Toyota 86 News
- United States
The Toyota GT86 is the world's least expensive way to own a brand new and quite brilliant sports car. Yes, there are cars with performance credentials further down the food chain, but this, with the engine in the front, driven wheels at the back and you in the middle -sticks to the age-old formula of cars built for the fun of driving. And for its mid-life facelift, it's just got better.
The same 2.0-litre 197bhp flat-four petrol engine has been imported from the old model, but Toyota's chief engineer, Tetsuya Tada, has been at great pains to tweak and reinforce the chassis. Importing knowhow from the brand's Le Mans and Nurburgring 24 endurance racing program, the spring rates and dampers have been tuned, and very clever people have adjusted the wheel angles to make it steer faster.
There's also an all-new track mode, which adjusts the stability and traction control systems, letting you get the car a little out of shape before the electronic nannies kick in and tidy up. There's also a "fully off" setting, which turns off all of the virtual helpers.
So, what's it like to drive? We're not entirely sure. As you can see from the pictures, our test route was mostly on ice, so not strictly representative of the experience you'll have of, say, the M25 on a rainy Tuesday. But some of the changes are noticeable. We've never had a complaint about the chassis on the old GT86 - far from it - but this one feels even more taut with some of the more crashy riding proclivities ironed out.
There's also a lot more feel to the steering. Again, this was never an issue in the old car, but telegraphing even more information from the wheels to your fingertips makes this an even more engaging proposition. Especially when you consider that this was a car quite literally designed to go sideways - now you can meter and control your drift with even more precision, and that's never a bad thing. But in terms of mechanical upgrades, that's pretty much your lot.
Toyota knew it'd crushed it when the first GT86 landed, so the fact that there aren't any differences as the model reaches middle age is testament to the brand's confidence in its product, not ambivalence. But it's been careful to listen to its customers. When we first drove one, our only major gripe was the slightly low-rent cabin. It's no Rolls-Royce, but a new, more upscale black finish across the instrument panel and some carbonfibre-esque detailing has made it a lot more pleasant inside. Opt for the a GT86 "Pro" model and you get heated front seats, leather and Alcantara, suede-effect on the dash and door trims, making it even easier to spend time in.
But fancy options aren't really what this car's about. It's a high-fibre, low-calorie car, and the tweaks you get as standard on the entry level ?26,400 model more than cement its position as the world's cheapest credible sports car. Buy one.
Read more on GQ Magazine.