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Making the Toyota GT86 'better' is a tricky path. More grip and speed isn't necessarily more fun

What is it?

It's our current favourite driver's car. But, great as it is, inevitably the Toyota GT86 will evolve during its production life. More power? Chief engineer Tetsuya Tada hints at a supercharged version, pointing out there's no room for a turbo because the flat-four engine sits too low.

Much more imminent, though, are the various options offered by Toyota Racing Developments (TRD), due in the UK early next year, and a possible harder-edged production GT86 with chassis and aerodynamics changes.

That's the dark blue car, unofficially called evolution, you see here, which we've sampled at the scenic ParcMotor track outside Barcelona. An orange TRD car, specced-up with some expensive chassis modifications, made an intriguing comparison.

In all, that TRD car had around £16,000-worth of kit including KYB dampers adjustable for ride height and damping force, a 15mm-power ride height on springs stiffened by 20 per cent, an extra carbonfibre front brace for the suspension towers, bigger brakes clamped by Brembo monobloc calipers, a four-tailpipe exhaust system, 225/40 Michelin Pilot Sports on 18in wheels and a racier interior with extra gauges and a concave-topped gearlever knob. Revised spoilers and valances finished the job.

Result? It sounds deeper, revs a little better, stops with firm-pedalled authority and goes round corners faster, with sharper steering and a flat, planted feel. Which may be what some owners will like, but the standard GT86's delightfully accessible progression from grip to drift has suffered. 

It's almost too good, and part of a GT86's point has been lost. In this form it's simply a very precise, very grippy sports coupé, and if you do get it out of shape it gives you less time to think about sorting it out.

What's it like?

On, then, to the future 'enhanced' GT86, a version which as yet has no specific name. Here, the changed parts are to full factory standard rather than that of the high-end aftermarket, and are less extreme. 

Again we have 18in wheels – these are BBS items – but while the rear Michelins are again 225/40, the fronts are 215/40. This is not specifically to alter the front/rear grip balance (although it does), but rather to conform to Toyota's factory standards for tyre-to-body clearance. Production cars will have bespoke Bridgestones or Dunlops.

Brakes and springs are standard, dampers are uprated Sachs items, and in place of the standard Torsen differential with a 4.1 final drive comes a mechanical clutch-type unit with a 4.3 ratio. A large rear wing dominates other aero enhancements, the whole package effective from just 30mph. 

A different TRD exhaust fluffs and pops on gearshifts, while an extra door-latch mechanism jams the door solidly against its body aperture to boost the bodyshell's torsional stiffness – a feature which would no doubt be useful in any future open-top GT86.

This GT86 feels quite similar to the TRD car, the test track's dry surface showing up little difference in the differential's behaviour while the softer suspension lets you feel better what the GT86 is doing as you explore the wide tyres' grip. 

The tail feels yet more nailed down than the TRD's but more trustworthy as it nibbles at the edge of grip. More of the standard car's character is retained here; you're just cornering more quickly.

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Should I buy one?

The killer is the price: Tada reckons the changes should add just £800 to the build cost of a GT86, so if you think the standard GT86 is just too driftable on its Prius tyres, the answer is here.

Development continues with no launch date yet confirmed, but meanwhile Toyota GB will announce a standard-chassis, cosmetics-only TRD trim level early next year.

Whether or not a grippier GT86 is a good idea is debatable, of course. For my part I reached the highest test-track speed in the standard car, simply because it's so easy to drive on the limit. 

Give it more grip, and you'll need more talent to have the same fun.

John Simister 

Toyota GT86 evolution

Price na; 0-62mph 7.4sec (est); Top speed 140mph (est); Economy 35mpg (est); CO2 190g/km (est); Kerb weight 1275kg; Engine Flat-4cyls, 1998cc, petrol; Power 197bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 151lb ft at 6400-6600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

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Onehp 28 December 2013

Wrong car

n. leoni it seems you bought the wrong car. E.g. an Audi TT or an RCZ would have suited you better.
n. leone 5 August 2013


I own one, and what I read in this column is a lot of uninformed nonsense. To start with, in normal roads and driving conditions, I never - and I insist, never - had a hint of oversteer. What I regret most of all is the puny torque that obliges you to rev the engine unnecessarily high in today's traffic and thus influence negatively the consumption and the noise (the latter being invasive and harsh). The suspensions are wooden, and going over a bump is a very dry experience. The interior is black and black only. But this, alas, is common to most production cars today, isn'it?

The passenger's seat can't be adjusted in height and, as result, my wife feels like she's looking out of a bathtub. When you open the bonnet lid, you've got to secure it with a rod which, let's face it, is rather miserly of Toyota. If I had to express but one wish, I would go for 50 bhp and maybe 30 nm more.


sewa 13 February 2013

It seems the novelty is

It seems the novelty is wearing out and people start complaining ('bicycle tires').

I'd advise driving one of these before making an opinion. I swapped a BMW for a BRZ and I am not complaining.