The 2023 Toyota Supra Is Best With the Manual Transmission It Needed From the Start

What do a six-speed manual and Lao Gan Ma spicy chili sauce have in common? Spiritually, more than you think.

byKristen Lee| PUBLISHED Sep 7, 2022 7:00 AM
The 2023 Toyota Supra Is Best With the Manual Transmission It Needed From the Start
Kristen Lee

Offering the current-gen Supra at launch without the option of a manual transmission was a pretty big whiff on Toyota’s part, and it was rightfully dragged for it. But the whole idea behind repent is if you mess up, you can always work to fix your mistakes. If I make a nice dinner that just needs that little extra flavor kick, there’s always Lao Gan Ma to save my ass. The same goes for the 2023 Toyota Supra and the addition of a six-speed manual. Hallelujah, my God. It’s about damn time.

On its face, it’s a good transmission that performs its duties well and is snappy with its shifts. Though I spent just a short amount of time with it, I can tell you it’s easy to track and friendly to operate at low speeds. 

But to head off the question that’s surely made you click on this review in the first place: Yes, there are still hints of BMWish-ness in the tactile feedback. Toyota did a bunch of stuff to harmonize this transmission with the Supra’s existing powertrain and the driving experience it wants its buyers to have, but it’s as they say: You can take the ZF ’box out of the BMW .… 

2023 Toyota GR Supra Manual Review Specs

  • Inline-six base price (3.0 A91-MT as tested): $53,595 ($59,440)
  • Powertrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six | 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 382 @ 5,800 to 6,500 rpm
  • Torque: 368 lb-ft @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
  • 0-60 mph 
    • Manual: 4.2 seconds (est.)
    • Automatic: 3.9 seconds (est.)
  • Seating capacity: 2
  • Cargo capacity: 10.2 cubic feet
  • Curb weight
    • Manual: 3,389 pounds
    • Automatic: 3,411 pounds
  • Wheelbase: 97.2 inches
  • Length: 172.5 inches
  • Width: 73 inches
  • EPA fuel economy
    • Manual: 19 mpg city | 27 highway | 21 combined
    • Automatic: 22 mpg city | 30 highway | 25 combined
  • Quick take: The much-anticipated manual Supra is here, and while the transmission still feels a bit like a BMW’s, it’s still the wonderful sports car I know.
  • Score: 8.5/10

Offered on the straight-six Supra only, I agree it’s a bit of a shame that the manual option excludes the lighter and more affordable four-cylinder model. But at this point, us beggars can’t really be choosers. If this attitude makes driving enthusiasts sound like second-class citizens who ought to take what they can get and be happy about it, then you’re right! We’re a loud but oft-ignored minority because that’s just how the market works. 

As we first reported, the six-speed, three-pedal unit Toyota dropped into the Z4 -based Supra is indeed a reworked BMW example from ZF. It bears an internal parts code of GS6L50TZ—“GS6” to indicate a six-speed manual and “Z” to indicate ZF as its supplier—as opposed to the Z4 sDrive20i’s GS6L40LZ, with the difference between L50T and L40L being “a deviation in transmission ‘type’ and gearset,” according to ace reporting from our own Chris Tsui. 

To build on what Chris already reported, the Supra gets a new shift lever, and its engineering team took out extraneous things like the acoustic package, thus cutting down on weight. They “combined an existing transmission housing and gearset,” according to a press release, but there’s a newly developed large-diameter clutch. A reinforced diaphragm spring means a bigger friction area to contend with the engine’s larger torque output. The final drive ratio was also shortened from 3.15 in the automatic to 3.46 in the manual, which Toyota says will make take-offs and in-gear acceleration feel more immediate. The automaker’s auto rev-matching feature—called iMT and developed in-house—is on by default but can be switched off in an individual drive mode.

Toyota also reduced the amount of driver effort needed to shift by tweaking the lever ratio, which stood out as a red flag to my weighty-shifter-loving ass. Additionally, the automaker says the shift action, as well as the shift knob’s weight and shape, have all been “precisely defined.”

