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The Supra RZ

Aaaahhhh - that engine!

by Julian Edgar

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This article was first published in 2001.
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It took Toyota a long time to develop the Supra, a process undertaken with the headlights of the all-conquering Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R glaring over the PCs of the heads-down designers. In fact the six-year process was two years longer than normal for the development of a new Toyota - but it was extra time well spent. Because away from the publicity and praise that has been so often heaped on the GT-R's magnificent engine, the Supra's in-line six is in fact a far better drive... it is truly an awesome engine.

Perhaps the fact that the car that we pedalled had been mildly modified had something to do with it (it was equipped with a big exhaust, boost controller set to 1.3 Bar and new intake filters) but we've never sat behind a twin turbo engine that's this good. In comparison, the GT-R's six cylinder is a sweet revving but torqueless contraption. The twin turbo Subaru engine? A laughable design with an enormous mid-range torque hole. Even the close relative Toyota 1JZ-GE found under the nose of the Soarer? Gutless and peaky! For the sequential twin-turbo 2JZ-GE 3-litre is a massive producer of torque throughout the rev range, from literally a few hundred rpm above idle right though to the 6800 redline.

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Don't believe us? Well, select sixth gear at 1100 rpm and put your foot down. Immediately, the aftermarket boost gauge shows positive manifold pressure from the CT12B turbos and the car steams away, happy and willing to pull in that one gear all the way to the factory top speed of 250 km/h! We're struggling to think of one other engine able to do that so strongly - and certainly nothing under 5 litres and eight or twelve cylinders!

Drive the car with big gobs of throttle - but short-shifting at only 2500 rpm - and the Supra feels fast. Up the ante to 6800 rpm and the car - well, this car anyway - has performance that is jaw-dropping.

With a gentle launch and two people aboard, we clocked a 100 km/h time of 5.5 seconds - and well believe the data showing others getting that down into the high fours. Yes, the GT-R has run quicker times than that, but as the owner and driver (for over 50,000km) of an R32 GT-R, I know that the Supra's flexibility and punch at all rpm simply walks all over the revered Nissan.

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The 3-litre 2JZ-GTE engine develops in standard form 209kW at 5600 rpm and a peak torque figure of 440Nm at 3600 revs. However, that torque figure is a bit misleading, with the factory engine dyno graph actually showing two humps - the peak at 3600 and another of about 380Nm at just 1300 rpm!

OK, so the engine's pretty damn good. But what about the rest of the car? Well, it could hardly be anything other than a relative disappointment after that engine... That's not to say that the brakes and suspension and body are poor - but they don't have the shattering impact that comes from being simply the best around. Front discs are ventilated 322mm and are gripped by twin pot calipers while at the back you'll find solids with single potters. The ABS incorporates a G-sensor into its design, but on paper the braking specs are nothing special.

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The Getrag/Toyota six-speed gearbox is precise and quick, its short throws matching well with a quality clutch. Reverse is held out with a collar-lift lock-out, while even with the need to transmit all of that torque, the motion isn't unduly heavy. The steering is Toyota/Lexus excellent - and significantly, doesn't have any signs of tramliming - while the ride shows the firm damping and stiffish springs expected of this type of car.

Handling? W-e-l-l, it was raining most of the time that we had the Supra, and furthermore the factory traction control had also been disabled... Despite the presence of the standard 3.08 Torsen LSD, the Supra could very easily wheelspin in first, second and third gears (and, we'd imagine, in fourth and firth and maybe even sixth as well), so we were reluctant to toss it around too much. However, the car is well known for its excellent two-wheel drive handling, and we have no reason to disbelieve that.

(In fact, this car was supplied by Sports and Luxury Cars, whose owner - Craig Dean - has driven a Supra to outright third place in the very tough Targa Tasmania road race. The suspension mods of the Targa car? Just the addition of HKS springs! See "Supra RZ-ing the 2001 Targa Taz" for more on his car and performance.)

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Inside, the Supra is cramped for such a big car. The hatch area is shallow, and visibility is limited by the high waistline. You sit low - getting in and out you just know that this is a sports car - but when in the excellent seats, the controls fall easily to hand. A 'love it or hate it' proposition is the dashboard - it comprises an enormous expanse of flat and drab plastic, into which are sunk a host of round instruments. The tacho is centrally placed but the standard car doesn't even have a boost gauge. Luxury includes dial-it-up climate control and - in this car at least - a full sound system.

What's much less open to doubt than the dash is the car's external styling. While at the time of its release it was said by one journalist that it looked as if it 'had been inflated by a straw', the compound curves mix aggression with aero efficiency. The car has a claimed drag co-efficient of just 0.30, while the rear spoiler is said to provide 45kg of downforce at 145 km/h. Sharing some underpinnings with the Soarer/Lexus SC300, the car rides on double wishbone suspension front and rear, with 16-inch wheels normally fitted. Even eight years after its first introduction, the body shape still draws attention wherever it goes.

To us, without a doubt the standout feature of the Supra is its engine. The rest - looks, suspension, interior - are generally fine but that engine....

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In Australia, the twin turbo Supra has been largely overlooked by the popularity of the GT-R, but if you want a mildly modified eye-catching coupe that is beautifully strong while still being immensely driveable, the Supra is a relative bargain. The car shown here was priced at $48,990 and was in excellent condition.

And don't overlook the fact that the sequential turbo straight six can also go under other Toyota and Lexus bonnets... a Lexus IS200 with this engine would be absolutely mind-blowing!

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