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The Toyota GT86 Coupe

  • person Julian Brown
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The Toyota GT86 Coupe - 

The Toyota GT86 Coupe

The Toyota gt86 coupe focuses on driving and letting you feel every little movement. Its Subaru-sourced 200hp flat-four engine makes it quick enough, and it’s a joy to drive with its light weight, responsive steering and smooth pedal feel.

It’s a hoot to slide, too, and you can tap into its playful side by disabling the stability controls.

Specifications

With its front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, naturally aspirated engine and skinny tyres, the GT86 is an affordable, fun-to-drive sports car. It was developed to evoke Toyota’s AE86 model of the 1980s, a small, light Corolla coupe that became popular for Showroom Stock, Group A, Club and Rally racing.

The FT86 concept first appeared for the 2013 Tokyo motor show, followed by the production version that debuted in January 2012 as a Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, before the latter’s closure in 2016. Since then, it has been rebadged as a Toyota 86, sharing its chassis with its Japanese-market sibling.

Initially, the GT86 was designed to be the ideal driver’s car with a focus on low-slung seats and a dashboard that places all of the controls within easy reach. It’s also an inexpensive way to learn performance driving, with the ability to disable the traction control and turn it into Sport mode for some sideways fun.

The standard 86 is well-equipped, with keyless entry/start, cruise control, automatic LED headlights and a touchscreen infotainment system. However, if you want the best spec possible, there’s the GT86 Pro which adds leather and Alcantara seats. You can also opt for the Hakone Edition, which is based on the famous two-hour drive along the Hakone road southwest of Tokyo and comes in a unique dark green colour.

Driving impressions

The gt86 is a driver’s car through and through. It’s not fast – its 0-62mph time is nothing to brag about – but it has a proper, rear-wheel drive chassis with plenty of grip and a decent amount of playfulness. The steering is direct and well-weighted, while the small-diameter steering wheel and pedals feel ideally positioned for a fun driving experience.

On coarse surfaces, the GT86’s narrow tyres make a lot of noise and can produce understeer, but this can be overcome with throttle application. The stability program quickly steps in to prevent the car from becoming out of control.

In terms of equipment, the basic GT86 is fairly well-equipped for its price. Standard features include climate control, cruise control and xenon headlights. Later Pro, Orange and Blue Edition models offer heated seats and other comfort options.

It’s easy to see why the Toyota GT86 is held in such high regard among enthusiasts. The modest power output combined with its agile, classic chassis makes it a blast to drive on a twisty road. In a world full of acronym-filled, tech-laden cars, the GT86 feels reassuringly old school. It’s also great value, costing only slightly more than the Fiesta ST or Ford Mustang. The only real downside is the engine, which has a leaden response and a strangely tinny note at low revs.

Rear-wheel drive

The GT86’s rear-wheel drive system allows the car to be pushed rather than pulled, which can feel more engaging on the road and helps the front wheels stick to the road under acceleration. It also gives the car a more traditional sportscar-like handling feel, which is more fun to drive than many contemporary front-wheel drive cars.

With the help of a relatively low kerb weight and a 50:50 front/rear weight distribution, the 86 offers plenty of grip for enthusiastic drivers on a twisty road. The direct, quick-ratio steering and pleasant small-diameter steering wheel also make the GT86 a pleasure to use. The neutral chassis balance initially gives overenthusiastic drivers a little understeer, but it soon morphs into controllable oversteer, which is a lot of fun and can be enjoyed even at modest speeds.

The 2.0-litre boxer engine has a strong mid-range and feels lively when blasted through the rev range. Its throaty intake noise is almost as entertaining as its ferocious exhaust note.

The GT model is well-equipped, with alloy wheels, climate control and cruise control all standard, as are xenon headlights and a rear spoiler. The later Pro, Orange and Blue Edition models add heated leather seats and a more premium interior with Alcantara inserts on the dash and door panels. All GT86 models also get a 4.2-inch instrument cluster display and Bluetooth audio.

Price

Toyota’s 86 is one of a rare breed of affordable rear-wheel-drive sports cars that prioritize pure driving pleasure over practicality. It competes with the similarly priced Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5 Miata convertible, a handful of Honda S2000 hatchbacks that have disappeared from the market, and the new Fiat 124 Spider for the hearts of enthusiasts who prefer an old-school sports car experience.

The base 86 is a $26,655 car with 17-inch wheels, automatic climate control, and a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth streaming and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. It also gets a backup camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a g-meter that measures lateral acceleration.

A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, though a slick-shifting 8-speed automatic is available for an extra $720. Both 86s offer plenty of factory options, including larger wheels and a performance exhaust. An AE86-inspired Hakone Edition adds a black/tan interior and a black spoiler, while the TRD Handling package brings Brembo brakes and Sachs dampers to the GT version.

It’s not difficult to make this coupe even more fun, but there are some caveats worth considering before you commit. For starters, the two-seat rear seat is tight and uncomfortable. There’s also a limited supply of advanced driver aids, which might deter some buyers. For those who can live with these shortcomings, the 86 is a blast to drive.