Nostalgia. It has a lot to answer for. That innate ability to deceive you that everything was better. They don’t make them like they used to, do they? Cars, with all their computer assistance and safety settings, are, well, a little too safe. And I know who to blame.
Take today’s Japanese vehicle design teams. Back in the 90s they were playing Sega Rally in the height of their teenage glow. Today they’re trying to extract more range from the zero emission, zero noise, zero entertainment Nissan Leaf. Don’t get me wrong. Technology never stops advancing and cars must follow suit. But the silent whirr of electric propulsion is nothing compared to VTEC coming on song at 9,000 RPM. As the past always influences the future and as we remain unconvinced about those electric dreams, it’s no surprise that car manufacturers have re-mastered the back catalogue just to remind people they can still deliver the big hits like they used.
Enter stage left the new and improved GT86, GTR and Civic Type-R. Like the originals, only now with the volume turned all the way up to 11.
We nostalgists think we know better of course. These drift and rally legends will show the current set a thing or two. However like the school crush, things have moved on so much that sometimes the back catalogue is best left alone.
Nissan brought back the GTR. And they did a bloody good job of it too. They probably deserve the blame in showing that the reincarnation of an old favourite can work savagely well. Peugeot have had less luck with their GTi brand that, great car aside, the Lion has lost that 80s Kudos. You can’t really imagine Ari Vatanen scaling Pikes Peak at serious speed, shielding his eyes and dodging those big drops in a 508. Even Honda lost the plot with the fast-hatchback defining Type-R moniker. Even Halfords dropped the Ripspeed brand for goodness sake, yet they still want to turn out a teenager’s wet dream of a design. Except the teenager is 43.
Subaru. God help them. They’ve finally decided that a 1990s Impreza Turbo in new clothes (the WRX by another name) has overstayed its welcome and was vastly outmoded by today’s hot hatches. I’m looking at you Golf-R, M135i et al.
The latest in a long line of reincarnation of 90s Japanese greats is the eponymous Supra. Toyota’s halo car from the 80s and 90s, we thought relegated to the history books and old Option DVDs leaving an entire generation thinking the manufacturer’s only recent contribution to motoring was the bloody Prius.
We loved the GT86, well until we drove them and decided they were nothing like their spiritual predecessor. Did we see them drifting the mountain passes of Mt Fuji like we imagined? No, but Jean from Ballymena takes hers to Tesco’s on a Wednesday. Or is that a BRZ?
And yet Toyota went back again, this time with the Supra. Between styling clearly modelled on the old Mk IV and a powertrain supplied by BMW no less, the internet immediately went on fire. A Z4 with new clothes they called it, not surprisingly since the interior was a carbon copy, I drive and all.
I understand the fallout. It’s not just that Toyota lifted the 3.0 6cylinder Turbocharged B58 engine from the 140i and dropped it into their new car… it looks like BMW are building the new GR Supra. Or that’s what the internet experts would have you believe, with the GR Supra’s door check stickers doing the rounds online proclaiming built by Bavarian. None of this sat well with me. Toyota, known for engineering efficiency, reliability and developing the wonderful 2JZ twin turbo engine from the Mk4 Supra. They built the fantastic Lexus LFA. Surely they are more than a parts-bin special.
We’re likely at the peak hype and suddenly I realised something. I can’t go back to my school days, and neither has the Supra. And perhaps its time to get over ourselves and look at what this is as an entirely new car, rather than some sort of 1000bhp 2JZ with Apple Carplay we had in our child minds.
So I’m reconsidering my position on the new GR Supra. The one none of us have of course driven, this is the internet after all. Lets take that BMW 6 cylinder unit. Already shown to be reliable and highly responsive to tuning maybe that makes a lot of sense. Nearly 500bhp should be attainable with a simple plug in map if the BMW equivalents are anything to go by.
This brings me to the looks. 140i, Z4 or new Supra parked side by side. All the same powertrain and similar performance. But there’s no doubt in my mind the GR Supra looks the most special of the bunch. And inside, well do you know what I’d have i-drive over a Lexus CD changer any day.
There’s just two more ingredients Toyota need to add: a manual ‘box and limited slip diff. And then it would be the Japanese road weapon I’d really want. That’s all very possible but it seems Toyota are staying schtum on the manual option. Shame.
My senses have been stirred, though. Teenage-me is back again. It says Toyota have built me something that looks like a car I used to love, has decent kit in it, steers from the rear and has a turbocharged 6 pot up front. He doesn’t care about the shared Z4 platform. He just wants a new GR Supra.