TEST DRIVE: Toyota Supra A90 prototype

Motor.es has recently tested the new generation of Toyota Supra that will reach the market in 2019. The prototype tested was in its latest development phase and the test took place at the Circuito del Jarama and in the Sierra Madrileña, Spain. 

Over the last two years, Toyota has been testing its Supra prototypes in all parts of the world, so when I received the invitation to try and get to know the model – in its final prototype phase – I was quite excited. I was excited because I was one of the first four Spaniards to try the model and to have the opportunity to chat with the team of engineers in charge of the Supra project. The latter also allows you, thanks to the conversations that are maintained throughout the day, a more intimate and authentic approach to reviewing the car.

The history of the Supra is quite long; the brand knows it and the burden of developing the successor of some of the most famous sports cars of all time is heavy. To learn more about this icon, I recommend you review its history that began in 1978 with its first generation.

The new Supra prototype is still covered with a very peculiar wrap, as it was seen in its debut on the track at the Festival of speed in Goodwood. I know the model by heart, but when you really spend some time with it is when you begin to appreciate its features. Its appearance is very exotic, with sinuous and strong lines that reveal its Japanese origin.

It has an athletic waist, false entrances and air exists – a tendency in many street models – and some really sharp front and back bumpers. In its rear part, a double exhaust outlet, embedded in a generous diffuser – with LMP1-like brake lights – completes its sporty design, which is further enhanced by a highly inclined windshield and a double bubble roof. The 19-inch wheels are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires, sized 255/35 in the front and 275/35 in the rear, like a BMW M4.

After arriving at the Jarama Circuit, a quick brief explains the key points of the car and confirms that the prototypes that we are going to test are equipped with an engine delivering more than 300 HP. Toyota has not shared the exact data, although I bet on around 350 ponies. The engineering team has told us that the development has been influenced to a large extent by the routines of their future owners.

For this reason, 90 percent of the development has taken place on the street with some of the testing taking place on the fast roads in the Circuit of Miramás where BMW tests his own cars as well. Further testing includes long road trip in the United States, fast runs on the Autobahn and of course, countless of laps on the Nurburgring. The cold weather climate has not been forgotten either, so the Sweden was the right place to test on ice and snow.

So to avoid disappointing its most naughty owners, Toyota has also studied the behavior of the car skidding, making donuts and drifts.

I can not tell you how definitive is the interior of the prototype which I have driven since it was all covered with a fabric, but it does seem very close to the final one. As expected, there are elements reminiscent of BMW, such as the infotainment screen that crowns the dashboard as well as the quality of some elements that I could see, like the buttons in the central tunnel where we find the Sport mode button and the level of the automatic gearbox. At the moment there will be no manual box for this engine.

The seats are very cushioned and extremely supportive when you slide around during some hot laps on the track. There are no optional seats with a sporty appearance – its design was quite conventional – but that does not exclude Gazoo Racing working on a line of accessories such as wheels, lips, stickers or exhaust systems.

The Supra’s chassis uses hot pressed steel and some aluminum parts, like the rolling trains and the whole set of suspensions. I have not been able to confirm if some pieces of its skeleton use carbon fiber, although I think that is the case. The new Supra weighs around 1,500 kg, but the final number has not been officially acknowledged.

I have been able to test the Supra on the highway, national and rural roads, and of course, on the track. The Jarama Circuit has been the witness of the event, just as the Toyota GT86 was at the time of its presentation.

The GT accompanied us during the road route, as we are two guests per car, and to our right drives a member of the engineering team. We take turns with the Supra and the GT86. The latter is rougher with more connection from the road to the passenger compartment, yet the Supra feels more powerful.

At the same time, the Supra is surprisingly comfortable, I expected a GT86 superlative, with its hard and demanding touch, but we must remember that the Supra has always been framed between the Coupé and Gran Turismo philosophies – sporty, yet enjoyable daily drivers.

The driving position is very low, with very stretched legs, centered between the front and rear axle, having full control over what is around us. The automatic gearbox is not a double clutch transmission, it’s an 8-Speed ZF transmission that has sensational performance.

During circuit runs, the gearbox box perfectly manages the transitions of gears. In manual mode – with a design and 100 percent German touch – the car obeys instantaneously the orders given. It’s not as fast as a double clutch, but it feels great. The seventh and eighth gear are for relief. At 120 km/h, in the latest ratio, the engine barely rotates at 1,500 rpm.

