The Toyota GT86 that I’m driving for a test drive is definitely successful a car. Since its premiere in 2012, born from a collaboration with Subaru, it has managed to create a large group of fans in a short time. This car is inspired by Toyota’s heritage models like the 200GT and the AE86 Corolla. So, what’s the recipe for fun according to Toyota? Front engine, rear-wheel drive, compact size, low weight, low centre of gravity and lot of handling and responsiveness of the chassis to the driver’s commands.
All this translates into an enjoyable driving experience with a car even able to teach sporty driving to those who approaches for the first time to rear wheel drive cars. I’m in Belgium, on the roads leading towards to Namur and to its famous Citadel. The fortress, which dominates the city, was rebuilt several times over the centuries and is one of the major tourist attractions in Wallonia. The perfect setting for our photos!
Returning to our Japanese sports car, it’s right to spend a few words on what really changes in this MY2017 Toyota GT86. The main improvements concern the handling and the aesthetics. Starting from the chassis, suspensions and shock absorbers have been recalibrated to improve the performance both in terms of grip and driving comfort, also increasing the car’s structural rigidity. From the electronics point of view it has been introduced a new Track mode switch.
This new particular setting, accessible from a button in the central tunnel, provides access to a less invasive calibration of electronic controls that allows the driver to have the maximum fun with the security of having traction control and ESP ready to engage in case of error. Outside each change is designed to improve the car’s aerodynamic even more. One step forward in terms of technology was made by introducing the BI-LED headlights and redesigning the LED rear lights. Every change in the car’s aesthetic is made for a better aerodynamic. The biggest update is the the introduction of a new rear spoiler (option) which allows an improvement of the car air flow.
For the interiors a lot of improvements has been done, with a new infotainment (also equipped with DAB), a redesigned steering wheel, some new carbon look insert and a useful multifunction display that provides information such as lateral acceleration and lap times on the track.
It’s time for some action! How does really this Toyota 86 handle the road? Once on board you will notice immediately the low setting of this car, you have the feeling of being sitted a few centimetres from the ground and this increase the feeling of a real sports car. The new steering wheel contributes to a better driving behaviour, thanks to the reduced dimensions, you really have a perfect communication with the car. I don’t like the carbon look inserts, I would have preferred a different solution as well as the infotainment it seems a bit dated with the resistive (and not capacitive) display.
The car tested was not equipped with leather and Alcantara seats, I recommend you choose them, it will surely increase the perception of sports car, adding a luxury touch to the interior. The on board space is a lot, in the rear seats two people can sit but only for short journeys. A big surprise is the space in the trunk, for a sport car like this one, with the rear seats folded down you will have a very large load volume.
By pressing the appropriate button of the keyless system the engine comes to life. This 2.0L boxer engine made by Subaru with Toyota’s injection really worth a mention. The torque is perfectly distributed, even at low revs, and when you are accelerating is able to guarantee emotions and a truly immersive sound. Toyota GT86 leaves nothing to chance, even about the choice of the size and the type of tires fitted in the car.
Toyota engineers, to ensure maximum linearity in the driving behaviour, in addition to choosing a naturally-aspirated engine, have opted for not so wide tires (215) Michelin Primacy 3. This type of tires do not have very high performance in terms of grip, contributing to have the feeling of a car that wants to over steer easily but with absolute linearity, coaching the driver’s sensibility with both the gas and counter steering.
As said, this is where the Track mode makes the difference. For the less experienced drivers is really useful, they can approach to the counter steering knowing that electronics is ready to save any risky situation. The chassis and the suspensions then contribute having a perfectly communicative vehicle, you really have the feeling of being one with this Toyota GT86. My advice, of course, is to disable the electronic controls, of course, always with a careful approach, in order to fully feel the goodness of this Toyota GT86 that wants you to have fun without necessarily driving at the limit.
It’s so simple to reach the over steer, both thanks to the torque of the engine and the type of tires that mounts. I find that the great value of this car is that gives you a great feeling of security, great control of the car and so much fun even without a being in full attack mode. Thinking about the majority of the cars on the market, witch have the trend to mount exaggerated tires and increasing engine performances, is striking that, at the end, the recipe for having fun at the wheel is easily accessible.
The only flaw in the test car was the automatic transmission, in the streets of Brussels, where I had the opportunity to drive was really comfortable but for these roads in Wallonia, very fun to drive, I would have preferred the manual one. I’d pick the latter undoubtedly. In conclusion what’s offer this MY2017 Toyota GT86? It will provide the driving fun of a sports car at a reasonable price, with big step forward in security and with low running costs.
The experiences of Toyota in the racing world with the GT86, in particularly at the Nurburgring 24H, helped to refine an already high level car. With a combination of many factors that make it extremely communicative and easy to control it has very few contenders in terms of driving pleasure and fun in that price range. In addition you will like the trunk with an excellent size for a sports car. Are you ready to have fun?
Text: Edoardo Mascalchi
Photos: Edoardo Mascalchi