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
“ pull big lever make caveman brain happy, ooga booga.”
This exactly. I’ve always driven manuals and I hope I always can. Automatics can be fun too, especially twin-clutch boxes, but my left foot and my brain will always be bored loafing around town with nothing to do.
Flush: this is a good take. We’re at the age now where manuals no longer hold the performance crown over their automatic counterparts. Currently, bleeding edge performance is all but inaccessible on everyday roads so having a row-your-own transmission helps to keep the drive more fun and engaging.
Our current fleet of four vehicles are all manual trans cars. The only way that will change is if we get an electric. An ICE auto is not happening. ever.
Here’s our current lineup of shift your own cars-
2004 Mazda6 wagon
Lotus 7 replica powered by an RX-8 drivetrain
That is one sexy 7.
I own only manual transmission rigs because not only do I enjoy them, but I know that they are on their way out. Similar reason to why I own crosscut saws. If I maintain the things, build the engines, troubleshoot and fix the shit, I am a preservationist person, and somebody else down the line might get to enjoy the SM465/NP205, the BW R-10 overdrive, T-19, or Toploader 4-speed.
Just justification of owning what I love, but it makes sense to my heart.
In the ’90s, I owned one of the last Chevy Berettas. Street-legal race car it was not by that point, but it was quite fun for daily driving around town. Had a 5 speed and the optional gauge pack so I had the tach (and amazing seats, for some odd reason). I loved her and kept her in tip-top shape until I sold her about 15 years later.
I’ve always enjoyed imagining what later potential owners must have thought of her, a used but pristine pseudo-sporty/quasi-economy coupe with a manual?! Hope whoever did eventually own her enjoyed the experience as I did.
That Porsche is perfection! And manual Supra, finally and didn’t expected them to actually go through with it!
All three of my own personal cars are manuals. I learned to drive on a manual Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler (eat your heart out, DT) and since then, automatics have usually felt weird to me. But then again, I also am starting to get arthritis in my left hip, and if that becomes a problem, the daily driver may need to be an automatic eventually. But not yet.
I’m one of the probably 10 people actually realistically sad that the T Class isn’t going to be offered in the US. I have a Transit Connect passenger version that I’ve driven for 6 years now. I love it, but the finishing is terrible. I would definitely get another small commercial van converted for passenger duty as long as more than 30 seconds of thought was put into the interior construction.
Every time I imagine upgrading to an EV for daily, I have to qualify the thought with “of course keeping” the 3 pedal wagon. If my musings are leaning towards Miata or GR Corolla… I don’t feel the need to hang on to the wagon. Before today I hadn’t quantified that as a need to keep a clutch around, but it sure correlates.
That Benz van screams ‘hip luxury vanlifer!’…. same social class as the kitted Sprinter van, only smaller. It can’t/won’t hang with those Econolines.
3 new cars with manual. Very nice.
Luxury brands need to bring a luxury minivan to the US market, but it will need to not look like a work van like the Mercedes shown does.
Why is this? There is a large population who buy vehicles based on the badge. These people may need or even want a minivan to haul their loin fruit about, but do not want to be seen in a lowly Toyota. So they lease the biggest luxury SUV they can get. A “luxury” van could still be seen as “cool” and might help us get some soccer-mom luxury SUV specials off the road.
As for not looking like a work van? The badge buyer doesn’t want to look like they are driving the plumbers van. In their mind they are above “blue collar” work.
Bring back the Oldsmobile Silhouette! All plush luxury all the time.
“The Cadillac of minivans.”
I’m really surprised that Toyota hasn’t made a Lexus Sienna yet, it seems like a no-brainer (certainly a better fit for Lexus than a hybrid hatchback). Genesis could get in on the game, too, with a rebadged, slightly restyled Hyundai Staria or a fully-restyled Kia Carnival.
I think that because the Silhouette flopped back in the 90’s, most manufacturers decided to give up and just decided to make their version of a Range Rover or Grand Wagoneer. While yes, you can get a luxury minivan in some places, they are not sold in America, probably because people don’t want to drive the same sort of car that their parents owned. (Even though minivans are just as practical, get better or comparable mileage, and handle better than the average crossover these days.)
I know it doesn’t fit the manual mojo, but anyone wanna talk about how cool the new Ford Taurus looks and how sad it is we won’t get it here in the States?
It’s going to be heartbreaking if eventually has a SHO version.
I just looked it up and I don’t hate it. Now I’m imagining what a redesigned Focus Estate or Mondeo Estate would look like with similar styling cues and all I’m doing is making myself sad.
When I first saw the China-market Ford Evos a year or so ago, I had the same reaction…I didn’t hate it outright, and thought if I squinted a little, it was kinda a 4 door hatchback that could easily become an estate!
Sadly, all of Ford’s earlier “white space design ethos” talk really just seems to mean “for non-U.S. markets.” It’s all SUVs and pickups here for the foreseeable future I fear.
“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.” – dicaprioclap.gif
Speaking of insufferable, I literally just today had a fruitless argument with someone who wouldn’t drop the “modern automatics are faster and more efficient; what’s the point of a manual transmission” argument as the sole line of reasoning worthy of consideration.
I’m super happy that the 6-pot supra is coming with a manual, but I really wish it would be available with both engines. Frankly, manuals should be available on all ICE sports cars, particularly given how the incoming class of EVs is so zippy in a straight line, driver engagement will be the main differentiator. The exotics should all take note.
Totally agree. I’ve wondered if the coming EV wave will spur at the very least “pro” edition exotics with actual manuals, near-completely-defeatable nannies, and minimalist digital in-car presence.
In 40 years, they’d be the sought-after collectibles.
I’m amazed that a car company faced with the choice of which engine to offer in manual form actually picked the right one. It seems like every other car with a manual these days only comes on the lowest trim, smallest engine model.
I just hope people buy it because if they don’t it’s going to be another nail in the coffin of manuals.
I think it’s actually opposite of that. Like Mazda only offers a manual trans on the top trim of the Mazda3. I thought a few others were doing that also?
That’s not true in the U.S. you can’t even get a manual on the Turbo.
Toyota needs to offer a real Toyota engine on the Supra. Offer the MT on the I4 model. Use the A25A or some other Toyota I4 with a manual.
Nissan needs to sell that Renault van over here. They can call it Nissan Quest 🙂
Mercedes needs to offer the V-Class minivans here. Basically a Metris with more features and actually designed for passenger use. If a Kia Carnival can command 60k, people will have no problem paying 70k for a Mercedes minivan.
Real toyota engines would be nice. The GR Corolla engine would be interesting- no idea if the packaging works for a rearwheel drive vehicle though
They just need to put the GR Corolla engine in the GR86. Presto, perfection.
The new Supra not being 100% a Toyota project put it out of the running for me from the jump, manual or no. Funny how Nissan seems to be able to make their own sports car completely in house but Toyota, a much larger company, can’t.
The GR Corolla isn’t sporty?
it isn’t out yet 😛