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.