New Toyota Supra: interview with chief engineer Tetsuya Tada

The first Supra model was produced in 1978, and 40 years later the hotly anticipated, all-new fifth-generation model has been revealed in prototype form. It’s been experienced dynamically at the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed hill course and showcased statically at a special invite-only event for Supra enthusiasts.

At all times, chief engineer Tetsuya Tada has proudly accompanied his ‘new baby’ and been eager to reveal tantalising glimpses into its development and specifications. The following is a transcript of our discussion together.

How long have you been working on the Supra project?

Tada: “Since 2012, so nearly seven years… a long time. The normal cycle for car development is around three years but with this project we wanted to make absolutely sure it was right.”

How does it feel to finally reveal the prototype after such an extended development programme?

Tada: “All I can say is that I’m just so happy that we’ve made it to this point. I’ve finally been able to reveal the car to the UK; it’s the happiest day of my life. And to drive it up the hill at Goodwood was a really exciting experience.”

You introduced the GT86 as your ‘passion project.’ Did the Supra project arouse similar feelings?

Tada: “Of course. It was imbued with a lot passion. Before the GT86 arrived, Toyota had not produced a sports car for a while, so there was a lot of ground to catch up. But for the Supra project we already had the experience from developing the GT86 and were able to start from a much higher level. This meant we were aiming for a much higher level in the finished car.”

Were you trying to create a big brother for the GT86?

Tada: “Akio [Toyoda] has always said that as a company he would like to have Three Brothers, with the GT86 in the middle and Supra as the big brother. So we’ve tried to aim for the Supra to offer an overwhelming superiority in all attributes. For example, people were happy that the GT86 had a very low centre of gravity… but the Supra has an even lower centre of gravity, and its body rigidity is twice that of the GT86.

“It’s actually the same level of rigidity as the Lexus LFA supercar, and it has been achieved without using carbon fibre so we could keep the price point at an affordable level. That was the most difficult thing to achieve. But I’m pleased we were successful because when I was sitting in the queue to go up the hill at Goodwood, I was surrounded by all these amazing supercars and thinking: ‘This is the cheapest car in the line by a long way – probably about a tenth of the price – but we got the biggest cheer!’

“The track width is also wider, of course. But it may surprise people to know that the new Supra has a shorter wheelbase than the GT86. The car was developed with a specific ratio of wheelbase and track in mind, and I think we’ve been able to achieve the balance that we were looking for.”

How do you think the new A90 will be received by hardcore Supra fans?

Tada: “I’m really looking forward to hearing from them, actually. Thinking back to the introduction of the GT86, some owners of classic AE86 models were quite hard to please and were very critical of the new car. So it may be similar with this car. I know there are hardcore owners of the previous generations out there and it may be hard to convince them just by introducing a new car.

“But I have an open stance and want to offer my respect for the older Supra models. In turn, I hope the owners will be open enough to see what the new model is all about, even if it takes them some time to fully accept it.”

As this is the fifth-generation Supra, can you give us five things that you would like Supra fans to know about the car?

Tada: “First of all, the Supra has always had an inline six-cylinder engine, and of course we have that with the new car, too. Secondly, all generations had a front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive; that is also the same here.

“I think for number three I would like to point out its design. We’ve taken cues from the A80 [fourth-generation Supra] and, although the design is not the same, we carried elements over so that when people look at the new car they can tell immediately that it is a Supra.

“Number four is that if you look across the previous generations, each of them have been exciting in their own right and in their own era. We wanted to achieve the same thing with this new-generation car, and I believe that when it goes on sale next year it will be the most fun-to-drive car in its class.

“Looking at the current automotive industry, the talk is all about autonomous driving, electrification and artificial intelligence. What that’s doing is giving rise to a lot of strict regulations, and that limits our capacity to make emotional sports cars; it’s getting much more difficult to do that. So for the fifth point, I think the new Supra will be the last present from Toyota to those who enjoy hearing the pleasing sound of a pure petrol engine at high revs.

“Those are my five highlights, and I hope that people will be able to enjoy the new Supra for a long time to come. Perhaps in another 30 years we will be able to meet again and talk about how good it was.”

