Toyota GR Supra Manual PVOTY Review: Row, Row, Row It Yourself
Does a manual transmission actually make the Supra better?
Finally, a manual
Great exhaust note
Handling issues on the track
Too tail happy
Makes the driver work too much
Since its launch in 2019, the Toyota GR Supra has undergone numerous updates. First came the addition of a four-cylinder engine, then the six-cylinder got a decent power bump, and now the automaker has introduced a six-speed manual to pair with the Supra's 3.0-liter inline-six. We tend to get excited whenever a manual transmission becomes available, as the option to row your own gears is increasingly in danger of extinction. But after spending some time behind the wheel of the manual 2023 Toyota GR Supra, we started asking ourselves whether its new three-pedal option makes the Toyota sports car any better.
Opinions were mixed at best. Although most editors praised Toyota for adding the manual option to the Supra, there wasn't exactly widespread agreement that the gearbox enhanced the car's overall experience in any real way. But talk of the manual's operation was soon overshadowed by how the Supra performed around the Streets of Willow circuit. "The same Supra issues abound, including its propensity to rotate even when you don't really want it to, that its driver sits on the rear axle (don't love that), and the BMW-ness of it all," deputy editor Alexander Stoklosa said.
Like Stoklosa, most judges weren't exactly enamored with the Supra's on-track behavior. Technical director Frank Markus noted the car had "relatively high handling limits but didn't telegraph them to the driver very well." Its tail-happy demeanor was also called out as a concern. "I know they wanted it to be drifty," features editor Scott Evans said, "but it really affects how much you can push this car. "
Some sports cars are easier than others to drive aggressively on a track, especially a tight, turn-heavy layout like Streets, and simply put, several judges had a hard time managing the Toyota's idiosyncrasies. "I was constantly flailing at the steering wheel in this car," Markus said. "If it broke loose, it broke loose spectacularly, requiring big handfuls of opposite lock. "
Despite the less than effusive praise from the judges, we've been pretty big fans of the Supra in general. At our 2020 Car of the Year competition, the then-new Supra made a splash, moving to the finalist round thanks to its attention-grabbing looks, value, and overall handling. But this time around at Performance Vehicle of the Year, with the Supra not, er, performing as well as we hoped, it was a different story. "I'm glad Toyota is making incremental improvements to the Supra," Evans said. "It's better than it's ever been, but it's still not as good a driver's car as it could be. "
Make no mistake, we're big fans of having another manual transmission option on the market. And yes, the 2023 Toyota GR Supra is a fine sports car for attacking local canyon roads or as a daily commuter—regardless of how you shift its gears. In the end, senior features editor and resident Supra curmudgeon Jonny Lieberman didn't mince words in his assessment: "It feels like a Toyota Supra with a six-speed manual. An average-feeling sports car with an average manual.