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The New Supra and The State Of Japanese Car Design

After the longest teaser campaign ever, Toyota released the new A90 Supra. I’ve been waiting for this one since 2007 when Nissan released the GTR, effectively bringing back the Skyline.

The FT-1 and the GR Supra Racing Concept looked amazing, and all that extended teasing was working wonders. And then they finally dropped it at the Detroit Motor Show earlier this month. You know that “wah wah waahh” trombone noise that epitomises fails? That was the only thing echoing in my head as I thought of all the money I was saving up to buy one.

There is already enough on the A90 out there so don’t even get me started on the fact that under the bonnet it’s a BMW Z4. It will therefore be underpowered. Even if the rumours of a turbo-charged version or a hybrid Lexus v6 engine are true, it still isn’t enough juice. I don’t know how Toyota expect to compete with the GTR and the NSX. Maybe they’re not planning to. I guess that is for them to know and me to find out.

What I do know is that I don’t like the way the A90 looks, at all. The design sends all the wrong messages. The beefiness from the GR concept is all but gone, and it just looks like slightly larger MX-5 (which is also ugly).

I feel like they didn’t think about what the old Supra actually meant to people. Yes, the car wasn’t that powerful out of the box. But the engine was engineered in such a way that anyone could easily slap a massive turbo on there and get 600 bhp. And that’s how people have since viewed it; as a beast.

The A90 is also a perfect example of a car that they should have stopped designing way earlier than they actually did. As someone who genuinely loves Japanese sports cars, this was the straw that broke the camel. It led me to think about what the actual hell has happened to Japanese car design.

Early Japanese performance cars were inspired by the European and American cars they were built to rival. This mentality created some seriously attractive stuff. The prime example being the Toyota 2000GT. It’s pretty obvious it was modelled after the Jaguar E-Type. But is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t we take inspiration from things we admire?

Another example of “stealing done right” is the Datsun C110 “Kenmeri” Skyline, clearly inspired by the American muscle cars of the 70s. It’s a beastly thing. Wide, with a huge fast-back rear-end. Pure sex, if you ask me. Datsun, now Nissan, also got the iconic 240Z just right. Another design lift from European sports cars carried out perfectly.

In the 80’s and 90’s Japanese car design moved to its own space with cars that a lot of people think are bland. Let them say what they want. That era gave birth to some of the most iconic machines: The Skylines, the RX7, the NSX, the Impreza WRX, the Lancer Evo and the A80 Supra!

There is something the designs of these cars did so incredibly well: they kept it simple and honest. They weren’t trying to be something they’re not, and they were unpretentious. I swear, if the current Civic Type R was a person I’d slap it. It would be boasting about its 3 differently sized exhausts, its 4 billion fake air vents and more trims than a Chinese suit.

Japanese car designers these days just seem bewildered. They’re so worried about setting themselves apart and being unique, that they forgot the basics. I’ve kept my commentary to sportier cars up until now, but the design chaos applies to all Japanese cars.

I mean, the Prius went from “nerdy but kind of cute” to a Transformer with too much plastic surgery. Lexus has completely lost their mind with that front end that looks like an angular blow-up doll whose mouth just keeps getting bigger and bigger for every year that goes by. All the while Nissan is on their 5th or 6th iteration of the Juke, which rivals the Fiat Multipla for the ugliest car ever made.

Japanese car designers I beg you, go back to simple! Also, if you’re listening, tell your bosses to stop with the dull three-box sedans and start making sports cars like it’s the 90’s all over again.