Ignition Travel 2019 #23

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We Should Embrace The GR Supra.
Even If It's Not Pure Toyota.

When Toyota Canada invited yours truly to the Canadian press launch for the all-new 2020 GR Supra at Circuit Mont Tremblant, I was giddy with excitement and for good reason.

Not only would it mark my first opportunity to drive a historic Canadian road circuit that has hosted Formula One, Indy cars and just about every other form of motorsport you care to name, but I’d also have the chance to do so in one of the most highly-anticipated new cars of 2019. The ’20 Supra has been a long time in the making to say the least.

I’m not going to spoil what I think of the car here – you’ll have flip to page 28 for that – but I’ll make a case for why we should accept the new Supra, even if it’s not a true successor to the A80 Supra that left our shores in 1998 amid a shrinking market for sports coupes in North America. When the A80 was finally retired in Japan in 2002, it seemed like the nameplate was dead and wouldn’t be resurrected.

We may not have known it at the time, but the technical partnership signed by BMW and Toyota in 2012 was the first spark of electrical activity that would eventually bring the Supra back from the dead. The statement released in the wake of the deal mentioned joint development of “architec-ture and components for a future sports vehicle,” but it was vague enough to be interpreted in numerous ways.

Fast forward seven years and the new GR Supra is here with a shared platform, engine and a host of other componentry, a reality that annoys Supra purists, many of whom have been lighting up the Internet with dismay and outrage. The #notmysupra movement spread like wildfire and burns to this day.

Reading this ill-considered commentary just makes me shake my head. First off, it trivializes whether the car is good or not (spoiler alert, it is!), and ignores the reality of development cost versus rate of return for niche vehicles like the Supra in this age.

As Toyota Canada’s product planner said to me during the launch, without its partner-ship with BMW the GR Supra wouldn’t exist. It’s as simple as that. The cost Toyota would absorb developing the Supra on its own would have driven the car’s price into the stratosphere. Toyota isn’t Aston Martin. It’s not going to build a sports car and sell it for $125,000. If the choice were between doing that and not building the car, it would have chosen the latter 10 times out of 10.

Considering that alternative, we should be thankful that BMW and Toyota got together and if we want more low-volume sports cars in the future we should be open to manufacturers sharing the development cost. And if that means the cars these deals produce aren’t ‘pure’, I argue it’s a small price to pay. It’s not the mid-90s anymore. Unless we want nothing but trucks and mid-size SUVs on dealer lots, we need to accept the necessity of technical partnerships and stop living in the past.

With that settled, I also want to mention a few good reads in this issue including motor-sports editor George Webster’s examination of NASCAR drivers and whether the sport should consider a mandatory retirement age (page 58), along with a collection of new car reviews and first drives highlighted by the all-new 2019 Ford Ranger (page 20) and 2019 Lexus IS 350 (page 24). Our Summer Road Escapes destination series returns with new getaways to discover, including Charlotte-town, Toronto, and San Francisco.

Safe travels this summer and we’ll talk to you again in the fall.

Lee Bailie
Ignition Luxury & Performance Magazine