With the data we have, we can approximate that it will perform 0 to 100 in less than 5 seconds. When you sink your foot on the accelerator, the Supra shoots forward, with a sound in the passenger compartment enhanced by the audio system inherited from the Germans, and quite discreet from the outside.

I expected these prototypes to have a more outrageous escape sound, but that has an easy solution – the aftermarket world. Toyota told me that there is still work to be done in the sound department.

The brakes are signed by Brembo, but no other info was shared. According to the manufacturer they are prepared to work at high temperatures, also on the track. During my track experience, they performed as expected although it’s true that I have not run for a long time.

Taking into account its power, the Supra is very easy to drive and I remind you that under the hood is a six-cylinder in-line petrol engine with a double-entry turbocharger and more than 300 HP.

It has a unique sport mode that hardens its adaptive suspension and its steering, the active differential also delivers the most effective traction. The work of the differential is conditioned by the signals that your control unit sends, which takes into account parameters such as the grip of the tire, the power that the engine sends to the rear axle, the accelerator stroke or if the brake pedal is touched. Thanks to the variable torque distribution between the rear wheels, it limits the sliding between the inner and outer rear wheel in a curve, which al

We Race the Nürburgring 24 and Live to Tell About It

Considering I’m about to sleep on a bench in the back of a truck while still wearing a sweaty race suit, I feel on top of the world. I’ve just had one of the greatest driving experiences of my life: hammering into dusk at impossible speed, howling past slower traffic, and looking on in awe as the leading pack of GT3 cars muscle past in a shower of sparks, flames, and attitude. The Green Hell at its most heavenly on a balmy, dry evening and my race car—a 500-hp AMG GT4—getting faster and faster in the cool, dense air. If this is what the Nürburgring 24 hour is all about, sign me up forever.

Even better, my teammates and I have concocted a plan to maximize our night running: We’ll double-stint because conditions are so good and save our secret weapon—five-time DTM champion, four-time Nürburgring 24 winner, and all-around legend Bernd Schneider—for the morning. Rain is forecast, and Schneider’s experience and freakish talent will make all the difference. I sleep as sound as can be for two hours or so.

Waking up under harsh LED lights is a bit of a shock. My back aches, and one of my legs is numb where it’s rested over a gear bag. But what’s worse is that sound. It’s a faint but unmistakable “shhhhhhh” at first, like aluminum foil being swished around the room. Then it builds to a gentle but insistent drumming. Rain. My heart sinks. The precipitation that was scheduled for 6 a.m. has come early. And it isn’t going anywhere until well after the race ends at 3:30 p.m.

“Don’t be an ass. Keep it out of the barriers. Be brave.” The latter is key.

My double stint starts in 20 minutes or so, at 2:30 a.m.—just when the rain really kicks off. As I stumble out of the truck and into the garage, Pim de Wit, our performance engineer (he looks at the data and tells us why we’re slower than Schneider), tells me, “Monsoon rain, possibly ice rain [he means hail, but it sounds so much scarier when a German spits out ‘ice rain’] is coming fast.” I nod confidently. Then head for the restroom.

Rain is of course a part of racing. But rain at the ’Ring is different. It’s somehow bigger, wetter, and more dangerous. And the sheer scale of the track, its hemmed-in narrowness and its total lack of runoff areas, make it hugely intimidating even for the experienced. Me? I’ve done the N24 before but always in mercifully dry conditions and in cars slower than our monster AMG. We’re running in the top 25. Falling into the cold clutches of those endless shimmering barriers is the stuff of nightmares.

So I wait in the pit lane, sky flashing great purple streaks of lightning. Christian Gebhardt, another of my teammates, brings the car in, and I rip open the door, pull out his radio and drink connectors, and stand back for him to climb out. Then I fold myself into the seat. He straps me into the harnesses, and my earpiece chirps to life. It’s Marius Dietrich, our race engineer, calm as can be. “OK, Jethro, reset fuel, select driver position four. You have new wet tires. We expect more and more rain. Sixty kph in the pit lane, watch the white line on pit exit.” Then a pause. “Take it easy.” And with that I’m given the signal to join the mayhem.

At this precise moment I long for a track with endless runoff areas, an overzealous race director throwing out the red flag at the first hint of drizzle, and a nice, quiet car. This is the other side of old-school no-holds-barred racing, and suddenly it seems more foolhardy than heroic. But I have just a few seconds to contemplate what’s ahead. The moment I cross the line at the end of the pit lane, there’s no thinking time. That’s probably for the better, as surely I’d just pull over, park it, and hitch a lift to the hotel bar. We all would.

