2023 Toyota GR86 vs. GR Supra: Less, More, and Different
I’ve been binge-watching Gilligan’s Island recently, and when I bask in the glory of 1960s television I can’t help but reflect on a pair of 2023 Toyotas: the GR86 and the GR Supra.
Fans of the classic show self-segregate into two camps: Team Ginger and Team Mary Ann. The bitter debate has even spilled over into a Mopar car forum. Ginger is the glamorous celebrity but somehow Mary Ann, the farm girl from Kansas, always seems to be the overwhelming fan favorite.
Like the fictional Hollywood star, the 2023 Toyota GR Supra has all the makings of a pop culture icon. The love child of Toyota and BMW is fast, sleek, and well-made. The brawny engine even sounds shockingly good through an EPA-friendly exhaust. I knew the GR Supra rocks before one showed up in my driveway but I didn’t realize just how excellent it is until I’d spent a few days behind the wheel.
Comparisons to the previous-generation Supra are exercises in futility. I love the A80 as much as anyone, but we live in a different time now and most of the elder Supra’s lore was built on heavily modified cars. We’re comparing apples to oranges at this point.
All that matters now is this: the 2023 Toyota GR Supra is a blast to drive. The front-engine, rear-wheel drive format is delightfully intuitive when loosely interpreting speed limits on a backroad. The torquey turbocharged straight-six makes highway jaunts effortless inside the plush, technology-rich cabin. There’s even a dedicated button that overrides cruise control, throws out the anchor, and matches the posted speed limit should you find yourself in sudden need of deceleration.
In short, it’s a perfect GT car.
All that’s left for the humble GR86 to do is fill a hole in Toyota’s lineup and sell cars to people who can’t afford a GR Supra, right? Not so fast — Mary Ann’s automotive counterpart has virtues of its own.
We should know by now that spec-sheet racing doesn’t tell us much. The GR86 that Toyota and Subaru teamed up to build is inexpensive, with a starting MSRP of $28,400 compared to $57,650 for a six-cylinder variant of the GR Supra. It’s slower, too, with only 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque on tap from the 2.4-liter flat-four compared to 382 horsepower and 368 pound-feet of torque from the GR Supra’s 3.0-liter straight six. Inside, the GR86 is surprisingly low-tech for a freshly redesigned platform. But don’t be fooled — it’s anything but a watered-down GR Supra.
While it’s true that we can have more fun driving slow cars fast than driving fast cars slow, Toyota did more than just put a rev-happy, naturally aspirated engine into an inexpensive coupe and call it a day. The GR86 is genuinely sharp.
Toyota gave the GR86 better suspension, brakes, and steering feel than the car needs. Body roll is minimal so the GR86 hunts apexes and jukes around potholes like a barn swallow chasing flies. The brakes might not look like much — you can find bigger discs on a sportbike — but the car’s curb weight of 2,811 pounds (with a manual transmission) doesn’t require anything larger. It scrubs speed in a hurry and remains composed while doing so.
Any time a chassis can handle more than its engine dishes out, you get a car that can you can confidently chuck into corners and pin to redline whenever you want. Go ahead and spur every last one of those 228 ponies to a gallop; the suspension and brakes have you covered.
On the street, the car’s agility turns every errand into a joy ride. On the track, it lets you push your boundaries and study the nuances of handling without the risk of being bitten by overzealous power delivery.
The interior of the GR86 is equally performance-focused. You get everything you need and a few things you want, but Toyota makes no attempt to sell the GR86 as a grand touring car. By omitting high-tech gadgets and premium amenities, Toyota keeps costs down and creates a more analog experience (if such a thing is even possible in 2023).
This approach doesn’t just make the GR86 an affordable car for the enthusiast masses; it keeps the focus on driving. The bare-bones infotainment system seems to answer every request with, “Shouldn’t you be focusing on the racing line? You just added tenths to your lap time!” The stiff suspension almost forces you to take the long way home. And, to my knowledge, the burbly GR Performance exhaust (a $1,700 option) requires you to rev-match every single downshift at every single stoplight.
Does spending more money on the GR Supra buy you more car? Of course it does. The flagship Toyota is an undeniable juggernaut. But is it categorically superior to the GR86? Nope. These are two cars for two distinct purposes and neither is better or worse than the other, regardless of what the price tag says.
If I were to find myself marooned at sea with access to a track, I wouldn’t kick either one of these cars off the island.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the ’90s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.