Learn more: History of the Toyota Supra

Comments (19)

  1. Unfortunately I have to say I am rather disappointed about the MKV as I am a current MK4 Turbo 6 speed owner. I wanted to consider this new “Supra” for my next daily driver but the more I read and see the more turned off I am. First off the GT86 is an ugly car and I am saddened to see how much of a resemblance it has to an 86. Also being a half of a foot shorter than the MK4 which is already a small car is insane to me. I don’t know if it has been confirmed but I also hear it will not be a 2+2. I love my useless backseat in my MK4 just for the slight extra practicality. I know nothing has actually been confirmed so I really hope that 335bhp is all we get out of a TT I6 in this car. Hell the N/A V6 out of the Camry has 306hp. Especially at the rumored price of 65 to 70k usd. It was said the benchmark was the Porsche Cayman but at that price why would I just not buy the Cayman? It’s been said that you guys have definitely considered the MK4 and previous Supra owners when creating this car but it doesn’t really appear so. It kinda just looks like an 86 stretched a few inches with a bigger engine that it should have came with in the first place. I just don’t see this as a good successor to the MK4 Supra especially when a stock 93 Supra had the same 0-60 time as this is rumored to have. Maybe drop the Iconic name Supra and just call it the MKV as the GTR dropped skyline because neither of them are what they used to be unfortunately. I hope I start to see some things that change my mind about this car….

    1. Hi William,
      Thanks for your comment.
      More details about the new Supra will be released on the blog and our other social channels.
      We are sure that you will be delighted.
      Thanks.

  2. I’m very excited that Toyota will be making a new supra. The 2 downfall that I at least heard was no manual and no 2jz, but a BMW inline6.

    After so many years I’m just hoping they incorporated Lexus lfa in this supra.

    Hopefully Toyota did it right and made it equally as good in this era as the old supra. A 45k supra had one of the best braking power, best handling, best motor, and a sleek of luxury that super cars could only equal up too in 100k+ category.

    At this era a 60k supra would have to compete with a Nissan gtr, Corvette, and other super cars to make a name of itself to even equal to the older gen supra. Reviving the supra means creating a vehicle that’s above or beyond. If they cant achieve those monuments it should have been revived as a new name.

    Fingers crossed hopefully it’s as good as the years they put into it and hopefully it isnt all hype.

    1. Hi Tony,
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      More details about the spec of the Supra will be released on the blog and on our other social channels.
      We are sure you will be delighted with the car.
      Please do take it for a test drive and let us know what you think when it hits show rooms.
      Thanks.

  3. I’m with Mikey on this one. I have always the love the Supra ever since I was kid and still do, but was never in a position to afford one. Now that I’m in a position where I can afford one. I hear that a manual is not offer. Tada said that he wants to use the Porsche Cayman as a benchmark for the new Supra.
    Even the Cayman offer a manual gearbox, why not the Supra. As much as I love the Supra I won’t buy one unless a manual is not offer.

    1. Hi Saroeun,
      Thanks for getting in touch.
      The full specs will be out in the near future, we look forward to your comments once these have been released.
      We hope you will be satisfied.
      Thanks.

  4. I had the pleasure to drive a full 3 days with gt86 when it hits the showrooms (after a year I bought one). I have a huge rescpec for Tada for making this amazing car, a car for people who love to drive and play the game of traction and to be able to fully control it.

    I am sure the Supra is going to just as amazing in the hands of Tada. I do believe that some might complain about “more power”, buy was never the thing if Toyota super cars but rather great handling, great feedback and good engine that alowa you to steer the car by the throttle.

    I really do hope it won’t be the last.

    1. Hi Ran,
      Thanks for your kind words.
      When the Supra hits the showrooms, maybe you can drive it and let us know how you find it.
      We believe it’s pretty special.
      Thanks.

  5. “Akio [Toyoda] has always said that as a company he would like to have Three Brothers, with the GT86 in the middle and Supra as the big brother.”

    And the third brother?

    1. Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Unfortunately we cannot comment on future product, but please feel free to speculate.

      Thanks.

    2. in the 90s the Supra, the Celica and the MR2 were great trio. All 3 models, especially the Celica and MR2, sold well in Europe. pity there is no Celica successor of Toyota since 2005. A model with a long tradition until the 1970s… 🙁

  6. The A90 looks quite ok. I think he will be expensive. i have been driving toyota for 25 years. Toyota MR2 (1986), Celica T18 and currently Celica T23 (TS). Since 2005, there is no Celica successor. When will finally come a serious Celica successor model? Or do I have to switch to a Hyundai i30N?

    Greetings

  7. Tada says they wanted to make a fun, emotionally engaging sports car. The manual transmission has been forgotten though. I’m a huge fan of JDM cars from the 90s and I wish Toyota luck, but I will never buy one of these. I’m not interested in just doing the steering. Even the Mustang can be had with a good engine and manual. Where did Toyota’s confidence go?

    1. Hi Mikey,

      Thank you for your feedback. It is great to hear that you have a passion for JDM cars. However, details of the engine and specification of the Supra have not yet been confirmed.

      Thanks.

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