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Coupé Cousins

The performance recipe remains the same... mostly

Deon Van Der Walt
April 26, 2023
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Coupé Cousins

This is the quintessence of performance motoring. The humble coupé. Write it with or without an Acute Accent; the fact remains, out of all the contenders at Speed Week 2022, this duo has remained most faithful to its performance roots. The formula here is relatively simple: keep the centre of gravity low by really challenging the resolve of whoever wants to get in and out. Add a long bonnet, and keep the engine at the front – only a real coupe houses the powertrain over the front axle. Keep the overhangs short and apply power figures generously. Lots of power is good, more power is better, but be careful not to get carried away; these cars tend to bite. 

Toyota GR Supra Manual

Yes, yes, we all know the story of how the new Supra got to be a Supra. Call it a Zupra, though, at your own peril. Probably the most-anticipated car to participate in this year's speed experiment, Toyota managed to transmorph the Supra Manual into one of the rawest driving machines around. Period. Sure, it's built on a BMW Z4 platform, and yes, the cabin doesn't try to hide that fact with wholesale Bavarian executions intermingled with Supra graphics. Even some specific BMWesque nuances are present, like navigating layers of screens to deactivate the pesky lane-keep assist. These are all tiny details in the makeup of this car, though. You really won't spend much time assessing the interior here. We recommend an eyes-forward approach. 

Underneath the long bonnet beats a turbo-assisted 3.0-litre, in-line 6-cyl engine that emits one of the most heartwarming accelerative melodies in the present company – only beat, we think, by the Alfa Romeo Giulia QV. Then there are the power figures: 250 kW and 500 Nm of smile-inducing torque that needs to be managed by the Supra's party piece; that 6-speed manual iMT shifter. Speaking of the manual shifter, this is also one of the more polarising features of the Supra. It requires a certain finesse to be enjoyed to its fullest. Sure, some prefer their performance driving with a finger-tap at the rear of the steering wheel to shift gears, others like a feather-light clutch pedal with a short-throw 'box and some heelin' and toein'. The Supra has neither. It's best enjoyed with stomping on the clutch pedal and a well-coordinated, well-practiced upshift. The iMT system also matches and synchronises your revs for maximum hero moments on the downshift but it really does take some getting used, perhaps something that will become easier, the longer time you spend with the car. It must be noted that our test unit had just over a thousand km’s on the clock. It must also be noted, that our Speed Week contender is a pre-production model, so the carpet trampling on the left pedal may well be sorted before it reaches showrooms. On the whole, we approve. 

Anything that is as engaging in the way it looks as it is in the way it drives deserves some praise. As a product of pure performance, the Supra manual’s short rear overhang is perhaps what starts to unravel its Japanese armour. The Supra is constantly moving around underneath you particularly at the rear. Even in fourth gear at full throttle nearing the 200 km/h mark, you can feel its jittery nature and that, while engaging, isn’t necessarily good for one’s confidence, particularly along a wet and windy Slaaihoek.

BMW M240i xDrive

Glancing at the name above, it's easy to mistake this coupé contender as a watered-down, junior M2. Okay, technically that’s sort of right but that's not the point. Think of it as more of the junior sibling that can hold its own in a brawl. And the prettier one, too, according to the public at our Silverstar Show Day. Comments directed towards the M2 ranged from the rear with more squares than an algebra problem to the grille with a severe case of engorged nostril disease (doesn’t this sound familiar?)  – we’re (here we go again) not sure if that last one is even an actual ailment but again, that's not the point. 

In terms of on-paper figures, the M240i is in the upper median of power and torque outputs relative to its competition at Speed Week with 285 kW, and, like the Supra, it also has 500 Nm of torque from its in-line 6-pot turbocharged engine. To put that into perspective, if you were to hook its four driven wheels up to a broken Eskom powerplant, the available Newtons would likely be able to kickstart our economy again. In theory, we suspect… And if 95-Octane was cheaper. 

The BMW M240i xDrive was immensely popular among the TGSA test team. Wrestling it through the never-ending bends of Slaaihoek all dialled in to its performance setting, it's one of the most analogue-feeling performance cars on these pages. You must work for every inch, keep your wits about you under hard braking with a light and twitchy rear-end, compose the inevitable understeer that stems from the xDrive system and control the oversteer on the exit. It's not for the faint of heart, but the driving-feel rewards are incredible. Isn't that, ultimately, what a coupé is all about?

Slaaihoek really is a place where the power, torque and handling trifecta really matter. When it’s wet and dreary, the M240i didn’t quite have the grip and confidence of its bigger brother and in fact, its lack of grip was the surprise of the day. And this is why you’ll notice how poorly it fared on the timed lap. Mandla described it as the most slippery car of the group which was surprising to all of us. Its poor time is a result of a total loss of control into the final chicane. 

Perhaps it didn't ace the timing cards but it's off the charts on the fun-o-metre that measures feels and smiles…and it looks pretty good too. Remember the 'stay faithful to performance roots' sentiment at the beginning of this article? That's what makes the M240i really quite special…just be careful in the rain. 

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