After two decades off the market in the US, the Toyota Supra has been in the headlines more and moreover the past few years. And for a good reason; not only are collectors starting to push the prices higher on clean examples from the 1990s but Toyota has spent that past five years stoking enthusiasts’ passion for its upcoming fifth-generation model, set to be released at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show and due on sale in 2019.
Once viewed as little more than a ramped-up version of the Celica coupe, the Supra has found a place in the spotlight lately, and not in a subtle way.
In particular, Toyota’s fourth-generation A80 Supra produced from 1993 to 1998 has captured the hearts of Generation Xers and millennials, as well as old-school fans who grew up worshipping the car.
The United States is home to and the birthplace to many great vehicles. Still, there are a lot of vehicles that will never be sold to American consumers because of incredibly strict automobile requirements to protect drivers and passengers.
Across the globe, manufacturers design cars to suit their country’s needs or to drive culture but those same ideas don’t always resonate with the rules for cars in the US Whether it was for violating safety regulations, being too fast to drive or just being downright odd, here is a list of vehicles that you will never find in the United States.
Toyota Supra Generations – A Brief History
Now that you’re caught up to speed, let’s take a stroll down memory lane. Once you see how the Supra evolved over four generations, you should better understand why that final fourth generation has become so popular since the 1998 Toyota Supra marked the (temporary) end of the line.
First Generation Supra: 1978 – 1981
While the original Supra was produced in Japan in 1978, it first became available in the US in 1979. The first two Supra generations were called the Celica Supra because the vehicle was essentially a Celica that had its wheelbase stretched by 5.1 inches to accommodate the larger engine. The first generation was powered by a 110-horsepower, 2.6-liter inline-six. It came standard with a five-speed manual transmission, but buyers could opt for a four-speed automatic.
Second Generation Supra: 1981 – 1985
In 1981, Toyota redesigned the Celica Supra and released the new iteration for the 1982 model year. The major change was swapping the first-generation’s live rear axle for independent semi-trailing arms. This change helped the car earn a fourth-place as the best-handling imported car in a ‘Car and Driver’ comparison test, beating two Porsches as well as a Lotus and a Ferrari. The engine was a new twin-cam 2.8-litre inline-six that produced 145 horsepower — 29 horsepower more than the first generation.
Third Generation Supra: 1986 – 1993
The third generation marks when the Celica Supra would lose the Celica name. The new Supra further upgraded the power too, using a 3.0-litre inline-six engine to make 200 horsepower — 55 horsepower more than the second generation. In 1987, Toyota released a Supra Turbo model that boasted a straight-six engine that produced 230 horsepower.
Fourth Generation Supra: 1993 – 2002
The fourth-generation marked the most drastic changes, including a complete body redesign that boasted the modern, swoopy styling that fans fell in love with. A signature interior dash layout that is still marvelled by many automotive enthusiasts today. This generation shared its platform with the Lexus SC coupe, though it measured more than a foot shorter.
A standard Supra came with a 3.0-litre inline-six engine that produced 220 horsepower — 10 horsepower less than the third generation’s turbo model. However, the fourth-generation Supra Turbo made 320 horsepower — a 100 horsepower upgrade, with minor performance upgrades the supra can reach exotic car performance for a fraction of an exotic car price.
While the vehicle was available until 2002 in Japan, US emissions standards halted production in 1998. The 1998 Toyota supra configurations have become some of the most popular and had minor updates from the 1996 variant, including both automatic and manual transmissions plus a three-spoke steering wheel.
1994 Toyota Supra
The 1994 Toyota Supra model was a part of the string of Supra models that were banned from being sold in the US. Prior to the models that we see available today, Toyota did not make the age of the vehicle safe enough to allow them to be sold in the US.
Toyota Supra is one of the all-time best vehicles in performance cars. Supra lovers in the USA may never know the joy of driving a 1994 model, like this, and only this, model year is strictly off-limits. People have become fans of it after watching it in the Fast and Furious series.
The 2020 Toyota Supra might technically be one of the most popular sports car models of the year. Even so, lots of people are still questioning the legality of this sports car in America. To be fair, the Supra has somewhat of a checkered past so we can understand that there is some confusion. If you want to buy a new Supra, you’re in luck because the model is very much alive today in the US, but at the same time, the Supra is still banned.
While the Supra was sold in the US for a short time, the foreign models (that are younger than 25 years) are barred from entry. Unfortunately, the 94 Supra just barely falls short of the age specification meaning it’s banned from America.
This is probably the least “banned” car on the list, as there are still plenty of other Supra models which are registered on American soil, however, because of the legendary status that the Supra has, it needed to be mentioned.
The Legendary Toyota Supra – Why Is it So Popular?
1994 Toyota Supra Sells for $121K
A stock, factory-condition manual twin-turbo 1994 Toyota Supra recently sold at an auction for a staggering $121,000. While that cost is unlikely to be the new norm, it does officially solidify the Supra as a six-figure vehicle. So, why was, did this particular Supra fetch such a high price?
For one, it’s a collectible from the past that still has all of its original components intact. From the iconic rear spoiler to its original aluminium alloy wheels and Bridgestone Potenza tires to the mint tan leather seats, this Supra has all the stock goods, right down to the cassette tape/CD player. It also has just 7,000 miles on it, which is naturally a rarity when it comes to vehicles this old. The fact that the car was also unmodified increases its scarcity, as Supras from this generation were often modified and customized, making the unaltered examples a rarity.