Only for the 2023 model year will Toyota offer the A91-MT Edition, limited to just 500 examples. It gets you the Hazelnut leather seats (pretty!), a GR shift knob, red “Supra” badging, forged, 10-inch gunmetal gray wheels, and either Burnout matte white or CU Later Gray (🙄) exterior paint. This was the car I tested out, and its pricing came to $59,440. It’s a lot, I know.

The big, overall differences here between the automatic Supra and the manual Supra are that the latter weighs 22 pounds less, does zero-to-60 slightly slower, and is a little worse on gas. Gear ratios are as follows: 

Kristen Lee

Everything else with the car—the 3.0-liter, turbocharged inline-six and rear-wheel-drive—remain the same. This is a great thing, as when I compared the Supra against the new Nissan Z back-to-back in a vibes comparison, I thought the Supra was way better. It sounded better, handled better. It just needed a manual.

I had reason to be a little nervous, however. The last BMW manual I drove—the BMW M3—was disappointing. The clutch was too light and the shift action too rubbery and numb. I yearned for the weight of a Honda setup; hell, the Subaru BRZ and GR86 have a terrific transmission, too.

I’ll deliver what I didn’t love first. The clutch and shift action didn’t manage to completely shake off that BMW rubberiness, though it was nowhere near the pushing-two-erasers-together feeling the M3 had. A muted, borderline-hollow thunk accompanied each shift, almost as though there was a layer of impact-deadening material nestled at the base of each gear housing.

The shift throws themselves are a touch on the long side, but the clutch indeed engages easily and isn’t as stiff as the one in the GR86 or BRZ, meaning that stop-and-go traffic is probably more tolerable in the Supra. There was no detectable rev hang and the well-defined gates made it very easy to drive fast. Admittedly, the track Toyota marked out for us at Utah Motorsports Campus was largely a third-gear circuit, but the car took the abuse well, happily pinging between third and fourth.

Driving and riding in the Supra on a track reminded me just how fast the thing is. The steering feels so tightly wound that it practically begs you to fling it into corners. I sensed myself pulling back a bit, though; the Supra also delivers an undeniably rear-drive experience, and at those speeds and pushing the limits of its grip, its ass does start to threaten to swing out.

Toyota did not give us any time on public roads, so I cannot tell you how the manual Supra is around town, but on a short, 40-mph street circuit, it was agreeable and shifted pleasantly. It’s an easy car to get the hang of and has the type of clutch and shift lever setup that’s clearly aimed at a wide range of drivers: ones who commute, ones who enjoy backroads, and ones who track. 

Kristen Lee

This last point is important because even though it’s not how I prefer my manuals to feel (I like heavy clutches that make your left leg feel like it’s going to fall off after a bad spout of traffic and shifters that feel like you’re chambering a round), I also think the manual Supra strikes a good middle ground despite having a lot of people to please. Plus, the engine, balance, and handling are already so superb that they elevate whatever other petty complaint you’d have. While on the topic, I am never jazzed about how little I can see out of the Supra, it must be said.

I’m sure the Supra’s critics will waste no time in leaping into these comments and further harp on the car—I’ll take this moment and remind you all that shitting on the Supra is not a substitute for a personality—but the transmission is just one part of the car, after all. It’s not like the majority of you are going to buy it anyway.

The biggest crime Toyota committed here was releasing the manual Supra years after the new Supra first came out. Of course us nerds are going to hold it under even greater scrutiny than we otherwise would have. 

Kristen Lee

But here’s the truth: If one part of the very great car is merely pretty good, you still end up with something extremely nice. Just like how you wouldn’t swallow a whole spoonful of Lao Gan Ma and instead should put that stuff on good food to make it great, the manual transmission isn’t here to make the Supra, it’s for enhancing it. That was its job from the beginning, and it's a job that it has done right.

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