DRIVEN – THE NEW TOYOTA 86 GT LIMTED
Finally the day arrived where I was able to put the new Toyota 86 through its paces in real life situations and I came away from the test really impressed with the car. I wasn’t blown away, nor was I expecting to be since the base model is where you start with the package but for what it is, and the price it drops in at in Japan, it makes for a compelling and delicious argument… but now I have a major problem on my hands…
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Having been among the first in the world to drive ( and drift ) the Toyota 86 back in January, I was already impressed enough to know what I was in for but after managing to log over 1000 kilometers during my 5 days with the fire metallic orange, top spec GT Limited, 6 speed manual Toyota 86, I now have a much better idea what the car is like to live with. It was given plenty of stick up and down some twisty touge passes, along the wangan expressways around Tokyo and also in suburban streets, occasionally getting stuck in the soup that comes with rush hour traffic. In all these conditions, the 86 proved to be a great performer. There is much to like.
That said, it’s a car that really needs to be flogged mercilessly when you want to go for it, since the frantic and whiney sounding 4U-GSE comes across as and sounds very breathless and in desperate need of some tuning to liberate a few more horsepower and increase the intensity of its exhaust and intake note. It doesn’t feel like it wants to get up and go until it hits 5000rpm with it positively protesting your reach for the 7400rpm cutoff. There’s very little torque below that number as well and the entire nature of the engine seems to dictate that you constantly cane it to achieve any sort of sporting performance.
My suspicions are proven correct by the official figures for the D4-S direct injection boxer 4 which stand at 147 kW (197 hp) at 7000rpm with torque delivering similar numbers of 205 N·m (151 ft·lbf) at 6600rpm. You really need to wring the 86′s neck. Oddly enough the same has always been said of the car it replaces; the AE86. Both these cars share an uncanny similarity in the way they go about providing the thrills and I sensed an element of familiarity in the new version as if something from the old car had been retained and preserved. Toyota added some induction piping to funnel the engines note into the cabin but if I’m honest they shouldn’t have bothered; the engine sounds pretty bad either way, even at redline.
Don’t let this put you off though. The whole point; indeed, the entire ethos of this car, was to give people a good, solid package to start with and then leave you free to go from there with the modifications of your choice. Take this review as only a starting point. And again, for what it is, it’s a pretty damn good place to begin with.
People who buy this car will fall into three distinct camps. The first camp involves the people who will pretty much leave the car alone, save for some mild aesthetic and performance enhancing mods. These guys will spend some coin over time on factory mods from the catalog; perhaps TRD or Modellista but some will go aftermarket as well, for body kits, wheels, suspension, exhaust systems and engine upgrades. Nothing too expensive here.
The second camp are the people who will really go to town on the 86; customizing whatever is possible, perhaps even swapping out engines ( although I shudder to think that someone would actually do an LS engine swap into one ). If you’re a part of this second group, then you’re definitely on Toyota’s radar as the type of person they would like to see own the 86 because that will mean that parts supply flows, aftermarket industry flourishes and everything that was set out to be achieved by the company now has added validation.
The third group will consist of the drifters, racers and rally drivers who will stop at nothing in achieving the lightest, fastest and most agile package they can create. And again – Toyota are looking forward to this and have keenly anticipated the deluge of tuning and modifications that will come from all corners of the industry.
Toyota ( and Subaru ) are on a massive winning streak with these two cars and I can’t help but feel the complacency that has plagued Nissan over the design and creation of the S16 Silvia has hit them where it hurts. Senior management at Nissan and Nismo told me that they were going to wait to see how successful the 86 and BRZ would prove to be before making any decisions on the S16 Silvia but if validation was what they were after, they just got it served straight up and icy cold. If Nissan doesn’t act now, indeed, if they are not already reacting to this storm of activity around the 86 and BRZ, then they have lost a significant amount of ground. I predict we will hear about the new Silvia sometime this year.
