The sun shined a little brighter when Toyota teased that the Supra was getting a manual transmission. The lack of a stick-shift disqualified Toyota’s halo sports car for many enthusiasts, and while it’s still a great machine, it always felt like something was missing. That changes today, as Toyota finally confirmed that the manual Supra is real — for some buyers.
First, the good news. Toyota says it went to great lengths to engineer this transmission and make it play nice with the BMW-sourced 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six. BMW doesn’t offer this engine with a manual, so Toyota had to start from scratch to make a manual Supra. Here’s just some of what the automaker had to do, from Toyota’s press release:
The engineering team modified an existing transmission housing, driveshaft and gear set and removed elements that were not required, such as the acoustic package, which reduced weight. At the heart of the transmission is a newly engineered large diameter clutch with a reinforced diaphragm spring. With a larger friction area and a stronger spring, this new component has the high-performance capability appropriate for use with the GR Supra’s high-torque engine.
The newly developed 6-speed manual gearbox also features an intelligent Manual Transmission (iMT) programmed with new software that prioritizes sporty performance. When upshifting, the parameters are tuned to optimize engine torque at the moment of clutch engagement and release; on downshifts, the software has been fine-tuned for consistent performance. The iMT is set as the default but, if the driver prefers, it can be switched off in Sport mode.
To avoid a sluggish take-off and a low in-gear acceleration feel, the final drive ratio has been shortened, from 3.15 (in the GR Supra automatic) to 3.46 (in the GR Supra MT). The result is response and gearing appropriate for sports car performance.
Ergonomics were a consideration too—making space for a manual in a car that wasn’t originally offered with one can be a bit of a bear. Again, from Toyota:
Close attention was also paid to how a manual shifter could be accommodated in the driver’s cockpit. The lever ratio was specifically set to minimize the effort required to make shifts and engage reverse gear. While the weight and shape of the 200g gear knob, along with the quality of shift engagement, have all been precisely defined. Ergonomics were also top-of-mind, as the console unit and position of the drive mode selector were adjusted to provide a 1.7-inch clearance between the shift knob and the control panel.
Toyota didn’t announce pricing for the manual Supra. That news will come this fall, shortly before 2023 models hit showrooms.
Here’s the catch: this six-speed will not be offered on the 2.0-liter four-cylinder Supra in any capacity. Honestly, I don’t know if a manual could have saved that car; I don’t know if anything could salvage the lesser Supra when the GR 86 and now the long-awaited GR Corolla also exist in Toyota’s lineup. My colleague Steve believes that nobody would bother to buy a 2.0 Supra with a manual against those options, and he’s probably right.
To me, a manual 3.0 makes the 2.0 Supra an even worse proposition than it already was, a car that lives in the shadow of its big sibling. Perhaps it exists merely as a base for modifications, but how many 2.0 owners are doing 2JZ swaps anyway? I’m all for a cheap entryway to performance — especially for those skilled enough to make up the difference with wrenching — but the 2.0 is only about $8,000 less than the 3.0, and this is Toyota’s flagship. It should be a competent sports car in all its variants.
Toyota will also offer a limited-edition manual Supra, called A91-MT. Only 500 of these Supras will be buit, with the requisite gearbox and an exclusive cognac interior for North America. Regardless of which model Supra you order, if you spec yours with a stick-shift, you’ll get a red “Supra” badge on the back, so everyone knows you bought the best Supra — and, perhaps, to twist the knife a little when someone pulls up in an earlier, auto-only Supra.