The Nürburgring at night is the ultimate challenge. Five-time DTM champion Bernd Schneider has seen it all but still describes it as “undriveable.”

The N24 combines the modern grand prix circuit with the craggy old Nordschleife to make a circuit of more than 15 miles. That means for the first minute or so there is some margin for error on the smooth Formula 1-spec tarmac. It’s a great chance to get a feel for the car and work some heat into the tires. Racing “wets” are amazing things; the AMG still has loads of braking capacity and surprisingly good traction. I’m running engine map one, which saves fuel and reduces torque, but it still reels in everything but the fearsome GT3s at an alarming pace. Weirdly, I’m not so worried about the corners. I can feel the understeer or oversteer build. Hydroplaning, on the other hand, scares the bejesus out of me. Just how quickly can I go on the faster sections before I start floating and sail into the barriers? Erm, who knows?

Turning left for the first time from the expanses of the well-lit GP track and being swallowed up by the darkness of the Nordschleife is unforgettable. I distinctly remember saying, “Here we go … ” aloud to myself. Then, silently, giving myself a set of simple instructions: “Don’t be an ass. Keep it out of the barriers. Be brave.” The latter is key. Your natural instinct is to creep around as carefully as possible, but to do so just sends your confidence spiraling into the pits of hell. Tires lose temperature, the ABS starts working overtime, the car runs away from you on turn-in as the front tires skate over the surface and the rear tries to bite you as soon as you dare think of opening the throttle.

I know this because my first lap indeed plays out like a nightmare. I’m not brave, and the car and the track punish me over and over again with scary near misses. Think back to your school days and the moment of panic when you realize you haven’t prepared nearly enough for an exam. You get a hot feeling up your neck and a sudden burst of furious heart pumping that literally shakes your ribcage. Now imagine that half-second physical reaction to swelling panic coming over and over again. You’re drowning. That’s a wet lap of the ’Ring in the dead of night.

Our AMG GT4 races in the SP8T class—allowing more aero and boost. The car laps the Nürburgring in about 7 minutes; only the factory GT3 cars are faster. When it’s dry. But it’s never dry.

The second lap is slightly better, but I still feel like I’m walking the car around the circuit. When I make it back to the GP section and begin lap three, I’m determined to start actually driving. So I pick up the pace. I keep the throttle wide open on the straights even when the speeds creep up to 150 mph. I brake a little later, turn in a bit harder, and use the wider “wet line” more confidently.

Every lap there’s a new crash and more yellow flags and Code 60s (at the scene of bigger crashes, a 60-kph temporary speed limit is imposed), and my car feels a little better. I wouldn’t say I’m driving fast, but nothing comes past me except the odd super-committed GT3 car, and I’m picking off other GT4s pretty easily. Even so, this really is endurance rather than enjoyment. My internal coaching is now interrupted by proper shouting: “This is horrible. … Why am I doing this? … Please stop raining!”

Finally, after 11 laps, my stint is over, and the plan for me to do a double is abandoned. I hand over to Schneider, or “Five-Time” as he’s known within the team. The No. 190 Mercedes disappears into the gloom and the spray as I stand in the pit lane soaked from sweat, exhausted, and so, so relieved. I wasn’t an ass. I kept it out of the barriers. I was brave. Eventually.

After the Nordschleife’s oppressive darkness, the pit garage feels floodlit and weirdly disconnected to the mayhem playing out on the track. “Good job, mate,” Pim says. “Nobody around us was going as quickly.” I glance at the screens, and we’re running in 22nd. I am utterly elated. Then I realize the race is barely past the halfway mark just as Fabian Jung, team manager, delivers a line that almost floors me. “Bernd is in for a double. Then it’s you again. Sorry.”

Sunrise brings little respite as the fog rolls in and the rain gets harder. It gets so bad that the race is stopped then restarted despite weather worsening. No. 190 survives the mayhem. AMG builds a hell of a race car.

Those incredible, earlier laps in the dry—sun setting and the 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 flinging the car along with a sense of unstoppable force—seem so long ago. Flying into the Foxhole in sixth gear and keeping the throttle pinned to the bulkhead into the compression at the bottom, jumping over the big rise before the fast left of Schwendenkreuz at well above 150 mph, working through the endless third- and fourth-gear twists and turns toward the end of the lap and feeling the GT4’s incredible stability—it’s all out of reach.

