When the initial list of cars for Run to the Sun 2019 began circulating, there was one I was excited to drive more than any other — the new Supra. And not only did it deliver, it won its class.
Because while the rollout for the new sports coupe was infuriatingly protracted, there’s no manual option, and fan boys will howl that it’s too much BMW and not enough Toyota, I couldn’t believe that Toyota would put the legendary Supra name on a sports car that wasn’t top notch — and I was right.
The Supra was an absolute blast to drive, and from a fun perspective, it was my favorite of all the machines in the Performance Coupe category.
The first thing that struck me about it was how much smaller it is in person than it appears in pictures. Even though I was well aware it’s based on the BMW Z4, for some reason, I expected it to be bigger. But it’s a tight little package, and looks absolutely stunning. The sheet metal has lost none of the drama of the FT-1 Concept that inspired it, and while there isn’t a bad line on the entire car, I found the hips and the integrated spoiler at the back dead sexy.
As I’ve mentioned, there’s no stick available, which is unfortunate. But when I was snapping off shifts with the paddle shifters and hurling in and out of tight corners, I wasn’t missing a third pedal. I quite honestly wasn’t missing anything, as I was fully engaged in the process of driving.
Under the hood, there’s a straight-six packing 335-horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque, and while those aren’t earth-shattering numbers, the car never feels under-powered, and there’s plenty of twist on tap in any gear. For the record, the pops and crackles when you lift off the throttle also sound nasty as hell, and will bring a smile to the face of any enthusiast lucky enough to hear this baby sing.
While some of the roads I navigated while behind the wheel were less than perfect, to put it mildly, the suspension managed to relay road feel without beating me up, which given some of the tarmac, is very high praise. Overall, the Supra might be a pure sports car, but I wouldn’t think twice about making it my daily driver — it’s just too much fun.
Read about the other competitors in the Performance Coupe class below, and head here for a full list of cars from Run to the Sun 2019!
2019 Run to the Sun: Performance Coupe
2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Let’s be clear: driving the 755-horsepower Corvette ZR1 on the street isn’t like bringing a gun to a knife fight. It’s like bringing a cannon to a game of flag football. This beast is, from any sane perspective, wildly inappropriate for public roads. And it’s beautiful. Unfortunately, the example here was an automatic, so I didn’t get to row the gears on the most potent version of the last front-engine Corvette. Boo.
That said, the thrust felt bottomless. The Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires were also incredibly grippy, so much so that they’d follow any slight groove in the road — just like racing tires. Now, at the risk of sounding dreadfully obviously, it’s a blast to drive this machine. It’s a ridiculously powerful Corvette. But the capabilities of this car are so astronomically high, that driving it on the street is ultimately like trying to ride a thoroughbred horse in an elevator. If I had a ZR1, the only time it’d spend in restricted territory would be on the way to the track.
2019 Dodge Challenger R/T SCAT PAK Widebody
In the Dodge lineup, the Hellcat and the Demon are always going to be the models that get talked about the most. And that makes sense. The power levels are so ridiculous, it’s almost a wonder the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Administration didn’t lobby for them to be kept locked in Hades.
But since neither organization went there, Automotive News did.
That said, the Challenger R/T SCAT PAK is the younger sibling that’s always being overshadowed by its siblings. Sure, it’s “only” making 485 horsepower, but the package’s adaptive shocks, beefy brakes, and fat rubber at all four corners make it the one you actually want to take on a twisty road. While there’s certainly no shortage of power, you never feel like you’re a mere foot twitch away from spinning the rear meats into carbon either.
So if you want to blast forward at a pace that will tear your face off? The Demon and Hellcat are perfect. But for everything else, the R/T SCAT PAK Widebody is just right.
2019 Hyundai Veloster N
As impressed as I’ve been with I’ve been with the Hyundai product I’ve driven in recent years, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the N performance line. One thing I sure didn’t expect? That’d be the wicked engine note.
The 275-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter makes a great noise, and when you let off the throttle, it pops and crackles and sounds generally pretty pissed off. Bravo, Hyundai. The engineers hit the sound here right on nose, and it elevated the driving experience significantly. Another thing that seriously elevated the driving experience was the rev-matching feature on the six-speed stick. It was absolutely fantastic, and made every downshift feel buttery smooth. The handling was also spot on, and from the driver’s seat, you’d never know that this was the company’s first proper crack at a hot hatch.
