Here's Why Toyota Was Right In Offering A Manual GR Supra
Jul 28, 2023
Automakers tend to be conservative when it comes to offering a manual, but Toyota was right in including a stick for the GR Supra
When automakers develop a new car, the last thing that's on their minds is to offer it with a manual. That's also the case in a lot of performance cars because automakers argue that only a small percentage of buyers opt for such a transmission.
There are only a handful of performance cars right now with a manual, such as the Honda Civic Type R and Toyota GR Corolla, but when Toyota finally decided to offer a manual in the GR Supra amidst the clamor of car enthusiasts, it proved to the world two things. First is that Toyota does listen to the clamor of car enthusiasts, and two, there are actually more customers who want a manual than automakers probably think.
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Beginning with the 2023 model year of the Toyota GR Supra, the Japanese automaker started to offer a manual transmission. But why is it that it was only in the 2023 model year did Toyota decided to offer a manual for the GR Supra? In an interview with MotorTrend in 2021, Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer of the GR Supra said that the current ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is superb and is able to handle a lot of stress.
The latter is important as there are tuners who probably want to extract more out of their GR Supras. But the main reason at the time was to differentiate the GR Supra from the GR 86, which did come with a manual. Still, the engineer said that there were still people who were clamoring for a manual, and if there was still clamor for such a transmission, Tada-san would consider it.
The 382-horsepower version of the BMW B58 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six that is also featured in the M340i and other BMW models with the 40i moniker doesn't come with a manual transmission as an option in the first place.
Also, the GR Supra features the same CLAR platform as the Z4 and thus, is also produced in the same production line at the Magna Steyr plant in Austria. Developing a six-speed manual for the GR Supra would probably be costly if it's a transmission that only one car will utilize, but then again, Tada-san kept to his promise, and amidst the enthusiast's clamor for a six-speed manual, he made their wishes come true.
To create a six-speed manual for the GR Supra, they utilized a six-speed manual that's also made by ZF, but we'll point out immediately that this transmission isn't an existing one from any BMW or ZF parts bin. It's a new transmission system, though not exactly the parts it comes with. In an interview with Road and Track, Keisuke Fukumoto, Assistant Chief Engineer for the GR Supra says that the casing of the transmission is from the current G20 3 Series, which was offered with a manual in European markets until recently, while the gears are from the M3.
“You can imagine some of the components were coming from luxury vehicles,” technical manager for vehicle performance management Herwig Daenens told Road and Track. “We had to change them to provide that GR shift feeling. For instance, the Supra has a very driver-oriented cabin and a cockpit. So it means that there is less space; you can have less shift travel. So we had to adapt the shift [linkage] to make sure that everything fit in this driver-oriented cockpit.”
Meanwhile, the final gear ratio in the differential has been raised from 3.15 to 3.46 for better acceleration. Basically, the transmission is a Frankenstein of various ZF transmissions, but with Toyota's own engineering work to make the transmission feel great to the hands and even going as far as creating a unique sensation that is unlike any other manual transmission out there.
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And Toyota was right in listening to the clamor of car enthusiasts. When the company finally opened order books for the GR Supra, the customers did walk the talk and eventually purchased a GR Supra with the stick. Announced last spring, 1,216 units of the 2023 GR Supra have been sold so far with a manual, which is 47 percent of the sports car's sales since its minor update this year.
That's an impressive number, and it's probably going to be setting the stone for future sports cars in the U.S. car market. While pent-up demand is often short-lived and will taper off once that minority of buyers have been satisfied, it should be noted that the GR Supra's character has become so different ever since it was fitted with this transmission. There will still be buyers of the automatic, for sure, but we think this huge market share for the manual will remain strong throughout the GR Supra's lifetime.
“When it comes to the knob, we looked at the weight very carefully, and also the shifting direction,” Hazama said to Road and Track. “The knob shape is something that we looked at very closely as well. The millimeter differences mattered to us in deciding that, and we also got a lot of feedback from the European [Toyota team], the BMW people, and also within [Toyota].”
There's also one reason why the GR Supra with a manual will still maintain that 47 percent share in sales--how it transforms the GR Supra into a sports car. As mentioned, Toyota spent a lot of time and effort with this transmission, and though it has a lot of collaboration with ZF and BMW, the resulting transmission is so unique in feel that it suddenly makes the GR Supra feel like a different car--and in a good way.
RELATED:Which one is better - The Manual Toyota Supra 3.0 or the new GR 86?
The GR Supra with a manual also has a few competitors, and they're all very potent vehicles and all with six-cylinder engines. The Nissan Z also comes with a manual with its 3.0-liter 400-horsepower twin-turbo V-6, and to just make things interesting, we'll bring in the BMW M2 as well.
Toyota GR Supra (6-speed MT)
Nissan Z (6-speed MT)
BMW M2 (6-speed MT)
3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V-6
3.0-liter twin-turbocharged straight-six
Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Front engine, rear-wheel drive
The M2 is a full-fledged M car, while the GR Supra's heavily modified Z4 architecture means it's less potent on track on paper, but in terms of the numbers game, you'll be surprised how even the GR Supra and the M2 are--even if the latter has 72 more horses. For this comparison's sake, we'll strictly limit the comparison to when these cars are equipped with a manual.
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The GR Supra will probably be one of the last sports cars of its kind that Toyota will sell. Probably not be the last manual performance car, but it will probably be the last two-seater performance car with a straight-six and a stick shift.
That's because we've uncovered leaks in recent times that Toyota is developing a manual for hybrids and even bringing synthesized manuals in the electric vehicle (EV) age. The former sounds like our cup of tea, but the latter? I think we'd keep the hybrid manuals at the most.
Isaac Atienza is a Filipino motoring journalist who joined TopSpeed.com in 2021. He also owns a Filpino motoring website called Go Flat Out PH and is also a contributor to a local newspaper called The Manila Times. Isaac Atienza is a car enthusiast who especially thinks that wagons are the best type of vehicle, though sports cars and anything with three pedals also tickles his fancy.Road and Track,Toyota GR Supra (6-speed MT)Nissan Z (6-speed MT)BMW M2 (6-speed MT)EngineLayoutHorsepowerTorqueTransmission0-60 mphTop speedBase MSRP