Car reviews - Toyota - 86 - GT
Sachs suspension delivers winning blend of ride and handling, superb steering and ESC, lovely gearshift, great value for money
Room for improvement
Engine needs to be caned to deliver, lacks latest active safety and connectivity features, sparse GT cabin
After six years, Toyota’s 86 GT Performance Pack could deliver its best performance yet.
28 Nov 2018
THEY say competition improves the breed, but in the case of the Toyota 86 there has been little need to rush through substantial change in the six years since it launched.
Like a slow-drip tap, then, the natural tick of time has slowly brought greater changes culminating in this GT Performance Package that lobbed late last year. It followed the 2016 mid-life facelift of the Toyota (and Subaru BRZ) sportscar that delivered a small lift in cabin quality, a minor power hike, a stronger body, softer suspension and a new electronic stability control (ESC).
Such tweaks made for an incrementally better rear-wheel drive, two-door model, but now the 86 Performance Pack makes its greatest step forward in value-for-money terms since this generation lobbed back in 2012 for a scarcely believable $30K plus on-road costs.
The ‘PP’ brings with it 17-inch alloy wheels (up from 16s), Brembo brakes and Sachs suspension that were previously reserved for a $40K-plus limited-edition model grade available only in searing orange paint. Now, the mechanical upgrades are served up for less than before. Much less, in fact.
Price and equipment
The 86 GT is now priced from $31,440 plus on-road costs, an increase of $650 – as of December 2017 – owing to the addition of satellite navigation with ToyotaLink internet apps connectivity. Meanwhile this Performance Pack adds another $2900 to the pricetag, at $34,340 all told.
Considering that its near-twin Subaru BRZ costs $33,990 in standard form without the Sachs/Brembo upgrade, but with a higher level of standard kit, the value of this 86 GT Performance Pack is especially obvious to enthusiasts focused more on driver controls than climate controls.
Speaking of which, the 86 GT continues with manual air-conditioning controls shared with a Yaris and HiAce, versus the dual-zone climate control in the BRZ, while that model’s keyless auto-entry and push-button start have been flicked for a single key to twist-and-turn here. The Subaru lacks integrated nav, but it exclusively gets Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity missing here.
It should also be mentioned that Toyota offers the 86 GTS for $36,640 with all of its near-twin’s equipment except CarPlay/A-Auto, while it further adds part-leather trim with heated front seats. The Performance Pack can also be added for $2200 – making for a fully loaded $38,840 86 GTS.
With a glass-half-full perspective, this Toyota feels like a blank canvas inside, refreshingly without glitz and glamour yet with several driver delights. The front seats are superbly positioned, low and deep in the cockpit, while they are also nicely bolstered and comfortable.
The little leather-wrapped steering wheel is fantastic to hold, while there are proper door grabs, a digital speedometer and simple ergonomics that in some ways reduce the need for driver aids that could be considered compensation for the driver distraction of myriad buttons and features.
Meanwhile, and unlike with a two-seat MX-5, there are usable twin back seats that offer a nicely tilted base and are ideal for children. Despite the 86 being physically smaller than a Mustang, the difference in legroom and headroom is also minimal.
Engine and transmission
The FA20-generation 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder is a hybrid, but not in the usual Toyota way. Instead it takes that car-maker’s direct-injection design and melds it with Subaru’s horizontally opposed ‘flat’ configuration to create … well, a controversial engine.
Almost as though ‘Toyobaru’ engineers have thrived on the hullabaloo surrounding this petrol engine, it has virtually been left untouched over six years.
Delivering only 12Nm more torque than a $19,490 Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Comfortline, but right up in the high heavens of the rev band, and installed in a coupe with a 1243kg kerb weight, also creates drivability issues.
On the flipside, the superb shift of the tested manual does help keep this ‘boxer’ fighting, and anywhere above 5000rpm until 7800rpm it develops a sweet single-pitch shrill accompanied by energetic – if not fast – performance.
Ride and handling
The 86 does not necessarily need more power, but it arguably should weigh less. Although smaller, and a roadster, an MX-5 with an identically-sized engine has a 1033kg kerb weight that helps liberate its performance. But while this Toyota never feels as light on its feet as that Mazda, it does feel more seriously focused.
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