The 2023 Toyota Supra MKV: Return of the manual transmission

BMW

photo of supra parked in front of building

When Toyota announced the Toyota Supra MKV in early 2019, it was met with a mixed response from fans and critics alike. In a collaboration between Toyota and BMW, the roadster looked reminiscent of the previous generation Supras with its style and design, but with the interior of a BMW. 

This car also had less power than some Supra fans wanted, making low 300s in horsepower. The biggest controversial decision, however, was the lack of a manual transmission option. After many years of research and development, how could they miss that? 

The short answer is that manual transmissions are becoming more and more obsolete, especially in a world where we are focused on fuel economy (and automatic transmissions are shifting faster than ever).

A brief history of the Toyota Supra

The Supra didn’t reach the point its at over night. It has been several decades in the making, with several generations leading up to the Mark V. The car started out as just another Celica, but would grow to be one of the most recognizable models in automotive history.

The Mark I

Toyota first began production of the Mark I Supra in 1978, starting a legacy that would carry on for over four decades (and counting). The Mark I Toyota Supra was really just a slightly sportier Celica trim level — the Toyota Celica Supra. The power output/engine was nothing to write home about because it was just another Celica.

The Mark II

The Mark II Toyota Supra came just a few short years after in 1981. This one came in two different specs: the Luxury Type (L-type) or the Performance Type (P-type). There are some differences between the two types, but one of the bigger deferences was that the L-type came standard with an automatic transmission (a luxury, at the time) and P-type with a manual transmission (a luxury now). There was no engine or power difference.

The Mark III

When the Mark III Toyota Supra came in 1986, it dropped the “Celica” and was just the “Toyota Supra” and came with a beefier engine. In 1987, it was offered with a turbocharged engine potion that helped push the Supras performance to 234 horsepower — a 30 horsepower increase from the first model year and a staggering 120 horsepower increase from the Mark I and II.

The Mark IV

The Mark IV Toyota Supra, released in 1993, is the Toyota Supra that introduced the 2JZ engine, and later, the twin-turbo 2JZ. This car had the iconic redesign and once again steep power increase (324 horsepower in the twin-turbo models) and this generation defined what we think of when we hear the word “Supra.” 

The Toyota Supra MKV: Where's the manual transmission?

The 2020 Toyota Supra MKV launched with a turbocharged engine making 334 horsepower, comparable to the Mark IV car. While the lack of increase in horsepower bothered some, only having an eight-speed automatic transmission sent Toyota Supra fans into a frenzy.

Despite the fact that the automatic transmission is decent (debuted in the BMW 7 series), the lack of a manual transmission remained a pain point. 

Recently, Toyota announced that the 2023 Toyota Supra will be launching with an optional six-speed manual transmission. Paired with the horsepower bump from the 2020 Toyota Supra (334 to 384 horsepower), this is an enticing package deal. Still not enough power? Add a charge pipe.

The only caveat with this is that the manual transmission option may cost extra when it comes to pricing. While that may seem “unfair,” it’s still a worthy addition to the purchase, especially for those who think it will give them an edge in performance. This option should be expected to cost 2000-3000 dollars.

Are manual transmissions still worth it?

This question seems to be getting more difficult to find an answer. While they may be worth it when shopping for older roadsters (Mazda Miata, Honda S2000 and other sports cars), automatic transmissions have reached the point where they are faster than manually shifting gears, thus improving performance.

The automatic transmission that the Toyota Supra received is a fantastic transmission that (probably) shifts faster than normal people. However, I also understand the heritage behind the manual transmission and feeling connected with the car and the road in that regard.

As for the rest of the 2023 Toyota Supra, it still has the same great suspension and handling as the 2020 Toyota Supra. The width of the center console needed to be widened to fit the manual gearbox, which eats into the passengers leg room. 

It’s important to note that the base model 2.0 Toyota Supra will not be available with the manual transmission, presumably because of the GR86 that is available with it. The GR86 has decent performance–and just an all round decent sports car at that price point–but it can’t compete with the Supra.

In an age where the manual transmission is a dying breed, it is nice to see automakers listening to their consumers. Perhaps this will keep the manual transmission alive in the car for a little bit longer before it can only be found in history books.

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