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Toyota Went to Great Lengths to Install a Manual Transmission on the GR Supra

Even though launched with only an automatic transmission, just like its BMW Z4 brother, the Toyota GR Supra will start the 2023 model year with a stick shift option. Only 500 units will be available to U.S. customers, and Toyota has done its best to present them with the most fun-to-drive sports car it has ever built in decades.
Manual transmission in the 2023 Toyota GR Supra 6 photos
2023 Toyota GR Supra2023 Toyota GR Supra2023 Toyota GR Supra2023 Toyota GR Supra2023 Toyota GR Supra
Not many years ago, Toyota was known as the maker of dependable but utterly bland white goods on wheels. A sporty, fun-to-drive Toyota was unconceivable ever since the Japanese giant launched the seventh-generation Celica in 1999. Akio Toyoda vowed to change that perception in 2009 when he was named the president of Toyota. What Toyoda has done could be considered baby steps. Still, it was he to decide the revival of the Supra nameplate.

Supra was built in partnership with BMW, which was happy at the time to share the development costs of the new Z4 with the Japanese carmaker. The sportscar was launched in the U.S. in July 2019 and, just like the BMW Z4, only offered an eight-speed automatic transmission. For true sportscar aficionados, Mr. Toyoda included, this was not good enough. And that’s when Toyota decided to offer a manual transmission for the Supra.

Because BMW wasn’t interested, Toyota had to develop the manual from scratch. It went to great lengths to do it, as no manual transmission was available in the BMW stable. Toyota used various off-the-shelf parts from ZF and custom-built parts to build a manual transmission that was strong enough to handle the 369-lb-ft (500-Nm) of the 3.0-liter turbo engine. If this sounds like a nerdy endeavor just to get a stick shift inside the Supra, you haven’t read the whole story.

First, Toyota had to modify the center console of the Supra to make changing the gears knuckle-friendly. That’s because the test drivers found there wasn’t enough space between the lever and the climate control buttons when the first, third, or fifth gear was selected. The new center console moves the gear lever rearwards, while the handbrake switch, iDrive media controller, and the mode buttons had to be moved out of the way.

The gearshift knob has its own story, as Toyota experimented with three different gear knob weights. They started with a 2.4-oz (68-g) ball and then doubled its weight before settling for a 7-oz (200-g) piece. This is said to add just enough inertia to the lever movement without feeling clunky. Besides the heavy gear knob, the new manual transmission actually makes the Supra lighter. It’s not by much, just 84.4 lb (38.3 kg), but enough to make a difference.

As confirmed by our colleagues at Top Gear, the manual Supra is a delight to drive, being “slick, weighted just-so and free from notchiness.” The clutch pedal plays along even when you need to switch gears in a hurry, changing the car’s character. It also keeps the driver more alert to the right moment to change the gears, as the inline-six turbo engine hits the redline in a jiffy.

Even though lighter, the manual-transmission Toyota GR Supra would be slower and possibly less fuel-efficient than the eight-speed automatic. That’s just a small price to pay for the pleasure of driving a manual sports car. This is a dying breed today, with only a handful of enthusiast models still offering the chance to change the gears using your hand and foot.

 
 
 
 
 

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