Forget about everyone who crapped on the Supra for being a cop-out because it was based on the German BMW Z4. Supra purists hated it. We wanted to hate it for other reasons... primarily because it didn't offer a manual transmission. Then we drove it, and we were gobsmacked by how great it was. $50K no longer seemed outrageous. This kind of driving excitement equated to a bona fide sports car bargain. But, it could only be improved with a proper manual transmission. Toyota said no, that wouldn't happen. So, has anything changed?
The car it's based on, the BMW Z4 also only has an automatic transmission, so it would make sense that Toyota won't do it, either. But, a recent press release just announced that there's an entry-level Z4 sDrive 20i (a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder) will come standard with a six-speed manual! That's right, all hope isn't dead. But, the caveats are 1) The new smaller-displacement Z4 is a Euro-spec version only; and 2) Toyota hasn't said squat in response to this.
The good news is that the 2.0-liter turbo-four in the entry-level Z4 also earned emissions certification in America, which means that opens the door for a less powerful Supra with a manual. The word used to be that Toyota would not issue a Supra with that engine here in the States, but the move makes total sense. $50K is a lot of coin for the Supra, and the younger set that's on fire about the car likely can't pony up that kind of money. A less expensive one could be priced around $40K, which would make it much more accessible.
Toyota recently stated:
"We may have heard a time or two (or more) that there's a desire for a manual transmission in the Supra. However, we're confident in the performance of the current setup... We feel it's the optimal combination for the U.S. market at this time and we're anxious for customers to drive the new Supra and experience it for themselves. We'll be sure to check back into the conversation at that time and see what people have to say."
Okay, so that doesn't sound like a flat out yes, but it doesn't exactly rule out the possibility. Would it cannibalize sales from the next-generation Toyota 86, which is rumored to get more power? The current Supra has 335 horses, and the current Toyota 86 has 205. The 2.0-liter Z4 engine delivers 255 horsepower. The next 86 might get the Subaru Ascent's 2.4-liter flat-four that makes 260 horses. There's the rub. It makes almost no sense to bring a lower-powered Supra here if the 86 will get more than 255 horses. If we had our druthers, we'd give up the 86's more powerful engine for the next generation if we could just have our Supra with a stick. It means that much to us, but only time will tell.
And what about the rumored coming of the 3rd-generation Toyota MR2? Toyota wants to build it, and it might get 260 turbocharged horses. Would that slot in between the 86 and the Supra? We can't imagine it would be priced higher than the Supra and definitely not less than the 86. So, if it falls in line with the same power as the next 86 and a four-cylinder turbo Supra, what will be the end result?
Car companies save money by using the same engines, not by creating new ones. But if Toyota is entertaining all of the aforementioned new models, they have to figure out their lineup and the powertrains, too. It's a conundrum of the best kind. We get that stick shifts don't sell well overall, but if they plan on "no more boring cars", the purists will flock to them if that includes manual transmissions for all of their sports cars.