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The mkiv Supra Owners Club

What are the various Supra models available and which one do I want? (Part III)

Aerotop Dave

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Right... got all that then? So now you're probably asking 'But which one do I actually want to go for?' Okay, there are really only three main questions you need to ask yourself:


1) Do I want a UK or J spec car?

2) Do I want a NA or TT model?

3) Do I want an auto or manual?



UK or J spec?

The UK versus J spec argument is all getting a bit boring these days, so let's see if we can stick to the facts and skip over personal opinions -



Despite the differences with the fuel injectors, turbos and overall weight (the UK car is heavier due to the extra mechanical bits), there isn't really any significant performance difference between the two. The J spec turbos spool faster, but the UK ones can take more boost. Both are very fast cars.


The UK car has the highest overall specification, with full leather, headlamp height adjust, heated seats, etc. Some people think the headlamp washers look crap and take them off. Others think the UK bonnet scoop is cool and fit them to J specs. Fitting heated seats to a J spec is a rare mod, hardly anyone has bothered to do it. If you buy a UK car it will be fully loaded, but are these bits you actually want or need?


There are a few mechanical differences which either make the UK car better or just make for more things to go wrong depending on your point of view. None of them add significantly to the performance of the car, most are more designed to combat wear and tear. This should make the UK cars more reliable, but J Spec cars have a history of being super-reliable anyway.


The UK car has a more 'GT' setup - softer suspension, mechanical extras to counter the effects of long distance driving on the car, 'nicer' interior with air con, heated seats, full leather, etc. The J spec version is more 'street racer' - harder suspension, lighter weight, faster spooling turbos.


There are far more J specs about than UK cars. This means you you'll be waiting longer for a UK car to become available (and if you want a manual UK car you'll be waiting even longer, there are very few about), but a UK car will probably hold it's value slightly better. It also means there are more J spec cars to choose from of course (including those for sale in Japan).


J spec service history can be iffy, or even non-existant. Even if you're getting a full service history it's all in Japanese so you won't be able to make head nor tail of it. With a UK car you understand the service history and maybe even contact the garages who did it to find out more. All Toyota dealers will service the UK car, but a lot of Toyota dealers won't service the J spec. But a lot of owners don't trust Toyota dealers anyway.


Some J spec cars have had dodgy UK conversions - the speed limiter may still be in place (which limits you to 112mph), the speedo could be reading wrong, there may be an ugly fog light hanging off the back bumper (fog lights aren't required in Japan and are fitted to gain UK registration). All fixable, but all cost money. Equally there are plenty of cars around which have been converted properly (including having the fog light as part of the rear light cluster). With the UK version obviously it's all set up for the UK anyway so you don't even need to think about this aspect.


There are no UK Aerotops, VVTi or NA models, so if you want any of these you won't be able to have the higher overall UK specification.


J spec cars frequently don't have the big brakes or wheels. Again fixable, but again this costs money (quite a lot actually). UK cars have them as standard.


Insurance on the J spec can often be prohibitively expensive, especially if you're under 25. But if you're older there's hardly any difference (you'll have more problems with insurance when it comes to declaring modifications). The UK car is more easily insured since more companies will give you a quote - a lot of companies don't even offer insurance on imported cars.


So overall there is no hard and fast rule as to which to go for. Both are great cars, both can be tuned, a lot of the extra items on the UK cars can be fitted to the J spec, but the UK car already has some of the 'standard' modifications (such as big brakes, 17" wheels, bigger fuel injectors, etc). If you're trying to decide probably the only thing you need to definitely check is the insurance as insuring a J spec can be very expensive indeed depending on your age, location and the company who you get the quote from. Those under 25 may find it's simply not possible to afford to insure a J spec and so the choice is effectively made for them.




NA or TT?

Externally the NA Supra is identical, so it's not as if anyone will be able to tell that you have the slower model. And let's not underestimate the performance of the 3 litre NA car either - in the UK we're used to our 1.6s and 2.0s and this is a 225bhp 3 litre, so it's no slouch. Insurance is cheaper than the J spec TT too, although again there's a good chance you'll run into the import problem again with some companies. Amazingly many people have got cheaper quotes for a UK TT than for an J spec NA.


Basically the NA offers all the head turning looks of the Supra without the fuel or insurance costs, and if you're looking for an Aerotop then there are far more NA Aerotops around than TT versions, plus you could get lucky and find one of the rare facelifted Aerotops (remember, facelifted Aerotops don't exist in TT form). The interiors are pretty much identical, the only significant difference is the lack of traction control but to be honest it's pretty useless anyway and a lot of TT owners just remove it. Since the NA was the entry level model in Japan you may also find optional extras such as leather seats, the bigger brakes and the limited slip differential all missing, but obviously many of these extras can be retro-fitted.


So that just leaves the performance aspect, because while this is still a fast car it's obviously not the TT version, and you can't simply bolt on the twin turbos at a later date as there are signficant differences between the two engines. It doesn't have the devastating performance or second-turbo-kick of the TT, and that's really the key factor to think about when considering the NA. If you can live without the extra oomph, then don't dismiss the NA version.



Auto or manual?

So to round off we come to the last big decision to make - auto or manual. The Supra auto isn’t your typical ponderous auto box - this is a responsive unit with three speeds plus an overdrive and with excellent kickdown that revs all the way to the red line. In addition it has a full manual mode - press the manual button next to the gear selector and you can manually shift through the gears yourself. Having said that, there’s no doubt that if you want a more involving driving experience the manual is the one to have, in either five or six speed versions. On UK cars autos are the more plentiful variety and you could be waiting some time for a manual to become available. J spec cars are a different matter as there seems to be a good mix of both types. Most people’s first reaction on thinking about getting an auto Supra is ‘no way’, but don’t dismiss it. If you get the chance to try out both before buying then do so, as this is quite a personal thing and reactions vary greatly. Some drivers instantly fall in love with the auto while others just want to have more control and choose the manual. I was very wary of getting an auto, but now I doubt if I’d ever have a manual Supra.


Basically if you want the maximum driving involvement from your Supra then go for the manual. If you're happy to just plant your foot on the floor and have a solid 'wall' of acceleration then go auto.


Acceleration is more fun in the auto, but the corners are more fun in the manual... and there lies the problem in trying to decide :)

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  • 1 month later...

I found your exposition incredibly helpful. As a result I decided to buy an SZ-R Aerotop, which is delightful.

I have a few questions which you may be able to answer, or suggest how I can get them answered.


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1. I live in Amersham Bucks, where should I get it serviced?

2. It has no alarm, what is the one to get, and from whom, and who can fit them without buggering up the wiring and interior?

3. Spares - to be got from ?

4. Owner's handbook and workshop manual - how and where would I get these items?

5. Is there a rear parcel shelf/luggage disguising fitment available?

Any help greatly appreciated.


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