Now fitted with a six-speed manual transmission, Toyota’s Supra offers an increased sense of connection between car and driver. The automaker’s CEO, Akio Toyoda, has always been about delivering vehicles that prioritize the joy of driving, and the latest Supra is no exception. It’s not just a parts-bin special with an off-the-shelf gearbox and the other components that go with it; all of the parts have been tailor-made to work effortlessly with the existing GR Supra.
→ The gearbox feels tight, with short and snappy throws that are easy to execute.
→ The clutch is easy to modulate at low speeds with a forgiving bite point.
→ The pedals are positioned well, making them comfortable for everything from daily driving to heel-toe downshifting at the track.
We recently flew down to Salt Lake City, Utah, to drive the GR Supra MT on track and see what it was all about.
More From Popular Mechanics
- Base price: $52,500
- Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter straight six
- Horsepower: 382 hp
- Torque: 367 lb-ft
- 0-60 time: 4.2 seconds (automatic is 3.9)
- Transmission: Six-speed manual
- Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
The Lingering Question
Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) Supra began the brand’s high-performance division. It’s since been followed by the GR Corolla and the GR86—both available with manual transmissions. Car enthusiasts have long enquired about whether the reincarnation of the Supra would ever receive a manual transmission.
Purists can breathe easy, as the Supra is now available with a six-speed manual as it enters its 2023 model year. If that’s not already exciting enough, it will be a no-cost option to go buy the manual over the automatic. For some perspective, that means the 3.0-liter Supra starts at $52,500 and the 3.0 premium at $55,650—a $610 increase over the previous model year. Unfortunately, the more affordable 2.0-liter variant (starting at $44,635 MSRP) will not have a manual option.
Squeezing the new transmission into the Supra was no easy task. Toyota partnered with German transmission supplier ZF to build a new gearbox able to cope with the 382 hp and 367 lb-ft of torque coming from the vehicle’s burly turbocharged 3.0-liter engine.
The metamorphosis from automatic to manual first involved modifying the existing transmission housing, driveshaft, and gearset. While the transmission is the heart of the job, the team also swapped in a larger-diameter clutch fitted with a much stronger diaphragm spring. The larger friction area and burlier spring can better cope with the high power and torque demands associated with the engine.
While the existing shifter (a BMW component) complements the automatic transmission quite well—Toyota used a mix of Bimmer components to lower the cost and engineering load of designing a new sports car—the manual car needed some ergonomic modifications. You’re not constantly reaching for the gear lever while driving an automatic vehicle, so the considerations are different.
Toyota engineers opted to move the shift lever closer to the driver for better engagement and increased clearance from the control panel in front of it. No more accidentally punching the bulkhead when doing those forward throws through the gearbox (second to third, fourth to fifth, etc). Along with this tweak, Toyota adjusted the lever ratio to minimize the effort needed to make shifts. The big foreheads in the engineering team even went as far as messing around with the weight and shape of the shift knob, along with the quality of shift engagement.
The end result is a gear shift that feels crisp and tight without needing the arms of a bodybuilder to row through the gears. Shifting across the gearbox—changes like second to third or fourth to fifth—also feels super snappy. We’re very much looking forward to testing the gearbox in daily driving situations, but the Supra made a good first impression.
Aside from requiring you shift gears yourself, manual vehicles have peculiar handling characteristics compared to their automatic counterparts. Many enthusiasts will know that they can be very slightly lighter than a vehicle with an automatic. The new manual Supra is a mere 2 pounds lighter—3,398 versus 3,400. However, one of the biggest differences is in power delivery. Toyota tuned the Traction Control (TC) system to cope with the greater risk of wheelspin in the manual vehicle.
An automatic transmission can put power to the ground much smoother than a manual with a lead-footed human being operating the clutch. This is made possible thanks to an auto’s ability to get going in second or third gear, and the torque inverter that takes care of what the clutch pedal would do—only much smoother than a human—providing much less risk of wheelspin.
Along with new TC calibration, the Supra MT also has much shorter gear ratios to curb sluggish acceleration in lower gears. The Final Drive in the manual is shortened from 3.46 in the auto to 3.15—improving acceleration at the cost of top speed. This was very noticeable in first and second gear while I was accelerating out of the pit lane at Utah Motorsports Park.
So enthusiasts asked, and Toyota delivered with its GR Supra MT. Toyoda’s dream with the Supra was to build a car that celebrates the joy of driving. And I’m happy to report that the latest Supra (sporting the six-speed manual) embodies the ethos of the original. It’s clear that Toyota thought long and hard about tuning minute things like the feel of the shift lever between gears and the engagement of the clutch pedal. The end result is a much greater sense of connection that the automatic simply can’t compete with.
Mission accomplished, Akio.
Matt Crisara is a native Austinite who has an unbridled passion for cars and motorsports, both foreign and domestic, and as the Autos Editor for Popular Mechanics, he writes the majority of automotive coverage across digital and print. He was previously a contributing writer for Motor1 following internships at Circuit Of The Americas F1 Track and Speed City, an Austin radio broadcaster focused on the world of motor racing. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona School of Journalism, where he raced mountain bikes with the University Club Team. When he isn’t working, he enjoys sim-racing, FPV drones, and the great outdoors.