I won’t feel the euphoria of a fast, dry lap again, nor will I get the amazing physical sensation of leaning and leaning on the car and it pushing back, barely shrugging at what you ask it to do. Now it’s just rain and survival. I eat a schnitzel from a cardboard box and go back to my bench. Sleep doesn’t come easily. But I do sleep. A bit. And when I awake the plan has changed.

Patrick Simon, who’s experienced and very, very quick, will be in next, so I can relax. Schneider has seen it all before, but even he looks a little ruffled. “How was it?” I ask. His eyes widen. “No grip. Understeer, oversteer … all the time.” He mimes the car slipping out of his hands. “It’s ****ing dangerous.” I’ve been with Schneider for the best part of a week, and it’s the first time I’ve heard him curse. His thoughts mirror mine exactly.

I hope this sense of impeding dread doesn’t make me feel ungrateful. To be a part of this event is pure magic, and even in dire conditions there are moments you just can’t buy: rushing into the dark with lightning splitting great chasms in the sky; GT3 cars dancing past, front wheels a blur as the driver catches every mini-slide; the rear of the cars sparking over curbs or into compressions. Every lap is a privilege. But the stakes are high in every sense.

And so it continues. Another fearsomely slippery stint, this time with the added bonus of heavy fog and more near misses. More unbelievably exciting overtakes and more shouting into my crash helmet. Through it all, though, the AMG GT4 just keeps going. Passing slower cars and hanging on gamefully to the GT3s. The race is stopped for fog then restarts. Fittingly, Schneider takes the checkered flag. We finish 22nd overall, first in class, and with only GT3 cars ahead of us. It’s over. Thank God. Take me home. Can’t wait until next year.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV vs. 2019 Chevrolet Volt PHEV

BURLINGTON, Vermont — As Automobile’s social media editor, I listen to what our audience has to say about our stories. Sometimes, folks seem to knock some of the more mundane electric cars for not being the best fit for our #noboringcars mantra. Most of our editors agree, however, that electric cars are intrinsically fun to drive thanks to the instant and plentiful torque. With this in mind, I joined Chevrolet in Vermont to drive the updated 2019 Bolt EV and Volt and to see if where the Bow Tie’s electric offerings lie on the spectrum of boring to All-Star.

I started my test by securing the keys to a Bolt EV wearing sporty Slate Gray Metallic paint. The color is reminiscent of Audi’s Nardo Gray color and not quite metallic. It’s one of three new colors joining the palette for the 2019 model year. There’s also the vibrant Shock Yellow and a more subdued Green Mist added to the mix.

I set out from my hotel near the coast of the Burlington Bay for The Alchemist brewery in the neighboring town of Stowe. The roads on my journey featured a mixture of curving stretches of highway and winding country roads. My tester handled the route with hot hatch-baiting poise.

The Bolt EV leaps off the line and torches its front tires if the operator isn’t wary of the substantial 266 lb-ft of torque available from a standstill. The motor’s 200-hp output was good for competent passing on the highway which came in handy on repeated occasions on the region’s plentiful two-lane roads.

I made ample use of the regen paddle on the steering wheel during the drive. This, combined with the Chevy’s “Low” mode, indicated by an L on the gearshift, resulted in minimal falloff of range. I was impressed with the Bolt EV’s ability to tour the region while offering a comfortable and engaging driving experience. I didn’t even worry about getting stranded while roaming thanks to the 238 miles of range.

The following day, the Volt left me less impressed as far as its performance is concerned. With a stated 0-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds, the Volt slouched forward with less enthusiasm than its all-electric stablemate. I expected a bit more from a car with a cited 294 lb-ft of torque. As much as I wished it was, however, life is not an autocross, and there’s more than enough oomph to go around for daily driving.

When I drove a current-generation but pre-facelifted Volt loaner home from our office back in El Segundo, I thought the steering was too light and offered little feedback. On my most recent drive, it appeared Chevy had since recaliberated this facet. Winding through the Burlington hills, I felt confident in fairly aggressive driving, leaving me to remain wary of the limitations of the low rolling resistance tires. The bottom line? The Volt is not a total bore and offers some excitement when asked.

The Volt’s energy management systems were worked over with this latest iteration, and Chevy managed to drop its recharge time by half via a new 7.2 kW charging system. The “Low” driving profile was also refined to require the driver to use the brake pedal less. The 53 miles of all-electric range blew by as I soused out driving dynamics, and the updated “Impacts” information screen let me know over twenty miles of range were lost in the process. Fortunately, the total range is 420 miles thanks to the 1.5-liter gasoline extender.

