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Spend Less Supras

Toyota Mark IV Supras are now available in Australia from 25 grand - we take a look at them from a current buyer's perspective...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Japanese-import Toyota Supras
  • Naturally aspirated and twin-turbo performance
  • Still looks sexy
  • Now available from AUD$25,000
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Twelve years after its release, the Toyota Mark IV Supra (JZA80) still looks as sexy as ever. Its muscular flowing lines, wide stance, low-slung front and business-like rear is the hottest looking automotive design this side of a Ferrari.

Forget the Skyline-based Nissan GT-R; the Supra is a unique design that’s pitched at enthusiasts who want to look g-o-o-d.

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Since the initial wave of Japanese-market Mark IV Supras arrived in Australia, their pricing has slipped to a current base price of around AUD$25,000 - well within the reach of a typical WRX or late-model V8 buyer. So it’s time to check out the Supra with the eyes of a buyer with 25+ grand in pocket...

The hottest performers in the Supra range are the twin-turbo versions – RZ, RZ-S and GZ.

The Supra TT is equipped with a 3.0 litre DOHC straight-six boasting a sophisticated sequential twin-turbo system. The sequential operation of the turbochargers endows the 3.0 litre with V8-like bottom-end grunt together with a screamin’ top-end. This really is an engine that defies belief. There’s a strong 440Nm of torque at 3600 rpm and peak power (quoted at 206kW) is available at 5600 rpm. The engine continues to deliver the goods all the way to its 6800 rpm redline.

Even after more than ten years of automotive development, the Supra twin-turbo’s 2JZ-GTE is one of the most sophisticated and impressive engines ever built.

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From 1997, the Supra twin-turbo was updated with electronic throttle control and variable inlet cam timing (VVT-i) for a further increase in flexibility – peak power was apparently unchanged but torque was lifted to 451Nm at 3600 rpm. An already amazing engine just became something out of this world!

Straight-line performance is wicked.

With a standard 6-speed Getrag gearbox and Torsen LSD, the Mark IV Supra TT can rocket to 100 km/h in under 6 seconds. Unfortunately, optimal acceleration is difficult to achieve because all that grunt is channelled through only the 255/45 16 rear tyres. Best results are achieved by switching off the electronic traction control system and feathering the clutch. Top speed is electronically governed to 180 km/h (but this is easily circumvented).

Just make sure that you run the Supra TT on the highest available fuel octane – use 98 RON wherever possible.

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The Supra TT’s handling is as you’d expect – typically high-power RWD. Turn in is sharp and the chassis is very neutral through the mid section of a corner. From corner exit, the ever-responsive TT engine can be given a prod to arc up the rear tyres and hold a power oversteer. Great stuff for show pony-ing. With aluminium double wishbone suspension, the 1500-odd kilogram Supra rides firmly but it isn’t harsh.

The RZ and RZ-S twin-turbo models are fitted with 322mm ventilated front discs with twin-pot calipers and solid rear discs with single potters. The leather-lined GZ version (which comes with an optional 4-speed auto trans) comes with smaller brakes. ABS control is standard across the range.

Less firey but more affordable versions of the Supra are the naturally aspirated SZ and SZ-R models.

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Under the bonnet of these NA companions you’ll find a non-boosted version of the 3.0 litre DOHC straight-6 (2JZ-GE). Like the twin-turbo gun, the atmo 3.0 litre is a very sweet engine that idles smoothly, is responsive and revs willingly. It’s also pretty powerful for its cubic capacity – 165kW at 6000 rpm and 284Nm at 4800 rpm. The 1997 update brought variable inlet cam timing for a small increase in output. With a 10.0:1 compression ratio and relatively high specific power output, you’d be wise to always run this engine on 95+ RON fuel.

The NA Supra comes with a choice of a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual gearbox. The auto transmission is well matched to the engine’s torque characteristics but the lack of a sequential shift is glaring in today’s context. The 5-speed manual is a slick shifter that offers significantly speedier performance over the auto – 0 – 100 km/h performance is around 8 seconds instead of 9 seconds.

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The atmo Supra uses the same double-wishbone suspension layout as its TT big brother. The biggest differences are the softer spring and damper settings which provide a comfortable ride (without being marshmallow soft). An LSD is fitted to the sportier SZ-R model and standard wheels are 16 inch alloys wearing 225/50 and 245/45 tyres. Brakes on the atmo Supra are smaller than found on the TT.

Cosmetically, the NA version is identified by its smaller wheels and tyres, optional rear wing and an automatic front spoiler is fitted to SZ-R models only. A tricky removable roof section is also fitted to Aerotop versions – the roof comes out after removing a set of hex bolts.

The Mark IV Supra interior is arranged to provide maximum flattery for the driver – but it won’t win any space utilisation contests...

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The Supra dash is a low, sweeping unit that encapsulates the driver to give a cockpit-like feel. The relatively high dash, intrusive transmission tunnel and low seating position also give a very enclosed feeling. Front occupant space is nothing more than adequate.

Standard features include easy-to-use analogue climate control, power windows, leather steering wheel and gear knob and a driver’s airbag. A CD player and electric seats were fitted as an option. Later models were equipped with twin airbags.

Although listed as a 4 seater, the Mark IV Supra’s rear space is dreadful.

Poor head, knee and foot room mean the rear seat is suitable only for children – or adults in desperation... The rear cargo volume is equally disappointing. Although the cargo area is adequate, the very high boot floor means depth is very shallow. The Mark IV Supra isn’t for you if you’re likely to cart passengers or anything larger than a soft bag.

About now you’re probably wondering which particular Supra model you can afford.

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Well, Melbourne ’s Sports and Luxury Cars is one of Australia’s leading vehicle importers and typically retails naturally aspirated Supras from AUD$25,000. The silver example in our photos is a 90,000km Aerotop for around 25 grand.

For the twin-turbo version you’re looking at a minimum of around 29 grand. Late model Supra TTs (with VVT-i) begin from around 45 grand. These are quite expensive due to their collectability – they’re the greatest Supra before the range was axed in 2002.

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The Supra is a very well built vehicle with no obvious cost-cutting. Craig Dean from Sports and Luxury Cars has imported numerous Supras and says he’s never had a major problem. The headlights are prone to go milky while in Japan but Craig says they can be dismantled and cleaned using an in-house process. And, again, it’s important that you run the twin-turbo engine on the highest possible fuel octane – Craig has heard of one head gasket failure (which is likely a result of detonation). Our test car also had the occasional clunk from the front-end – perhaps a worn ball joint.

Replacement parts are relatively difficult to come by. Body parts are available only through Japanese import wreckers (and vehicle importers such as Sports and Luxury Cars) but many engine servicing parts should be interchangeable with the locally delivered Lexus GS300 and IS300.

If you’ve got around 25 grand to spend on a new ride, the imported Mark IV Supra certainly deserves a spot on your short-list of cars. Sure, parts availability is relatively limited and interior space is poor but this is one hell of a sexy car.

And with twin-turbo power it’s sexy and speedy...


Sports and Luxury Cars
+61 3 9753 5799

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