What Needs to Happen for Toyota to Make a Stick-Shift Supra

A manual transmission is possible for the new Supra—as is a cheaper four-cylinder engine and a lightweight trackday version.

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Toyota

The 2019 Toyota Supra promises to be a rewarding high-performance sports car. We just drove a preproduction prototype on the road and the track, and we came away very impressed. But the examples we drove were all equipped with an eight-speed automatic, the only transmission option that will be available when the new Supra hits dealerships. So we had to ask: What needs to happen for Toyota to add a manual transmission?

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At the Supra launch event in Madrid, Spain, I caught up with Masayuki Kai, Assistant Chief Engineer on the Supra project. The first question I asked him was about the possibility of a stick-shift Supra.

"It purely depends on the reaction of the market," Kai told me. "If, for example, US customers are demanding strongly that Supra needs to be a manual-transmission car, then we will plan it. Technically, it's quite possible, of course. The problem is, do we invest money into it to make it happen? Because there are other options we could put the same money into. It just depends on the market feedback."

I asked Kai what kind of expense would be involved in making a manual-transmission Supra. "The most expensive, of course, would be to make it mass-production," he said. "That would cost quite a lot of money. But if we limit the volume, let's say a few hundred cars, then we can have less spent in tooling.

"It could be that we introduce it as a special edition, with a special color or special wheels or something. We can combine these into a package and sell it as a limited edition."

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I asked Kai if such a limited edition might take the shape of a lightweight Supra model, something that's been hinted at before. "We have to introduce something new quite frequently, otherwise a car can lose interest," he replied. "There are many options here, really. Anything you might think of, we're already thinking about it."

The new Supra that will hit dealers sometime soon will be powered by a 3.0-liter single-turbo straight-six engine. But it seems like a cheaper four-cylinder model will follow—Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada even says the four-cylinder is the one you should buy if you're planning a 2JZ swap.

The BMW Z4, which shares its six-cylinder engine and platform with the Supra, will soon offer a 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder variant. I asked Kai if this engine might be the one to power a future four-banger Supra. "I assume so," he replied.

But all this talk had us wondering about things heading in the other direction: More horsepower. The six-cylinder Z4 makes 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. Toyota hasn't provided exact power figures for the Supra, but assures us that horsepower and torque will both exceed 300. Apparently there's even more headroom: A Toyota insider told me that the Supra platform is good for up to 500 horsepower, though some chassis upgrades, particularly to the brakes, would need to come along with it.

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