Car reviews - Toyota - 86 - GTS
Hugely improved suspension and electronic stability control (ESC) tune, fantastic steering and handling, great auto
Room for improvement
Kerb weight heavily affects engine performance and driveability, manual can be more frustrating than auto
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2 Jun 2017
Price and equipment
THE headline act for the Toyota 86 five years ago was its $29,990 plus on-road costs pricetag. The base GT manual now increases by $800 to $30,790, with LED daytime running lights, a 6.1-inch touchscreen and reverse-view camera newly added. Meanwhile 16-inch alloy wheels are unchanged, and main equipment is limited to manual air-conditioning and cruise control.
The GTS manual steps up $500 to $36,490 but gains more extras, including steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a 4.2-inch colour trip screen and suede-like ‘Grandlux’ dashboard trim.
For the $5700 premium over the base 86 it further includes larger 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, LED foglights, keyless auto-entry, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, satellite navigation for the identically sized screen and part-leather seats with front heating.
The six-speed automatic – also sampled here – commands a $2300 premium on both model grades.
Interestingly, the 86 GTS costs $3500 more than its Subaru BRZ twin, yet for that price only adds a spoiler, sat-nav, part-leather and heated front seats.
It does not seem like great value by comparison.
Where the 86 GT feels like a base model inside, this 86 GTS raises cabin ambience significantly. Although soft-touch plastics still cover the dashboard area, the doors remain of the hard and scratchy variety that reminds buyers this is a sub-$40,000 sportscar.
However, where the GT even gets grey doorhandles, as well as a completely grey dash fascia, the suede-like inserts of the GTS, as well as its chrome doorhandles and the piano-black trim on the centre stack and door power window controls, all leverage its standing considerably.
Flicking the GT’s manual rotary-dial air-con controls – shared with a Yaris and HiAce bus – for electronic dual-zone climate controls also help, as does the addition of a colour trip computer screen, which now also shows a power and torque graph, and cornering G-force meter.
Sadly, however, the centre touchscreen is still also shared with Yaris and HiAce. It is an aftermarket-looking unit with poor resolution and usability lacking any app connectivity or decent voice control – Subaru’s unique alternative is demonstrably superior. In either 86 model grade, though, the smaller (now just 362mm in diameter) leather-wrapped steering wheel is a beauty.
This Toyota already had a marvellous driving position claimed to be benchmarked on that of a Porsche Cayman. It feels that way, with lovely driver’s pew support – and a tilted rear duo of seats to partially compensate for tight legroom – plus natural gear shifter and pedal placement that leaves Mazda MX-5 front passengers feeling as though they are sitting on top of a sponge cake only by comparison, though. The 230-litre boot is about twice the size of that price-point roadster rival, too.
Engine and transmission
Some sportscar enthusiasts have cried out incessantly for a half-decade about the Toyota 86’s apparent lack of power. To some, the Subaru-built, Toyota-direct fuel injected 2.0-litre ‘boxer’ flat four-cylinder engine surely needed a turbocharger to boost its lowly outputs.
It is bad news for them, though, because power lifts by only 5kW to 152kW at 7000rpm, while torque is boosted – but not literally by a turbo – by 7Nm to 212Nm from 6400rpm to 6800rpm a 200rpm-wider window than before. Even then, the changes are reserved for manual models only.
However, in typical 86 fashion, Toyota claims improvements beyond sheer numbers. The intake manifold is now made of aluminium not plastic, and painted in Ferrari-red to match, while intake and exhaust systems have been revised to achieve “better breathing” while both the cylinder block and pistons have been altered for “greater durability.”
We swapped between the 86 GT manual and GTS automatic for this test, and found the differences in performance were difficult to discern. But if anything the older engine in the automatic version sounded sweeter to the ear, with a more strident pitch.
The Toyota automatic is brilliant, too, with a sports mode that delivers crisp shifts and permits the driver to use the steering wheel-mounted paddleshifters to aggressively grab a lower gear without denying the request like most of its type from the brand. Perhaps controversially, the 86 auto can be less frustrating than the otherwise slick and fluent manual, which needs to be rowed to disguise the paucity of torque. Under 5000rpm, the engine is left wanting, but it does enliven beyond that figure.
Ride and handling
While the 86’s engine performance continues to be hampered mainly by a hefty 1258kg kerb weight – an MX-5 with the same-sized engine is a staggering 225kg lighter – the revised suspension if anything helps this Toyota feel friskier and more nimble than before.
The steering is unchanged, thankfully because it is among the sharpest yet most progressive, and smoothest yet most engaging systems around, now only further enhanced by the smaller wheel. But Toyota has backed off the rear damper settings by 15 per cent, thanks to a 50 per cent increase in C-pillar spot-welds plus hardened suspension mounting points that deliver greater body rigidity, while firming up the front dampers by 10 per cent teamed with thicker under-bonnet strut bracing.
There is also a thicker anti-roll bar and a new three-stage ESC, with a Track mode replacing the previous less-restrictive Sport mode, and a “fully off” setting still available.
All such changes make up a greater whole, and the new 86 feels substantially different (and better) to drive than the pre-facelift model. Where before it simply felt firm at both ends, the front-end now feels sharper, the rear-end rolling into corners to a greater degree than before to help the nose point.
It allows the driver to better engage with the fabulous rear-wheel-drive chassis, while the new ESC feels far smoother and more subtle in operation, allowing the driver to use the throttle earlier and harder than before without intrusion – and despite the name, the Track mode is an ideal on-road setting with a still-obvious safety net.
Safety and servicing
Six airbags (including dual front, front-side and full-length curtain protection), ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC) and rearview camera are standard.
ANCAP tested the Toyota 86 in 2012 and it scored five stars with 34.40 out of 37 points.
Toyota’s capped-price servicing plan costs an extremely affordable $180 for each of the first four nine-month or 15,000km dealer check-ups.
The Toyota 86 is an even better driver’s car than before, in either manual or automatic guise. And the GTS model grade is far more convincing than the, albeit cheaper, base GT version. There again, the Subaru BRZ is better value again, providing a middle-ground sweet-spot between the two.
Whatever the badge on this facelifted Japanese-built rear-wheel-drive sportscar, the suspension and ESC changes have thoroughly taken the coupe from being a little bit inferior to a Mazda MX-5, to overwhelming dynamic dominance over that newer roadster.
Ultimately the hefty kerb weight and torque-deprived engine let the side down, and as fabulous as the manual transmission is, it became tiring wringing its neck around town or on the open road, leaving the automatic as the surprise star, if not clear pick.
That lack of performance and poor infotainment also leaves the plucky Mazda as the all-rounder and with a higher degree of cohesive fun factor. If the drivetrain of the next 86 could match its high-watermark dynamics, though, then this Toyota would become both interesting and unstoppable.
Mazda MX-5 from $31,990 plus on-road costs
Gorgeous blend of performance, dynamics and tech cohesion.
Subaru BRZ from $32,990 plus on-road costs
Ridiculously affordable 86-twin a value star.
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