On a twisty road, having fun in the Veloster N is dead easy. So if you’re looking for a practical daily driver with a little bit of attitude, don’t overlook it.
2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition
The Lexus RC F is an old friend. I was actually at the American launch back in 2014, where I got to flog the new sports car at New York’s Monticello Motor Motor Club, and I’ve spent plenty of time in the canyons of Malibu with both the V6 and V8 versions. At the time, I wrote about how I found the performance both exhilarating and approachable, and that remains true today.
The power deliver from the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 in the Track Edition is excellent, and I think it makes a great noise. One thing about the RC F that I’ve found puzzling is that five years on, there’s been no virtually no increase in power from the mill. The first models shipped with 467 ponies, and the example on hand for Run to the Sun was packing 472 horsepower. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but over that time I’d have figured the folks at Lexus would have coaxed it over the 500 horsepower mark — if only because it looks better on paper. That quibble aside, the Track Edition looks the business. The hood and roof are carbon fiber, there are splitters on the rocker panels, a trick rear diffusor, and fixed rear wing to help with downforce. Track rats will also note presence of carbon ceramic brakes.
To take full advantage of all of that kit, you’re going to want to be on a closed course. But while I had be on my best behavior, given that we were on public roads, I still got a kick out of the RC F Track Edition. Unfortunately, if you want one of these weapons-grade examples, you’re out of luck unless you already ordered it. But trust me when I say even the regular RC F is a hoot in the twisties, and it costs a lot less. Read our full review of the Lexus RC F here.
2020 Nissan 370Z Special 50th Anniversary Edition
Now, it’s no secret the Nissan 370Z is a bit long in the tooth. This is apparent in the cabin, as unlike virtually every car on the market today, there’s not screen dominating the center stack. To meet mandatory backup camera requirements, the designers put a display in the rear-view mirror, and it’s an elegant solution. That said? It remains a fantastic driver’s car — and the vintage-inspired livery of the Anniversary Edition sure didn’t hurt anything.
I’ve never been one to chase the latest whiz-bang tech when it comes to sports cars, and maybe that’s what the Nissan felt so refreshing. There’s an analog feel at play here that’s missing in a lot of modern machines, and I loved how direct the steering felt, the loads of mechanical grip, and the howl of the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V6. The suspension is taut, but not so much that you’re going to worry about your fillings, and it kept everything composed whether we on glass-smooth sections of tarmac, or far bumpier bits.
The 370Z was a joy in corners, and while I would have preferred a manual — and its excellent rev-matching feature — the gear ratios on the automatic felt great, and I spent most of my time behind the wheel blipping between second and third. This is one of the few cars on this list you can actually option with a stick, so that gives it a big edge in my book. Read our full review of the Nissan 370Z Special 50th Anniversary Edition here.
2019 Rolls Royce Wraith Black Badge
Yup, there was a Roller at Run to the Sun! Along with a 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 good for 624 horsepower, the famous door-mounted umbrella, and a Starlight Headliner, the luxurious coupe came equipped with a $427,875 suggested retail price.
That makes it the most expensive car I’ve ever driven, and the fastback styling is absolutely stunning. This is a Rolls you’re actually supposed to drive, as opposed to ride in the back of, and it was honestly fine while I was hurling it through corners on a twisty mountain road. Seriously, it handled better than something that weighs roughly 4000 pounds has any right too. While it’s not the most visceral car to drive, the indulgent feel of the materials, womb-like comfort, and amazing craftsmanship make it far more than just a car. It’s a work of art.
This is a machine that makes you want to drive cross country, just so you can turn around and do it again.
That rounds out the competitors in the Performance Coupe category! But there are plenty more where that came from! Head here for a full list of cars and categories from 2019 Run to the Sun!
NWAPA (www.nwapa.org) is a professional organization of automotive journalists and media members from throughout the Pacific Northwest and Southwest Canada. Founded in 1991, NWAPA includes 54 voting members representing more than 700 newspapers, magazines, radio stations, media groups, and the internet. Members of the organization have been testing SUVs and crossovers since the advent of the modern sport-utility vehicle in the mid-1990s. Non-voting NWAPA members include representatives from automotive manufacturers and related industry professionals.