So does the Supra handle with the precision, poise and panache to make it the bona fide Porsche 718 Cayman rival it is claimed to be? The short answer is ‘not quite’ – although, for a front-engined sports car, it gets closer than you might expect.
Perhaps the biggest barriers the Supra faces in this respect are its packaging and size. It not only takes up more space on the road than a Cayman – or an Alpine A110 – but it’s heavier, too, and it feels it. Even with the adaptive dampers on their firmest setting, the sense that the chassis is having to work hard to resist body roll through faster bends and to check pitch and jounce over bumps is notably more pronounced than it might be in something smaller and lighter and with its engine perfectly located between the axles.
Meanwhile, the fact that its comparably large engine is placed ahead of the driver, not behind, also contributes to the Supra’s inability to quite match the supreme fleetfootedness and agility of daintier mid-engined rivals, in particular the A110. These factors combine to ensure the Supra never feels quite as intuitive, compelling, responsive or precise in its handling as the very best sporting rivals when driven hard on a challenging stretch of road.
All that isn’t to say it’s devoid of a readily identifiable and entertaining athletic streak, and it certainly comes across as a more dynamically exciting machine than the Z4. Its steering feels far quicker off centre than the BMW’s, its front end much more adhesive and darting. There’s a greater sense of composure about it, too, particularly at the rear axle.
The BMW’s tail can skit about under cornering or over off-camber surfaces, whereas the Supra feels more planted and secure with its adaptive dampers set to Sport. Leave them in Normal, however, and the compliance of the Supra’s suspension leaves a little more to chance.
This initial iteration of the fourth-generation Supra has not been developed specifically with track days in mind. In time, such a car is likely, but as it stands the Supra’s brakes begin to fade relatively early and the car’s weight – and the pronounced manner in which the car moves about its low centre of gravity – is simply too much and too often a feature of the handling to make this a track natural.
In Sport mode the gearbox is prone to abrupt downshifts (several rivals’ auto-blipping dual-clutch automatic gearboxes massage these out), but the car’s balance is good and its grip level dependably high, while the chassis makes for predictable slides – and plenty of fun – when you breach the limits of that grip. The Supra’s traction and stability systems work well to keep the car in shape in the wet, and don’t activate in a manner that’s overly severe when switched to their halfway setting.