chassis stiffer than a Lexus LFA, body’s centre of gravity lower than a Toyota 86, 50:50 weight distribution and an ideal track width to wheelbase ratio of 1.55. And driving it, especially when near or on the limit, further amplifies all of the strengths highlighted above. However, there were still some shortfalls with the car that left me wanting more…
Mods & Future Plans
Seeing as how much potential Toyota had left on the table for tuners to tweak the car with, it was inevitable that the modding bug from the Golf would be carried over to the Supra, albeit in phases.
First off, power. The higher end of the power band in factory tune is lacklustre. Thankfully, a stage 1 tune from Bootmod3 can solve this issue in a matter of minutes, bumping power figures up to 440bhp with no hardware mods required. This significant bump in power resulted in a much stronger pull into the higher rpms, whilst still remaining extremely torquey in the lower end of the rev range. But since power had already been taken care of by the previous owner, no further action was required from my end, seeing that 440bhp is adequate to live with for now.
Moving on to the handling aspect of the car, this is where the real fun begins – as mentioned earlier, the car handles like a dream out of the factory, with a much quicker steering rack and much more responsive feedback compared to the Golf. However, I don’t really enjoy the slightly pushy and understeer-y characteristic and body roll that the car still entails compared to higher end and more track-focused sports cars. Thankfully, it is nothing a few simple mods can’t solve.
After countless hours reading through various forums and groups, phase 1 of modding the Supra involved procuring the following items as part of preparing the car for drives up north to Sepang International Circuit:
- AP Racing Pro 5000R brake callipers paired with Project Mu 999 brake pads
- SPL adjustable front lower control arms with spherical bushings to increase camber
- SPL adjustable caster bushings to adjust caster and eliminate rubber bushing deflection
- SPL adjustable front end links to dial out sway bar preload
- Cusco sway bars front and back
- HKS height adjustable springs to replace the huge, factory spring perch, thereby unlocking the ability to run up to 315 width tyres up front
- APEX EC-7RS 18×11” forged rims
- Bridgestone RE-71RS 295/35/18 tyres on all 4 corners
At time of writing, only the brakes and the HKS springs had been installed. I haven’t had the chance to test out and really stomp on the brakes as yet, but with great success running them on the Golf, and owners of various supercars swapping out their factory brake kits for the 5000R, that should be enough to sing high praises of how good they truly are.
As for the HKS springs, they’re noticeably stiffer compared to the stock springs, and in my opinion feel better paired with the factory dampers than the stock springs do. Rims will be installed as soon as tyres arrive, which have been on backorder for close to 4 months now.
Countless Supra enthusiasts overseas sing extremely high praises for the remainder of the mods that have yet to be installed, and I am excited to test them out at Sepang next month, and subsequently share my updates and feedback on Lenspeed as well, so watch this space!
Till then, take care and drive safe.
One Response to “Toyota GR Supra 3.0: The transition from hot hatch to sports car”
A very well written article, thank you for sharing your journey Jasper.