Toyota gives GR Supra enthusiasts what they want, Porsche builds a rawer Turbo, it’s van time for Mercedes-Benz. All this on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.
Ever since the outgoing M240i exited production, American BMW enthusiasts who enjoy a left leg workout have had to pop for an M car. That seems a bit egregious considering the joy of BMW’s deft chassis tuning still carries through to the smaller engines. Sure, other cars may be quicker and more focused, but people always bought BMWs because they were engaging and did everything fairly well. You know who didn’t forget this legacy? Toyota. The Japanese automaker has officially unveiled its row-your-own version of its BMW-based GR Supra — a vehicle that disappointed many when it launched with the ZF eight-speed automatic as the only transmission option — and joy of joys does it ever look fantastic.
[Editor’s note: I have to say, this shifter looks great. A nice ball with a “leather”-stitched boot, which isn’t too tight (which can make the stick look skinny) nor too loose (which looks bulky). I like an accordion-rubber boot as much as the next person, but this setup here just works. -DT]
Let’s start with the goods. Toyota’s recently been very good at giving the people what they want, so it should be no surprise that the GR Supra pairs the stick with the inline-six. It would’ve been really easy to slap a weaker ZF S6-37BZ manual gearbox behind the four-banger and call it a day, but more power is usually more better. While official word on which six-speed manual gearbox Toyota’s using in the Supra hasn’t yet been released, the company says in a press release that the manual GR Supra sends its power to a 3.46 rear axle gearset. That’s roughly 9.8 percent shorter than the gearset in the automatic car, so it should help with keeping shift points in the first few gears within relatively legal speeds. There’s also an automatic rev-matching function that can be disabled, a ‘Hairpin+’ stability control mode to allow wheelspin on climbing switchbacks, and retuned suspension and steering. Hopefully this latest chassis tuning revision will make the GR Supra a bit more stable under trail-braking so novices are less likely to bin their flashy new sports cars.
Of course, a new model year for the GR Supra means a new special edition, so Toyota’s rolled out the A91-MT edition for 2023. This three-pedal-only special is available in matte white or the cheekily-named CU Later Gray, and features cognac leather, special forged wheels, an Alcantara shift knob, and touches of red on the brake calipers, Supra emblem and strut braces. Toyota’s making 500 units of this special edition, but it’s worth clarifying that the manual will be available on regular 3.0 models.
Speaking of regular models, they get the addition of a new Stratospheric Blue color, although Toyota hasn’t shown off this new hue yet. The Toyota nerd in me is wonder what are the chances are that it’s anything like the Stratosphere Blue that was available in the early 2000s, but that’s neither here nor there.
Honestly, I’m pretty excited for the manual GR Supra. Sure, the wind buffeting will still be abominable [Editor’s note: I didn’t notice this even on the Autobahn doing 150 mph, but I drive old Jeeps. -DT], but something about a small, rear-wheel-drive BMW-based car with three pedals just feels right. Pricing for the 2023 Supra hasn’t been announced yet, but expect more information closer to the car’s on-sale date later this year.
Porsche seems to launch a heritage-inspired special model of some sort every few year, typically consisting of rather mild changes. The Boxster 25 Years was a 718 GTS with some trim bits, the 911 Carrera T was a parts bin special, and the 911 Carrera GTS Club Coupe was a standard car with wheels, paint and a body kit. Now though, there’s a new 911 Sport Classic and it promises to be quite special indeed.
Granted, the basic concept of the 911 Sport Classic hasn’t really changed since the first one. It’s a greatest hits album with a ducktail spoiler here, Fuchs-style alloys there and a smattering of interior trim to harken back to the 1960s. However, just as all cheeseburgers aren’t alike, it’s what’s inside the new 911 Sport Classic that counts.
See, Porsche based its latest creation on the full-fat 911 Turbo, although the car has received some extensive surgery. Because the new ducktail spoiler allows for larger air intakes in the engine cover, both quarter panels are all-new and devoid of vents. The roof is also bespoke, a carbon fiber double-bubble design that flows with the new scalloped hood. If this all seems like lots of work for subtle changes, you’d be right. It also pales in comparison to the work under the Sport Classic’s skin.
While a standard Porsche 911 Turbo makes 572 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque, the 911 Sport Classic makes do with 543 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. Why the detuning? Because that’s about what Porsche reckons its seven-speed manual gearbox can handle. Yes, for the first time in nine years, a variant of the 911 Turbo is available with three pedals. More importantly, the 911 Sport Classic sends its power only to the rear tires, a decisions that’s sure to have rear-engined Porsche faithfuls frothing at the mouth.
Perhaps best of all, the new Sport Classic is coming to America so we won’t have to twiddle our thumbs while Europe has all the fun. Granted, homologating a new powertrain for sale in America isn’t cheap, and Porsche hasn’t yet released pricing for this high-powered slice of nostalgia. Still, if you’re one of the 1,250 lucky people to get an allocation for a Sport Classic, good on you. This one promises to be very special indeed.
If The Benz Is Rocking
Look, I’m not entirely sure where a tiny van is meant to exist in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but I would definitely put it above the EQS for cool factor. Meet the Mercedes-Benz T-Class, a not-for-North-America family vehicle that holds a ton of appeal.
Based on the Renault Kangoo, the T-Class is the latest product in a line of Franco-Saxon collaborations. Hey, if the Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes-Benz X-Class failed, might as well try again. This time, it seems like the Mercedes-Renault effort has cooked up an actual winner. Let’s start with the pricing. The basic T-Class starts at just under €30,000, or just under $32,000. For that sort of money, drivers get a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine hitched to a six-speed manual (!) gearbox. Also available are a higher-output 1.3-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 1.5-liter diesel four-cylinder in two states of tune. Not bad stuff if you ask me. So what about the practical stuff? While the T-Class only offers seating for five, available barn doors should really come in handy. In addition, rear occupants can treated to the decadency of optional folding tables in the front seatbacks, so think of the T-Class more as a Maybach for the city than just another small van.
Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but the T-Class does appear to be a well-equipped vehicle. A seven-inch infotainment display, LED interior lighting, leatherette upholstery and keyless ignition are all standard equipment. My favorite bit of the press release is how Mercedes-Benz is very proud that the T-Class comes with a covered glovebox as standard. A covered glovebox! As if it’s some bourgeoisie decadence or something. Still, at under €30,000, what more could you want? Granted, some people will want more than five seats, which is why a long-wheelbase model with seven seats is said to be on its way. I know it’s a bit much to ask, but pretty please with a cherry on top, can we possibly get the T-Class stateside?
Whelp, time to drop the lid on this rare all-manual edition of The Morning Dump. As much as I like EVs, a news cycle with three shift-it-yourself internal combustion vehicles feels like something worth celebrating. I know that car enthusiasts have a long and sometimes insufferable history of trying to quantify why manual gearboxes are better than automatics, but manual gearboxes aren’t really something that anyone needs to quantify with numbers. Personally, I think that most performance metrics are nonsense and how a car feels is what really matters. To that extent, manual gearboxes are big dumb fun – pull big lever make caveman brain happy, ooga booga. At the end of the day, I feel like happiness is the real goal, so I’ll likely always have something with three pedals in my driveway. How about you? Is the manual gearbox always going to have a home in your fleet, or have you banished it already in favor of newer, faster, objectively superior technology?
Lead photo credit: Toyota