When you’ve done as much fast driving as Jonathan Palmer - been a successful Formula 1 driver, raced Le Mans and BTCC, staged hundreds of track days and trained thousands of drivers on your own circuits - you’re likely to be hard to impress when a new 2.0-litre, four-cylinder sports coupé comes along.
But when JP stepped out of this year’s BBDC champ, the Toyota GT86, having done 20 smoking, tail-out, full-speed laps of the Bedford Autodrome, he made no attempt to restrain his enthusiasm.
“I’ve not been in a GT86 before, but my instant verdict is that it’s terrific,” he said. “Sure, it’s not super-powerful, but it’s nicely balanced and reasonably torquey. The power delivery is smooth, there’s a nice lusty growl from the engine and the gearbox and clutch are lovely.”
Palmer reckons his appreciation of road cars starts with the driving position, and the GT86 has the best. “The wheel is the right size and set almost vertically,” he said. “You’re hunkered down in the car and well located because there’s great side support from the seats.”
However, the handling won JP’s biggest accolade because it’s fun for the novice yet (with stability control off) a decent challenge for the expert. “The grip’s okay,” he explained, “but best of all is the balance. The front will go a bit, the rear will go a bit - it’s your choice. But whatever you do, there’s a feeling of delicacy.
"We’ve all come to expect electronics to correct chassis faults and dull things in the process. Also to think big tyres and stiff suspensions are always right. But this car takes you straight back to an era of mechanical purity, when cars like the Escort Mexico gave you an exquisite, connected feel. That makes it very special.”