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 percent. 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

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 percent front, 47 percent 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.

For 2017, the GT86 was given a facelift before its final hurrah, with Toyota revising the intake and exhaust system, while tweaking the shock absorbers for greater stability chief among the mechanical changes. The rest of the car was given aerodynamic adjustments and more premium look inside. Soon after the announcement of the facelift, was news that a second generation GT86 was in the pipeline for launch in 2018-2019, with the next model set to sit below the reborn Supra developed in collaboration with BMW

Top 5 Affordable sports cars

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Toyota range

Driven this week

  • Honda Clarity Fuell Cell
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    You can't buy the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, but the innovative hatchback does enough to show that hydrogen models deserve a more mainstream future
  • Nissan Micra
    Car review
    26 April 2017
    Has this much-needed reinvention turned it into a real contender once again?
  • 2017 Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi 177 4WD N-Vision
    First Drive
    26 April 2017
    Customer requests for a 2.0-litre diesel X-Trail are answered; it’s punchier than the 1.6-litre, but no more refined
  • Honda Civic
    Car review
    21 April 2017
    Honda’s 10th-generation Civic hatchback goes global — but is that good news?
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in
    First Drive
    21 April 2017
    Second-generation Toyota Prius Plug-in hybrid gets a bigger battery with new 39-mile electric range, more tech and styling updates, but it's expensive