REVIEW: 2017 TOYOTA 86 SPORTS COUPE

When Toyota decided to retire its Scion brand there was a lot of concern over what would happen to some of the stars of the lineup, cars like the FR-S sports coupe. Thankfully, one of the survivors was the FR-S, which has surfaced in the Toyota range as the Toyota 86. In fact, in other markets outside North America, this great little sports car was always a Toyota 86 and thus has all the attributes of the brand like durability, build quality, buyer appeal and performance.

The 86 was inspired in part by one of Toyota’s great sports cars of the past – the mid-sixties classic 2000GT, now a much prized collectible which still looks fresh today. In fact, the design team ordered that a 2000GT be placed in their studio while they were penning the sleek 86. It proved a wise move and as a result, the 86 packs all the visceral excitement of the 2000GT but adds the most advanced performance and safety technology available today in the form of the company’s Star Safety System.

The compact and agile 86 is styled and engineered very much in the great traditions of grand touring cars old and new and with its affordable price, fills a big gap in a market dominated by exotic, high-priced sports cars with large and complex engines. Lovers of classic GT car features and performance can now enjoy outstanding driving fun for a lot less money with this visually appealing and responsive car.

The car’s classic and well-proven front engine/rear drive layout has at its core an advanced horizontally-opposed four cylinder engine with Subaru origins that takes up minimal space and allows for a very sleek hood line plus a low centre of gravity. In fact, the 86 has a lower centre of gravity than a Porsche Cayman or Nissan GT-R with highly beneficial effects on handling and agility.

A reminder of the unconventional power plant can be found in the 86’s fender side emblems. The emblem features opposed pistons – the key boxer feature – with a central ’86’ logo, which has fascinating origins. The 86 looks back to the FT-86 and AE86 concept cars which pioneered what became the Toyota 86. Also intriguing is the fact that 86 X 86 is the bore and stroke of the 86’s 4-cylinder, 2.0-litre, 200-horsepower engine.

Advanced engine technology boosts fuel economy while stabilizing combustion and aiding high-output performance. The technologically-advanced engine makes for a thrilling drive with zero to 100 km/h times of close to six seconds. It’s also one of those rare cars that feels just as exciting cruising around at the speed limit as it does when driving it on the track. It has a nice throaty growl too.

The 86 can be extensively customized and the driver-focused interior was even designed to be fitted with a rollover bar for competition purposes. Visually appealing and with timeless lines, the 86 offers true sports car enjoyment at a very affordable price and is right in there with the ever-popular Mazda MX-5. 

Buyers can choose either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with manual modes via steering wheel mounted paddles. A well-proven Torsen limited slip differential makes for sharp response characteristics and adds up to enhanced cornering performance with optimal traction.

The design team kept the overall weight of the car below 1,200 kg by using advanced lightweight materials wherever possible. The body is rigid as well as light and aerodynamically efficient. It boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.27, edging out several highly-rated and expensive exotic sports cars. Weight-saving features include an aluminum hood, composite fuel tank, composite intake manifold, hollow camshafts and light alloy wheels. 

Coaxial electric power steering gives the driver outstanding controllability, fast steering inputs and excellent ‘feel’ under all conditions. Ventilated disc brakes with ABS front and rear impart a feeling of solidity and safety, even under demanding conditions of terrain and weather.

  

When the 86 was developed, considerable attention was paid to sound technology as an aspect of driver enjoyment. When cruising around city streets, engine noise is lessened, but under hard acceleration on the highway, the engine note is enhanced to levels that impress the enthusiast driver and solidify the car’s sports car ambiance.

The Toyota 86 packs in lots of thoughtful engineering and advanced technology plus features often found only on more expensive sports cars. It offers an exceptionally high level of performance, handling and safety in a highly attractive package with build quality that sets standards throughout the auto industry.

 

IN SUMMARY…

BODY STYLE: Two-door, 2+2 sports coupe

ENGINE: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder horizontally opposed

TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto

PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx. 6-secs

PRICE: Base MSRP $30,780

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