Will the Real Performance Toyota Please Stand Up? The V8 Lexus IS500 vs Turbo GR Supra 3.0
When it comes to large automakers, few have done as much to improve their standing with auto enthusiasts in recent years than Toyota. From the new and improved second-generation GR86, to the critically adored GR Yaris, to unusual yet exciting enthusiast products like the TRD Camry and a RAV4 with over 300 horsepower—there’s a lot to like for Toyota fans these days.
And that’s all before you get to the brand’s performance flagship, the GR Supra. Despite being built by BMW, the Supra is easily the hottest car you’ll find in a Toyota dealership right now. But there’s another Toyota-built performance machine with a similar price that could give the Supra a run for its money—the Lexus IS500 F Sport Performance.
Both the GR Supra 3.0 and the IS500 have sticker prices in the mid $50,000 range, but which is the better enthusiast machine for Toyota fans?
BMW or Lexus
The debate over whether the new Supra is a “real” Toyota has been going on since the car was revealed. Toyota may have contributed more to the car’s development than many give them credit for, but there’s no escaping that the Supra is mechanically a BMW, with an engine, platform and even a driver interface from the German automaker.
And while the IS500 may not have Toyota badges, it’s a Toyota product through and through. It may have been developed with the American market in mind, but it’s made in Japan and its DNA is pure Toyota.
Before you get to any other differences between the two, the IS500 should be the easy choice for those appalled that Toyota would let another company build its performance flagship.
V8 vs Turbo
Not only are they sold in different dealerships, the IS500 and Supra are two very different types of cars. It’s BMW roots aside, the Supra is a two-seat sports car while the IS500 is a sedan.
And their engines couldn’t be more different from each other. The Supra uses a BMW 3.0 liter twin turbocharged inline-six, while the IS500 uses a naturally aspirated 5.0 liter V8.
Sadly though if you want a manual gearbox you’ll have to look elsewhere as both the IS500 and Supra are only available with eight-speed automatic transmissions. But if one were to be offered with a manual in the future, it’d likely be the Supra as the transmission could be easier sourced from the BMW parts bin.
The Performance Edge
Output-wise, the IS500’s V8 has the edge with 472 horsepower and 395 pound feet of torque. The Supra 3.0, meanwhile, makes 382 horsepower and 368 pound feet of torque from its turbo inline six. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Not only are the Supra’s power figures likely underrated, it’s also a lighter car—meaning it’ll out-accelerate it in a straight line and it’s also much of more a “sports car” around a track, with higher grip and higher limits.
The Supra’s twin turbo engine also gives a lot more potential when it comes to unlocking more power with aftermarket upgrades. And being a Supra, it will also have a lot more aftermarket options all around when compared to the Lexus.
But with all the said, the IS500 still offers a pretty special experience. It may be less of a hardcore performance machine than the Supra, but the naturally aspirated V8 is an endangered species and it should prove to be extremely reliable for years to come.
And compared to the Supra it’ll will be a much more comfortable daily driver with the ability to take family and friends with you.
The Real Toyota?
Which one of these cars you pick will always come down to personal preference, and despite both being RWD performance cars sold by the same company at similar price points, the GR Supra and Lexus IS500 offer very distinct experiences.
Do you want the iconic Supra name and tons of turbocharged performance? Or do you want the bulletproof V8, wonderful engine soundtrack, and luxury car appeal of the IS500?
Either choice will be great fun in its own way. In today’s market having that choice should be appreciated by all car enthusiasts, both hardcore Toyota fans and casual observers alike.
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- Speaking of the Supra's aftermarket potential, here's what happens when a pair of modified examples get together at the dragstrip.