From £22,0349
Minor chassis revisions have improved what was already one of the most rewarding rear-wheel-drive coupés on sale

Our Verdict

Toyota GT86

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

  • First Drive

    2016 Toyota GT86 2.0 Pro review

    Minor chassis revisions have improved what was already one of the most rewarding rear-wheel-drive coupés on sale
  • First Drive

    Toyota GT86 Evolution

    Making the Toyota GT86 'better' is a tricky path. More grip and speed isn't necessarily more fun
Neil Winn - Autocar
21 December 2016

What is it?

When Toyota first unveiled the FT-86 concept back in 2009, the automotive community went into a collective frenzy. Finally, a manufacturer had summoned the courage to give driving enthusiasts what they’d long been calling out for: a low-cost, low-weight, rear-wheel drive sports coupé.

However, the long road of taking a car from concept to production can often be a perilous one, with focus groups and dispassionate accountants often corrupting the designer’s original vision. Thankfully, project leader Yoshio Hirakawa (the man responsible for the development, testing and production of both the GT86 and BRZ) ensured that the production cars lost none of the purity that made the initial concept so enticing.

The key ingredients were compelling: a lightweight chassis, a naturally aspirated 2.0-litre flat-four engine and a centre of gravity lower than a Ferrari 458’s. It sounded like a purist’s dream, and for the most part, it was. But as with all cars, there were areas of the GT86 that we thought could be improved - areas that Toyota claim to have addressed with this mid-life update.

The relatively soft suspension has been stiffened, the cheap looking interior has been reupholstered and the ageing exterior has been treated to a whole host of changes - including LED headlamps, an all-new bumper design and more prominent aero. So, it’s a rather minor facelift, then, but one that Toyota claims will make the car more responsive, as well as more liveable.

But what about the engine I hear you cry? Well, those craving straight-line speed are set to be disappointed, as Toyota has not seen fit to add more power - meaning that the car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine still produces 197bhp and 151lb ft of torque. As a result, the 0-62mph time remains the same 7.6sec and the car's top speed is still a rather paltry 140mph. But as we came to find with the first generation car, power is not everything. 

What's it like?

Unsurprisingly, with such minor modifications, the new GT86 feels very similar to the car it replaces – and by that we mean it’s certainly not fast in a conventional sense. Peak torque – a rather weak 151lb ft - comes in at a heady 6400rpm, but thanks to direct injection and a Toyota-derived cylinder head, the four-cylinder boxer motor loves to rev. That means quick progress demands fast gearchanges and clever footwork, but it rewards with exhilaration, giving you the sense that driver’s skill makes a real difference.  

Turn in to a quick corner and there is still some initial body roll, but it’s well contained and doesn’t upset the balance of the car. More noticeable, however, is the revised steering, which immediately feels sharper and more direct. We suspect that the biggest contributing factor to this new found dartiness is the smaller diameter steering wheel - the smallest the brand has ever used - but the various chassis modifications and the tweaked electric steering have also contributed to increased communication through the rim.

By tweaking the dampers and stiffening the suspension, the new GT86 also feels noticeably more progressive up to, and over the limit. On a constant throttle, where the old car would push on, the new model holds its line valiantly, with the rear end stepping out in an easily controllable manner. On the right roads and in the right conditions, it’s without a doubt one of the most grin-enduring cars currently on sale.

When you do eventually back off, however, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be as enthralled by the GT86s updated interior. For 2017, the cabin gets a new infotainment system, a small TFT instrument display and some nicer materials. And on first inspection, it’s certainly an improvement, with audio controls on the new steering wheel a welcome addition. But if we’re honest, it’s simply not enough to lift an interior that wouldn’t have felt out of place in the 1990s. 

Should I buy one?

Despite the interior updates, the GT86 is still no easier to live with. Its stiffer suspension patters over small undulations, the engine drones away at low rpm and it’s genuinely difficult to ignore the fact that you can buy a number of faster machines for similar money. But get the GT86 on the right road, and you quickly forget about all of that.

Back in 2012, we wrote that there was nothing on the market that offered the same level of “poise, balance and, crucially, accessibility” as the Toyota, and the same remains true today. Ultimately, the decision to buy one has never been easier.