The Volt’s interior, although improved by the newly added Porcelain Blue trim, which is available on the Premier trim level, has some shortcomings. For example, spotted a mismatch between the materials on the doorsills and the dashboard. Although the plastics in the cabin are sculpted well, it’s hard to miss the misalignment of the line that runs from the door to the dash. Material quality, however, is quite high overall and the displays are easily legible and feature high quality graphics.

Both updated cars are fine places to spend a commute, and the size of their respective greenhouses is quite generous. The Bolt, with its slim yet supportive seats, even impressed me as a back-seat passenger with its generous leg room. In both cars, noise, vibration, and harshness are also fairly subdued, even without the sound of a powertrain to drown out the sound from the road. It’s only when the gas powerplant in the Volt kicks in that there’s a drone from the four-banger, which is coupled to a CVT, that enters the cabin.

Both testers featured Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and although the Bolt EV features a bigger 10.2-inch display, the Volt received an updated 8.0-inch unit. Both units coped with my swiping and tapping with no issue. There’s also standard 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots in both cars.

Although both choices offer differing philosophies for how EVs can be executed, I found a favorite after my two days of driving. The Bolt EV’s purity of purpose as an all-electric car played a major role in helping the five-door feel like a more cohesive proposition than the Volt.

As far as my #noboringcars assessment went, this dynamic duo had enough driving chops and techie gadgets to pass the test.

2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Specifications
ON SALE Fall 2018
PRICE $37,495/N/A (base/as tested)
MOTOR Permanent Magnetic/200 hp, 266 lb-ft
BATTERY Li-on/60 kWh
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-motor, FWD hatchback
EPA MILEAGE 255/217 mpge (city/hwy)
EPA MAX RANGE 238 miles
240V CHARGE TIME 9.3 hours (est.)
L x W x H 164 x 69.5 x 62.8 in
WHEELBASE 102.4 in
WEIGHT 3,580 lb
0-60 MPH 6.5 sec

2019 Chevrolet Volt Specifications
ON SALE June 29
PRICE $34,000 (est)
ENGINE 1.5 DOHC 16-valve I-4/101 hp @ 6,000 rpm
MOTOR Twin AC/149 hp, 294 lb-ft
COMBINED OUTPUT 149 hp, 294 lb-ft
BATTERY Li-ion/18.4 kWh
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD sedan
EPA MILEAGE 42 mpg (combined)/103 mpge (combined)
240V CHARGE TIME 2.3-4.5 hours (est.)
L x W x H 180.4 x 71.2 x 56.4 in
WHEELBASE 106.1 in
WEIGHT 3,543 lb
0-60 MPH 8.5 sec


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Color and Shape Photographs by TJ Grewal

Car culture is overwhelmingly dominated by the brash, graphics, and ‘racer boy’ imagery,” said TJ Grewal a.k.a. Teej, a Los Angeles, California-based photographer.

“This collaboration is meant to change that approach and be inclusive of a broader audience who is turned off by the status quo, an audience who shares a passion for the culture but are effectively left out because they have no way to express their passion in a way that speaks to them.”

For example, check out the seriously haute wheel on this Lamborghini Countach. Like his obvious love for automobiles, Grewal’s passion grew out of a hobby about eight years ago.

He currently owns an even dozen vehicles and has even built his own studio to play with light on their styling shapes—when he’s not driving them.

“Obviously, I have a thing for Porsches, but I can find beauty in a Toyota Camry,” the photographer admits.

Teej drove his 1966 Porsche 912 up to Rennsport Reunion VI  this year, “It’s my first car that I bought for next to nothing back in 2001.”

Grewal also owns the 1951 Porsche 356 seen at the top of the page with the light stripes dancing across its beautiful bulbous hood.

He also owns this gorgeous 1964 Jaguar E-type seen above here with light bubbles reflected on its facade. Cheers to that, mate.

TJ Grewal’s first U.S. exhibit is currently on view at Mohawk Man in L.A., across the street from Sunset Junction in Silverlake.

Select prints are available for $450 unframed and $800 framed at the shop. I think this red Dino Ferrari below would look right at home in my garage.

“It’s hard to pick a favorite but I think the Shelby Cobra is the most provocative to the everyday person,” said Grewal. “I like drama and that one does it the most.”

It’s mine too and reminds me of a vintage Edward Weston photograph—well, if he didn’t shoot tasty looking peppers.

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