Delving into the detail typically reveals the devil in Toyota’s vast and intricate economies of scale, but in the case of the Toyota GT86, the use of common parts shrunk to just nine per cent. If proof were required of the manufacturing giant’s enthusiasm for the project, it exists first and foremost in that figure. 

The next number to consider is 86. Just a hat-tip to the AE86, yes? No. The ‘square’ 86mm dimension of both the bore and the stroke of the 197bhp 2.0-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine previously featured in the in-line four that powered the Celica and MR2. Even the car’s prominent, chrome-tipped exhausts are 86mm in diameter.

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Toyota went through five manual gearbox prototypes

Toyota’s anally retentive pursuit of numeral significance may seem somewhat trivial, but it’s indicative of a wider effort to get everything on the car just so. 

Subaru’s boxer engine was selected because its configuration meant that it was compact and light, and could be mounted closer to the ground (and further back) for an ultra-low 460mm centre of gravity.

A high-revving unit was specified, so the boxer was modified to allow it to spin to 7400rpm. Desperate to get the flick-of-the-wrist changes right on its reworked six-speed manual gearbox, Toyota went through five separate prototypes. 

Underneath, nothing was permitted to muddy the virtues of the classic front-engined, rear-drive layout. Thinner, lighter body panels were used to keep the GT86’s burden under 1300kg.

The weight has been distributed 53 per cent front, 47 per cent rear – not because it’s physically perfect, but because the engineers found that the slight front bias was ideal for the car’s handling balance.

Likewise, the suspension components, split between MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones at the rear, have been mounted to take further advantage of the low centre of gravity, and were tuned to allow an intuitive degree of roll on turn-in.

Finally, and encouragingly, there is a Torsen limited-slip differential to help apply a gung-ho degree of throttle on exit.

Top 5 Affordable sports cars

  • Porsche Cayman
    The Porsche Cayman is now in its second generation

    Porsche Cayman 2013-2016

    1
  • Here is the fourth-gen Mazda MX-5 - the definitive small sports car

    Mazda MX-5

    2
  • Toyota GT86
    The stated criteria for the GT86 read like a purist's manifesto: rear-drive, no turbo, ordinary tyres

    Toyota GT86

    3
  • BMW M235i
    The BMW M235i is a rear-wheel-drive turbocharged coupé which rivals the likes of the Porsche Cayman

    BMW M235i

    4
  • Lotus Elise S Cup
    Road-going version of the racing Elise. Suspension mods help make it an unbridled joy.

    Lotus Elise S Cup

    5

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Toyota range

  • Toyota Auris Touring Sports

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka