Steve Sutcliffe
24 March 2012

What is it?

Perhaps more than anything, what the new Toyota GT86 demonstrates is that what car enthusiasts think still matters – because if it didn’t, Toyota would never have built this brilliant car in the first place.

When the board sat down to discuss the project at the beginning of 2007, the idea would have been dismissed in a heartbeat had the opposite been the case. Instead, though, Toyota decided there and then to exact an image makeover in order to appeal to a younger kind of customer – and the GT86 was designated to spearhead that renaissance.

The result is now almost upon us. We’ve driven the car in prototype form twice already and declared it to be bursting with potential. And here, again, we drive it in its virtually finished specification, ahead of its scheduled UK on-sale date of June.

Being an enthusiast, you’ll already know that the car is a joint venture between Subaru and Toyota, and that it has a 2.0-litre boxer engine beneath the bonnet, with 197bhp and 151lb ft on tap. You’ll know, too, that the car is rear-wheel drive, has a six-speed manual or semi-automatic gearbox, and that it weighs a mere 1220kg.

What’s it like?

But what you might not realise is how perfectly these elements gel to deliver a driving experience that is addictive, to put it mildly. Because, after all, nothing can prepare you for just how pure the GT86 is to drive; how sweetly it steers, how well balanced its chassis is near the limit, how crisply its brakes respond, or how incisive it feels when snapping from one direction to another.

Not that the GT86 is in any way vicious or aggressive in its reactions. Quite the opposite, in fact, and that’s a feeling that arrives the moment you climb aboard – and discover a cabin that’s been tailored almost exclusively towards the driver. The driving position is nigh-on perfect, the seat, wheel, dials, pedals and gearlever being so intuitively located that it takes but seconds to feel right at home in the GT86.

Press the button to fire it up and, instantly, you’re greeted by the inimitable thrum of that boxer engine, which responds beautifully to a ‘wap’ on the throttle. Select first and the lever moves with a mechanical precision that’s rare, if not unique in a production Toyota, and as you move away you become aware that the ride is firm but controlled – with just the right amount of compliance; not too stiff but not too soft. And even at 20mph you can tell that the steering feels rather delicious, too.

The first surprise comes when you open the throttle fully to discover that, while reasonable, the amount of acceleration on offer isn’t actually that startling. Toyota claims a fairly modest 0-62mph time of 7.7sec with a top speed of just 137mph. The second surprise arrives when you realise that this matters not one iota, because the moment you aim the GT 86 at some corners, the chassis comes alive, the penny drops and the full significance of what Toyota has achieved with this car becomes apparent.

And at that precise moment, you may even begin to believe that the car you are sitting in could be one of the most important machines of the past 10 years. Because on one level the GT 86 is simply a great little car to drive, one with such a fantastic level of chassis composure that it actually encourages the driver to play around with it where circumstances permit. And that’s a bright enough realisation in itself.

Should I buy one?

But on another level, the GT86 represents something rather more than the sum of its parts. In a way, it represents the future as far as the ordinary car enthusiast is concerned. It’s that good. And the fact that it’ll cost just £24,995 when it goes on sale in June is even more reason to celebrate.

Be in no doubt, the GT86 is a true game-changer for Toyota. Let’s at least hope that one or two more manufacturers follow suit.

Toyota GT86

Price: £24,995; 0-62mph: 7.7sec; Top speed: 137mph; Economy: 40.9mpg (combined); CO2: 160g/km; Kerb weight: 1220kg; Engine type: 4 cyls, horizontally opposed, 1998cc, petrol; Installation: Longitudinal, front, RWD; Power: 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque: 151lb ft at 6600rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual; Wheels: 7jx17in, alloy; Tyres: 215/45 ZR17

Join the debate

Comments
67

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

The first car in about 10 years that I'm genuinely excited about. Can't wait to try one...

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

such a fantastic level of chassis composure... maybe they should sell this to VW and save the VAG 50 billion??

Seems to be an interesting car - as an ex rally driver and 99% of the time using a Toyota, I can relate to this car immediately. An ultra modern rwd Toyota Corolla GTi - more than a Supra (cos that bugger was too heavy). Iy maybe lacking in the top end performance and even the 0-100kph is 2 secs slower than I would have liked, but I think this car will be the "standard" variety and will be followed in a year or so (Toyota are rather slow in follow ups), with a TDR fettled animal which will top out at 160mph and give you a 0-62mph in under 5 secs. THAT will be the car to lust after. The one thing I will enjoy is the throb of the boxer.. takes me back to happy racing days - listening to a distant throat belting through the mountains at full chat

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

Autocar not doing the GT86's insurance group any favours with 3 out of 4 of the shots having the 45+ degrees sideways!

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

Steve,

Looks like you were driving a European-spec car (LHD): are the chassis settings the same as we will get in the UK?

Where did you drive it?

The pics show the paddles on an auto - did you get to drive that as well as the manual? If so, what was it like? (i.e. should we avoid them like the plague, as I assume?)

jer

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

Amazed 151lb ft can get it side ways! But as we all know it won't outsell the competition most will continue to buy TT's second hand Boxsters, Golf GTI's etc, there is no justice in the world.

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

I'm glad this apparently drives well. It's a car I'd like to see do well for what it represents, a genuine attempt to try and bring some enjoyment back to driving without being embroiled in some irrelevant power race that renders unusable on the road.

Hats off to Toyota, and Subaru, for taking this stance. Perhaps it's a Japanese thing? Mazda are also embarking this low weight solution, with a focus on dynamics, and shows not everyone has forgotten pleasure can still be had behind the wheel.


Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

I feel really good about this car.No brand image BS just pure driving machine with an unpretensious badge that also means quality and customer service. Whats not to like?

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

Looking forward to picking up one of these in a few years time. Hopefully it will do OK and there will be a few 3 year old examples to pick from. Used to own a Celica and loved it. So I have high hopes for this. Might be a more interesting choice than the Golf GTI that I was planning on.

------------------

Never wrestle with a pig. You'll only get muddy, and the pig will enjoy it.

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

Well, a pleasingly positive review. I'm still not sold on one though i must admit. I wonder too just how fast you will need to go in order to get the back end out due to the engine's lack of torque, but as i said on another thread this morning, i'm not the most skillful of drivers, so perhaps someone could enlighten me on decent techniques!

I'm also surprised at its slow acceleration times. It is roughly the same weight as a Renault sport clio, has the same power but is proper wheel drive, not wrong wheel drive and yet the clio is almost a second quicker to 60. Could it be that the gearing is very low? perhaps 2nd gear only goes to 55 or so???

Re: Toyota GT 86

2 years 4 weeks ago

il sole wrote:
I wonder too just how fast you will need to go in order to get the back end out due to the engine's lack of torque,

Used to manage that quite easily in my old Mk1 MR2 - and that had much less power, as well as the engine in the 'wrong' place. If this new car offers half as much driving enjoyment as the old MR2, I'll be signing up for one!

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Our Verdict

This light, uncomplicated coupé promises so much. Can the Toyota GT86 deliver?

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