This cars new model follows its ancestors because it shares those key aspects – and it has a lot of heritage to live up to, not to mention a set of incredibly accomplished rivals that it has to beat. And they’re a varied bunch, because the formula beneath the striking body differs slightly from car to car.
The Audi TT has just been updated, which means there’s a new version of the blisteringly fast TT RS, which will be the Supra’s first hurdle. It’s one cylinder down on the Supra, but has a lot more power and four-wheel drive.
Then there’s the Porsche 718 Cayman. The previous Supra was a rival for Porsche’s entry-level 968 in the mid-nineties, and the modern version also goes up against the smallest Porsche, in Cayman S guise.
The Supra’s long bonnet is a bit deceptive, because the Toyota has a relatively small footprint on the road. The TT and 718 Cayman are longer and taller than the Supra, which also has the shortest wheelbase of the three. This compactness, with a wide track but short wheelbase, was key to the car’s development from the outset.
Under that long bonnet is a 3.0-litre straight-six turbo engine, which drives the rear wheels. This is a classic layout for a brawny sports car, in contrast to the Audi’s transverse engine. The 718 Cayman is the only mid-engined model here.
The straight-six motor in the Supra sounds slightly muted, but it’s very smooth and its performance is genuinely impressive and enjoyable. It sprinted from 0-60mph in 4.1 seconds and easily held its own in our straight-line tests. It was quickest from 30-50mph in third and fourth gears (taking just 1.8 and 2.2 seconds respectively) and its eight-speed gearbox has one more ratio than its rivals, so it was also faster in our 50-70mph in-gear tests.
The gearbox isn’t as snappy as the Porsche’s PDK, but it’s good enough, and the plentiful torque means you can keep things relaxed at low revs and still make swift progress, or rev it out for maximum attack. However, the engine does start to lose its urgency beyond 5,000rpm.
The Audi TT was updated early in 2019, and the RS version is now available with the same set of minor upgrades. It’s the most powerful car here, with 395bhp, and it’s also the most expensive at £57,905 (although a cheaper variant is available).
That quattro four-wheel-drive system is tuned differently in the RS, sending up to 100 per cent of the power to the rear wheels in certain conditions. Audi hasn’t stuck to convention with the TT RS’s engine, either, because the 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder unit is a rare find these days, and is one of the best motors in any of the brand’s RS models. It’s bursting with personality and produces a very healthy 480Nm of torque alongside that 395bhp, sent through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
The 718 Cayman is available with two engines: a 2.0-litre unit in the standard car and a 2.5-litre motor in the S variant we’re testing here (the GTS in our images also uses a 2.5). It’s available as a manual – unlike its rivals – but we’re looking at the PDK automatic version, which costs from £56,365.
While the Supra and TT RS are front-engined models, the Cayman is mid-engined, with the motor placed just ahead of the rear wheels, behind the cabin. The Porsche’s engine is an uncommon flat-four configuration, with the pistons pushing in and out in a ‘boxer’ motion rather than up and down like a traditional in-line four. It produces 345bhp and 420Nm of torque from 2,100rpm. The 718 is the lightest car in this test, and performance is excellent.