Toyota's Ugly, Bloated Problem - IMBOLDN
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The Toyota Supra is a legendary nameplate from the 90’s that has reached cult status in recent years. Just look at how much these cars are fetching on the used car market these days — unaltered, original, manual vehicles are worth well into the six digits. The design has aged gracefully and nostalgic enthusiasts are clamoring over the Japanese sports car, as most have been poorly “modified” at one point in time or another. It was a shame that the car never saw the light of the new millenium, as Toyota moved towards building more reliable and beige cars that guaranteed a profit. With most Japanese sports cars now gone, affordable and fun cars are far and few between these days.

The Toyota Supra from the 90’s have garnered a loyal following, with prices skyrocketing in recent years.

When Toyota introduced the FT-1 Concept Car, my heart skipped a beat. It was beautiful — sleek, low slung, and even futuristic, it was the perfect return to form from a car manufacturer known for its solid, well-made cars. Profit margins and dreams of global domination have made them veer down a different path in recent years, but remember the Supra, the MR2, and even the Lexus LF-A? These were all great cars that demonstrated what Toyota was capable of.

My hope was for the FT-1 to spark a renaissance of Toyota making desirable, great sports cars, and maybe even resurrect a legendary nameplate in the process. Unfortunately, my hope was only half met when they introduced the 2020 GR Supra, with the Supra nameplate making a return. Too bad they missed an opportunity to really make a mark on the car industry, bringing us a half-assed vehicle that must be a part of some horrible marketing exercise.

The Japanese manufacturer already had a good thing in their hands with the Toyota 86 a.k.a. Subaru BRZ, also formerly known as the Scion FR-S, rest in peace. Instead, they went ahead and forged a strange partnership with BMW, giving us a bloated version of the car that looked like the FT-1 ate the AE86 and then had a BMW Z4 for dessert.

Instead we got this ugly, bloated BMW that wants to masquerade as a Supra. Shame.

What they should have done instead is beef up the 86’s fantastic chassis, give it a proper engine that produces more power than a lawnmower, and translate the gorgeous design from the FT-1 Concept into production form. Yes, the GR Supra has been inspired by that concept and somewhat resembles the FT-1, and yes, there are regulations that make it extremely difficult for manufacturers to bring such a low slung and futuristic design into production, but that’s where I was hoping Toyota would be able to bring their A-game and magic. Instead we got this ugly, bloated BMW that wants to masquerade as a Supra. Shame.

This demonstrates the basic problem with the car industry these days. Instead of appealing to the emotion of enthusiasts, most manufacturers have decided to go after soccer moms and their need for oversized crossover vehicles to do the Costco run. It’s understandable that companies must strive to maximize profit, but when you have an opportunity to do something great, these considerations should take a back seat.

It’s kind of like what Porsche decided to do back in the early 2000’s; to build more 911s and fuel the passion of many Porschephiles, they had to make the Cayenne. At the time it was considered blasphemous for Porsche to make such an abomination, but without the Cayenne, Porsche would not have been able to continue creating 911s and 918 Spyders. It was a necessary evil that was required to keep the passion alive.

The original Porsche Cayenne drew criticism from enthusiasts but was ultimately responsible for keeping the brand alive.

Toyota was never faced with the same stakes as Porsche; they were already doing well financially, and their Corollas and Camrys were making enough money for them. The FT-1 Concept was purely an emotional response within the company to create something that can spark passion — a halo car that can bring enthusiasts back into the brand. The beautiful design was a promising first step, but somewhere in the process the whole project seems to have lost sight of its purpose, with the suits stepping in to create another boring and uninspired car.

Thankfully there’s still some hope for redemption. Toyota has recently said that they will continue making the 86, and in its next generation it will be more of a baby Supra. We’re not sure what that means and we’re keeping our expectations in check, but here’s to hoping that some spirit of the FT-1 Concept lives on through that car.