2016 Toyota GT86 2.0 Pro

Location: Middlesex, On Sale Now Price £27,560; Engine 2.0-litre, 2000cc, petrol; Power 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 151lb ft at 6400rpm; 0-62mph 7.6sec; Top speed 140mph; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1275kg; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2 180g/km, 33% Rivals Nissan 370Z, Audi TT

Join the debate

Comments
16

21 December 2016
Funny I mentioned "a rather weak 151lb ft - comes in at a heady 6400rpm" in the last news story on this car. Fun for the first month then it must be painful getting out dragged by Diesel Astra's up hills unless you charge down 4 gears.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

21 December 2016
It is way overpriced. They can use the excuse of it being a drivers car, but to me its just a cheaply finished throughout and underpowered. Also the engine always sounds so rough, like something from the 80s. It looks crude through out. It may steer wheel, but that doesn't make it a great car - at all.

21 December 2016
robhardyuk wrote:

It is way overpriced. They can use the excuse of it being a drivers car, but to me its just a cheaply finished throughout and underpowered. Also the engine always sounds so rough, like something from the 80s. It looks crude through out. It may steer wheel, but that doesn't make it a great car - at all.

jer

21 December 2016
That is the problem with no turbos they are even more gutless in the real world that you might expect. I remember a 6 Cyl 320I E46 I had overseas it was silky but couldn't hold on to a 110PS TD up a hill and you had to be north of 100 before it left one.

21 December 2016
I think a lot of the posts here miss the point. Toyota have a long history of accessible "real world" sports cars, from the original AE through to the Celica and now the GT86. None had the crazy power such as that of the latest mega hatches but none were bad cars either. Far from it. We have a Golf R and a GT86 in our household and the race is always for the GT86 keys. The Golf is a fine car but it just cant deliver the real-world fun of the GT86 and Im convinced it has too much power for most normal driving situations (where the speed limit is 70mph). The beauty with the GT86 is that you dont have to risk losing your license to have fun in it and its by no means slow. I can remember when 120BHP powered amazing hatches like the Saxo VTS, peugeot 205 and original Golf GTi fast and fun but not stupidly so. I think adding a turbo would also take away from its purist base. Im really amazed that anyone thinks a naturally aspirated rear wheel drive coupe with 200BHP is underpowered but next to those newer mega hatches I can see why they do. I track an old celica at weekends in the toyota racing series and do a lot of other track days and Ive never seen hardly any of these mega hatches out for a run, Ive probably seen 2 or 3 RS3s a couple of Golf R and one of those weird A45 things. which makes me wonder where most people actually get to try these cars out anywhere near their limit - or if they do at all ? Also on the diesel comment, this sort of shows the mentality of the argument. If out and out speed is all that matters I can pick up a shed for £5K any day from classifieds that will out perform many of these high torque turbos. If it is just about out and out speed why doesnt everyone just do that ? What i do agree on is that its expensive, RWD and LSD perhaps explains some of that but i still cant see how its worth about £30K with the few additional options added, which is a shame.

21 December 2016
xansamaff wrote:

I think a lot of the posts here miss the point. Toyota have a long history of accessible "real world" sports cars, from the original AE through to the Celica and now the GT86. None had the crazy power such as that of the latest mega hatches but none were bad cars either. Far from it. We have a Golf R and a GT86 in our household and the race is always for the GT86 keys. The Golf is a fine car but it just cant deliver the real-world fun of the GT86 and Im convinced it has too much power for most normal driving situations (where the speed limit is 70mph). The beauty with the GT86 is that you dont have to risk losing your license to have fun in it and its by no means slow. I can remember when 120BHP powered amazing hatches like the Saxo VTS, peugeot 205 and original Golf GTi fast and fun but not stupidly so. I think adding a turbo would also take away from its purist base. Im really amazed that anyone thinks a naturally aspirated rear wheel drive coupe with 200BHP is underpowered but next to those newer mega hatches I can see why they do. I track an old celica at weekends in the toyota racing series and do a lot of other track days and Ive never seen hardly any of these mega hatches out for a run, Ive probably seen 2 or 3 RS3s a couple of Golf R and one of those weird A45 things. which makes me wonder where most people actually get to try these cars out anywhere near their limit - or if they do at all ? Also on the diesel comment, this sort of shows the mentality of the argument. If out and out speed is all that matters I can pick up a shed for £5K any day from classifieds that will out perform many of these high torque turbos. If it is just about out and out speed why doesnt everyone just do that ? What i do agree on is that its expensive, RWD and LSD perhaps explains some of that but i still cant see how its worth about £30K with the few additional options added, which is a shame.

I have a golf r, and agree, using the performance on the roads is tricky and the fun starts at warp speeds - it is licence threatening to have a laugh. I would like a gt86, but it is not an everyday proposition like the golf. It is a tough one, I want the thrills of the gt, but the performance of the golf for overtakes and motorway refinement. In the end, the practicality and lack of compromises for the golf won out for me. But I still hanker for the accessible fun of the GT and I am sort of jealous of those who have one.

