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1997 Toyota Supra REVIEW logo 4/6/2017

Con: Expressive design, totally impractical car

Pro: Expressive design, interior ergonomics, newly slashed prices, incredible amounts of turbo power

What’s New: Turbo models get the six-speed manual transmission back, but the bigger news details massive price cuts. Turbos with automatics are $12,000 less expensive than last year! All Supras commemorate the nameplate's 15th anniversary with a rear spoiler, premium sound and special badging. Despite price cuts, equipment levels are enhanced across the board.

Review: Looking like some kind of hybrid between an F-16, a Honda Prelude and a Ferrari F40, the wide-eyed Supra arrived late in 1993 to do battle with everything from the Nissan 300ZX to Lexus SC coupes. The wild exterior cloaks an austere but inviting cabin where the first order of business is driving. Under the hood, your choice of two inline six-cylinder engines: a twin-cammer good for 220 horsepower or a twin-turbo version of the same that ups output by 100 horsepower.

This year, Toyota returns the 6-speed manual to the Turbo model. All Supras are equipped with 15th anniversary decoration, including a rear spoiler and premium sound. Models with Sport Roof receive added standard features including leather seats and a 3-in-1 combo cassette and CD player. Turbos get the sport roof and polished alloy wheels added to the equipment roster.

Amazingly, these equipment adds were made despite massive price cuts. Base models are $9,000 cheaper than the 1996 equivalent. A Turbo with an automatic transmission runs $12,000 less than the 1996 sticker. Evidently, the retreat by Nissan and Mazda from the high-end sports car market, and fresh competition from Chevrolet, BMW and Porsche, convinced Toyota that if they wanted to sell any Supras at all, they'd better lower the price.

The automotive press has absolutely gushed about the Supra driving experience. No doubt, this is a serious driving machine. However, we've noticed that Toyota has been having trouble lately creating attractive sporting cars. The Celica is quite a good looking sportster, until the bulging eyes' up front seemingly follow your every move as you round the hood. The image is one of a shark ready to strike, and you find yourself wishing you had a spear to jab into one of the headlights. The Supra is also a beautiful work of art, but the hyena-like front styling is disconcerting. The Supra has a wild-eyed look, and the huge air intake below the bumper needs only a row of white teeth to guarantee that small children would never pass within twenty feet of the front end. The rear, with its rows of science-project taillights, massive rear fascia, and obnoxious wing, is just too much. Why Toyota tacked these front and rear aberrations onto an otherwise restrained and wonderfullystyled body is a mystery.

As usual, though, we have a theory. In the United States, the Supra's main market, there really aren't any public roads (save for some desolate desert highway) to use the Supra to its full potential. The stylists wanted the Supra to be noticed. They wanted it to sell. So they gave it Look at me!' styling to generate as much of a commotion at a supermarket parking lot as it would at 120 on Interstate 10. It works.


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