Why the four-cylinder Supra makes an ideal track car

J.G.
By J.G. Pasterjak
Apr 13, 2024 | Toyota, Supra, Nurburgring, Toyota Supra | Posted in Columns | From the Aug. 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Toyota

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It’s tempting to always assume the most extreme option is the best. Why have the V6 when you can have the V8? And why pick the regular V8 over the supercharged V8? Who needs Dolby when there’s THX? Why settle for a Taco Supreme when another couple coins gets you an XXXtreme Double Crunch Super Supreme deep-fried in beef tallow and served in a ham purse? 

See, these seem like easy choices.

But a recent experience made me rethink my very American desire to check the most extreme boxes and assume they represent the best of all possible worlds.

That experience came in the form of the four-cylinder variant of the Toyota Supra. Now, I make no secrets about my love of the dynamic capabilities of the Supra. And when I was afforded an opportunity to get my Nürburgring competition permit behind the wheel of one of Rent4Ring’s brand-new Supras, I was excited to get to try out one of my favorite cars on one of my favorite tracks.

Then I found out it was the four-cylinder variant, and before I even set butt in the car, my initial feeling was one of reactionary disappointment.

Kindly reader, I am here to tell you I was so, so wrong.

We’ll talk more about the car, the program and the pleasure of working with Dale and his Rent4Ring crew in upcoming issues, but for now I want to address this more conceptually and say that after four years in a Corvette, maybe my brain has been spoiled a bit by power and lost its respect for balance. 

Not balance in the Thanos way, where his opening pitch maybe piqued some interest but then when he got to the mass genocide part he really lost me, but balance in the sense that each part of the whole complements the others, with nothing truly taking center stage in the presentation. A harmonious orchestra instead of a ripping guitar solo. An ensemble performance instead of one-actor Oscar bait. A delicious meal instead of a giant sizzling steak.

Sure, each of those sides of the coin has a certain appeal, but it’s hard to fully appreciate one without appreciating the other from time to time. And that’s what the theoretical 270-horsepower, four-banger Supra brought to the table. 

The four-cylinder model has the same great chassis as the 382-horsepower six variant does, but it lops two cylinders, representing nearly 300 pounds, right off the front of the motor and before the front axle. So it’s lighter overall and the mass is better contained inside the wheelbase.

This turns an already nimble car into a downright surgical tool. The Nürburgring is notoriously narrow–most lengths of the 13-mile Nordschleife measure just 24 feet wide, which is 4 feet narrower than our usual test track, the Florida International Rally & Motorsport Park, itself not the widest track in the U.S.

But even in those tight confines, the four-cylinder Supra felt like it had room to play. It honestly felt smaller than the six-cylinder version, easier to thread from curb to curb, and easier to work around slower traffic.

With 270 horsepower on tap, which probably means 270 to the wheels the way BMW underrates its powerplants, there was more than enough power and torque transmitting through the ZF eight-speed automatic that attitude adjustment through throttle control was always an option. Truly underpowered cars tend to have a rhythm of “Find apex, mash gas,” but the baby Supra rewarded actual throttle management and smoothness because it had power to spare.

So, look, I guess my point here is that some things (very few, but some) might be more important than horsepower. And sometimes horsepower can mask other deficiencies, or not allow other highlights to shine through enough. Experiencing a true team effort once in a while instead of a single superstar dominating the game is a pretty impressive way to spend some laps.

I guess that’s why people like Miatas so much. Who knew?

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Comments
TexasEx
TexasEx New Reader
7/14/23 9:07 a.m.

300 lbs lighter? That doesn't seem right.

 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/14/23 9:38 a.m.

That is the overall weight drop. I think the article is a little misleading there. 

Lop off 2 cylinders, 1 turbo, smaller inter cooler, No Elsd just mechanical, and a few other things. It all adds up. I think I saw the actual back to back weights it was more like 240LB. 

I drove one and I have to agree with the article. If I was getting a new supra, it would be the 4 cylinder with a 6 speed if it was offered. But alas it's not so I'll keep my turbo Miata.  

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
7/14/23 10:21 a.m.

Toyota website shows 219 pounds difference between the four and the six.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/14/23 10:33 a.m.

Too bad there's no 4cyl+6spd manual option, that could be an tempting combination...

kanaric
kanaric SuperDork
7/14/23 10:34 a.m.

If it had a manual I would own one now. I'm all down for a 4 cylinder supra, it just needs a manual option. 

It made me look to hope and nope. I've been looking for a car to replace my S3 and that would be the perfect thing i'd look for. 

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) UltimaDork
7/14/23 10:35 a.m.

Is the four a BMW engine like the six?

kanaric
kanaric SuperDork
7/14/23 10:36 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk (Warren) :

Ya. B48

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/14/23 10:50 a.m.

Relevant to my interests.  Is it true that the 4 cylinder has a mechanical LSD?  I thought it had none.

I tend to prefer smaller, lighter weight cars.  I've always liked the new Supra but the idea of a lighter more nimble one has my attention.

Peanu_Keeyes
Peanu_Keeyes GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/14/23 10:52 a.m.

This was my experience as well with having a BMW 228i on track for a few years. The vast majority of modern BMW's on track in my area are M240i's and M2's. My 228i had the earlier version of this turbo 4 pot Supra engine, the N20. They're not as robust or durable as their larger engine cousins but they pack a good punch of power while bringing the weight down significantly. My 228i weighed 3,260lbs with 240ish HP and had a 50/50 weight distribution. I overtook E36 M3's regularly with it without many suspensions upgrades or any engine tuning. Darn good engines those BMW i4's.. they don't really stir the blood with stock exhaust lol but that's easily fixable. 

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
7/14/23 10:58 a.m.

In reply to ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) :

Yup. True. Comes with the mechanical LSD. 

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