• The stated criteria for the GT86 read like a purist's manifesto: rear-drive, no turbo, ordinary tyres
  • Raked headlights help define a taut front end
  • Bespoke badges are found on both front wings
  • Spoiler has canard fins at each end
  • Rear passengers only get tiny portholes to look out of
  • Driving position is nigh-on perfect and there is sufficient room for all but the extremely tall
  • Rear space is modest and will suffice for children and adults over short trips
  • Toyota rattled through five prototypes before nailing the six-speed manual transmission
  • Boot isn't overly generous at 243 litres, but that's almost 100 litres more than an MX-5's
  • A boxer configuration helps to keep the engine weight low and nearer to the middle of the car
  • Make no mistake: the GT86's performance is worth working for
  • It rides comfortably and is quick enough for B-road overtaking
  • Its chassis lets you take liberties that you wouldn't imagine taking in other cars
  • GT86 is a wickedly poised sports car with terrifically communicative steering
  • The GT86 is a gem, and we adore it

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.

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