Spanner

jer

21 December 2016
But they make more sense as a 13k second hand play thing. Then you have the second car costs. I'd also say that I get more opportunities to use acceleration than explore handling. But also true to say that if you explore the capabilities speed or handling of a fast car its anti social and possibly dangerous.

21 December 2016
I don't understand the lack of speed comments, of course high torque turbos will out blast it in top gear up a hill, part of the fun is down changing to keep it in the power band as you would an e46 m3, ctr, Celica t sport 190 etc, you don't always have to race tdi's up hills. These same comments could be aimed at an s2000, or an Elise. And being a coupe it's not meant as a family car but is certainly useable. About the only negative I will agree to is its price, this one is £27k, didn't they use to start around £20k? I personally prefer a naturally aspirated power delivery and would love one of these, as soon as used one's come within my budget I will buy one, I hope.

21 December 2016
The GT86 is quite probably an excellent car. I just don't think it is good looking enough. I think it needs to be more muscular/aggressive maybe.

22 December 2016
The new GT86/BRZ manual engine has been upgraded, but the automatic version is unchanged, in Japan, America and Australia. Why would it not be the same for the UK? I don't see why this would not apply to the UK too, especially considering the popularity of sports cars in the UK. I think UK journalists have not done their homework. The model driven here might have the former engine, but surely the new model, when released, will have the new engine. The easiest way to tell is to look for the new red air intake manifold.

The old model produced 200 ps (197 bhp), and the new version produces 207 ps (204 bhp). In addition, the torque output has been considerably increased throughout the rev range - especially at low rpm (e.g. the new model has ~14 Nm more torque at 2,400 rpm). There is ~5-7% more torque available from 2,000-4,000 rpm in the new model. Peak torque has increased from 205 Nm (151 lb/ft) to 212 Nm (156 lb/ft).

Furthermore, the final drive ratio has been shortened from 4.1:1 to 4.3:1 - this means the gearing is shorter, so more power is available at the wheels (whp) at a given engine speed. The car accelerates a little faster, and in gear performance is also improved.
The Subaru worldwide report claims 0-100 km/h is now 7.4 seconds (previously 7.6), and 0-60 mph is now 7.0 seconds (previously 7.2).
But remember that 60 mph requires 3rd gear, because 2nd gear is only good for about 56/57 mph due to the shorter gearing, e.g. it feels faster than the times suggest, because most cars can hit 60 mph in 2nd gear. And of course it would be faster to 60 mph with better tyres - it can't launch properly with its Prius tyres, and also spins its wheels when changing up to 2nd gear.
Car and Driver magazine reported a 0-60 mph time of 6.2 seconds. The new model is 4.1 sec quicker from 30-50 mph, and 1.4 seconds quicker from 50-70 mph, in top gear. That makes a considerable difference in the real world, both on motorways and on mountain roads.

This car has been designed for driving feel, and not on paper statistics. Some people understand that, and others don't. Drive it back-to-back with a hot hatch, and you'll soon realise that it is a much sharper and focused drive. But you need to redline it to get decent performance. But isn't that part of the fun of a sports car? High rpm speed and bouncing off the rev limiter rather than midrange turbo punch that becomes breathless above 5-6,000 rpm.

The numbers only tell half the story. I recently changed my car from a Subaru BRZ 2014 model to a Porsche 718 2.0 Boxster. My Subaru had far better throttle response, and felt much faster from 1,500-3,000 rpm. When I turn at traffic lights onto roads with 2 lanes each way, following other traffic, and then nail the throttle in order to overtake at about 2,000 rpm in second gear, absolutely nothing happens for about 2 seconds. My Subaru would have scampered away with immediate throttle response. Of course the Porsche hits much harder ~3,000 rpm, but I hate the turbo lag. Every petrol head seems to be complaining about the death of light weight sports cars with normally aspirated engines, but when companies like Subaru and Toyota continue to make a low-volume, pure sports car with electric throttle response and an engine that rewards you at the red line rather than becoming breathless, people still complain. Whatever happened to thrashing a car down a twisty road? A car that rewards only serious drivers. Feel, communication, and fun are more important than raw speed in my opinion.

Everyone is different, and some people like cars with low-down torque while others prefer a high rpm screamer. But we’re all enthusiasts here, so it’s important to appreciate that Subaru/Toyota have provided such a pure driving experience with an almost extinct atmospheric engine.

I hope the improved engine will be available in the new model.

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