Beyond its nostalgia-inducing aesthetics, this Supra also has the highly desirable drivetrain configuration: the 3.0-litre, twin-turbocharged inline-six engine with 320 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed manual transmission. Most of this generation’s models were offered with a lesser base inline six-cylinder engine and either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Finally, the high price tag is due to simple supply and demand. While $121,000 seems like a lot for this car, there’s a long runway of growth potential for a rare model like this. Collectors who appreciate these models are relatively young; with time, their budgets for the perfect car they coveted as a kid will increase, while Supras as clean as this one will only become harder to find. More demand and less supply mean prices have plenty of room to grow.
The illegal Supra
The 1994 Toyota Supra model was banned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration because of serious long-term reliability issues. It would be extremely hard to find this model anywhere in the US; you can’t import it either because it has still been blacklisted by the NHTSA. The ’94 Supra is the only model year with this serious restriction so you can still shop for older models if you would like.
Supra production suspended
Even with the terrible 1994 model year, the Supra remained popular for a while and was still considered as an excellent performer and hailed for its upscale cabin and technology. However, in 1998, Toyota ultimately discontinued the Supra in North America because of low sales. In 2002, Toyota stopped producing the Supra because it didn’t align with Japan’s updated fuel-efficiency guidelines.
Supra the reprise
After being on hiatus for over 20 years, Toyota decided to revive the Supra for 2020. Enthusiasts still love this coupe because of its thrilling performance, gorgeous interior, and user-friendly technology.
Each 2020 Supra model is powered by a smooth BMW turbocharged six-cylinder engine that’s mated with an eight-speed automatic and makes a 335-horsepower. Rear-wheel drive is also standard on the 2020 Supra, and all-wheel drive is not officially available. But, you could convert your Supra.
The Supra’s handling capability is ideal for the street as well as the track and can compete with the likes of the Chevy Corvette and even the Porsche Cayman GTS. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. The Supra also has an above-average fuel-economy rating with a combined 26 mpg.
Inside the Supra
Since performance capability is the same on each 2020 Supra model, the interior is what really separates the trim levels. The standard GR Supra 3 model offers a suede-like material and has an attractive infotainment display.
A host of advanced safety features come standard, including forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking. On the Premium trim, you get an upgraded infotainment system and leather upholstery. The Supra 3 starts at $49,990, and the Premium model starts at $53,990.
The 2020 Supra earned a lower reliability score from Consumer Reports due to the three recall notices on the model. One has to do with a headlight failure, another with the backup camera, and one for issues with the front seatbelts. Impacted owners have been notified of these issues.
Since the Supra is so new, there isn’t a ton of extensive data available. Generally, the Toyota brand is known to be reliable, but some of these issues are BMW related.
Safety Is a Surprising Highlight for the 2020 Toyota Supra
The Supra made its comeback for the first time since the final Toyota Supra was sold in the US in 1998. A fifth-generation Supra, the A90, — largely developed by BMW and using a BMW powertrain and many other components from the new Z4 — was unveiled at the 2019 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) that happened in Detroit from January 14 – 27. It’s the first time a new Supra will be offered in over two decades, so naturally, excitement is high.
The 2020 Toyota Supra is a compact sports car that comes equipped with several sought-after features. The exterior of the Supra is outlined in sleek lines and well-defined curves that help to give it a sporty and agile look. At first glance, the car looks very similar to the BMW Z4. However, once you start to explore all of the high-tech features that this car comes with, you can instantly see the differences.
It has a 335 horsepower inline-six-cylinder turbocharged engine that’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. Featuring a low centre of gravity and a 50-50 weight balance, it also optimizes aerodynamic balance. The 2020 Supra goes on sale in the summer of 2019 and will come in two grades, 3.0 and 3.0 Premium, in addition to a “Launch Edition.” Colours will include Renaissance Red 2.0, Nitro Yellow, and Downshift Blue.
Recently, Motor1 reviewed the Supra and found it to be just as wonderful as long-time Toyota fans thought that it would be. And although most people were already expecting the Supra to be an impressive car, there was one particular aspect of the car that really seemed to surprise everyone.
The 2020 Toyota Supra comes with a plethora of style and comfort features. The exterior features LED headlights and taillights. When you first glance at this car, it is hard to miss the three large vents on the nose, side, and rear of the car. The vents don’t serve any purpose other than making the car have a sportier feel to it. The rear spoiler is subtle but helps to add even more to the overall sportiness of the car.
The interior of the car is a little cramped and only offers seating for up to two people. The infotainment display is 6.5 inches, but you can get the available 8.8-inch display that comes equipped with a navigation system, Apple CarPlay, and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
While the Supra’s recent surge in popularity is due to Toyota’s years of teasing the new fifth-generation A90 model, the nameplate also benefits from plenty of residual love from car fans. The fourth generation’s curvaceous, seductive design and performance specs (for its era) holds a special place in the hearts of sports car enthusiasts and collectors. For many, the Supra was an introduction to the world of sports cars, and unlike the more unattainable exotic supercars of its era, this one seemed more in reach. The ‘Fast and Furious’ connection also helped to indoctrinate a new generation of Supra fans who loved the vehicle’s looks and performance plus its potential for modification.
The unveiling of the 2020 Supra was a thrilling moment for anyone who appreciates sports cars. Oh, and if you happen to run into a stock fourth-gen Toyota Supra in great condition, do yourself a favour and pick it up. Even 20 years later, it’s clear that this unstoppable sports car has plenty of life left in it.