The Toyota 86 is a fantastic drivers car through and through. Yes, the engine is manic, strained and despite feeling like something could break because you’re pushing it so hard, it still delivers a real world “seat-of-your-pants” experience that, in this price range, is an absolute bargain. It’s chatty and lively chassis really lives up to the hype and is finely balanced to the point where large corrections in lock become second nature. You can provoke it heavily but the car becomes increasingly easier to read and offers early warning of breaking loose with a linear and adaptable range of swing. Getting sideways in this car, and holding that slide are the easiest things in the world to do. Sprinkle rain into the mix and you’re guaranteed to have a ball of fun. There’s no snap oversteer or ploughing understeer thanks to the way the weight has been distributed in the car. All that talk about “..low slung, boxer mounted further back in the chassis” talk is worth real money here; the car is superbly balanced, even in standard form and on stock suspension units.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this thing. People have been complaining about it non stop for 5 years now but when you drive it, you will know exactly what I mean and that what I’m telling you here is absolutely accurate. Speaking of accuracy, the steering is pinpoint sharp with the slightest hint of vagueness in its electronically assisted weighting. Adding to the sensation is that you are so low slung in those amazing standard buckets, speeds that you won’t have felt in other cars, suddenly become magnified as if you were sitting in a go-kart with your ass centimeters from the ground. It’s a great feeling.
The grade I got from Toyota was the top spec GT Limited in Orange and with a 6 speed manual transmission – which was perfect for me because orange is our signature color and since I am also in the market for one of these cars, the perfect version to test.
The GT Limited gets a few added extras over its lesser grade brothers. In this spec, you get 17 inch wheels ( which incidentally, would be one of the first things to sell on Yahoo Auctions ), dual climate control air con, Halogen front headlamps, up-spec leather and alacantara upholstered seats, center console and door trimmings, along with a few other bits and pieces like the stitched gear knob, push button starter, intelligent keyless entry ( complete with touch sensors on the door handles ) and a small selection of aero upgrades. All this, turn key from Toyota, will cost you a tick under ¥3,000,000 ( $45,000 AUD/USD ) which isn’t bad when you consider that it has had many of the options thrown at it.
That’s until you get to the tuning menu. It’s a mile long and complete with dozens of different options for enthusiasts. Toyota and Subaru have got this right I believe but there’s one very important caveat. If you plan to modify the 86, be prepared to shell out significant sums of money. Garnishes for the kidney grills can cost up to $500. Want a TRD brake upgrade kit? $8000 out of your pocket, sir. If you spent wisely, even on the bare essentials like wheels, tires, suspension, brakes, exhaust and intake, you’re still looking at a price of up to ¥5,000,000. That’s getting expensive. There’s a lot of metal you could buy with that money ( like a great condition, low kay E46 M3 ) but I know that people will still spend up. It just pays to keep it all in perspective.
Competition minded buyers would obviously stump for the stripped out RC version which throws out a ton of parts and also 20kg’s to weigh in at 1190kg’s and ¥1,995,000 ( $25,000 AUD/USD ). From what I understand, this car will be a Japan only grade but that won’t stop grey importers capitalizing on the demand and offering them in overseas locations for a premium.
Without doubt the highlight for the test came when I took the car down to the southernmost part of Kanagawa ken, to the sleepy but gorgeous town of Miura, right on the tip of the peninsular. The car was scheduled to be shot by a team of professional photographers including my friends Paul Stevens, Adrian Venner and Michael Steinebach. The special surprise was that no fewer than 7 bikini and fashion models would be on hand to liven up the scenery! Thanks to super Katty Phouleuanghong from Rio Del Sol Bikinis, we had a bevy of beautiful women at our disposal and plenty of work to do! It’s a tough life sometimes…
The location was a beach front holiday house owned by some friends of ours, Kaneko san and Fuyama san, who graciously gave the team the run of the place for the entire weekend. I arrived on Sunday with the car and couldn’t believe how beautiful the location was – the weather was also perfect for the occasion! On the run down to Miura, I got to reflect on the 86 through some winding tough roads and just marveled at how willing the car is as a driving partner. Please do me a favor… don’t slam this thing on its ass with a set of coil overs, expecting it to somehow magically perform better. The key here is that Toyota and Subaru have already pretty much got the right balance out of the box and only quality upgrades from the reputable performance tuning houses around the world could make it actually taste better. Still, it’s a sad fact that many will take this car and modify it so that it looks good sitting low, without much care for the way it drives. Definitely not what the companies had in mind when creating the cars.
One super thing about the drivetrain, besides the Torsen LSD ( which is a standard feature on the GT Limited grade 86 ), is the gearbox. It’s brilliant to throw through with a crisp, snicketty jolt through each of it’s 6 gates. It reminds me so much of STi gearboxes and that’s definitely a compliment. I detected that the syncros in this box may have been a little tired with a slight notchiness in second and third gear added to the slight thump when engaging and disengaging the clutch but I suspect it’s just a sign of a well used press car which has been thrashed to within an inch of its life by everyone who were handed the keys. Including me.
Down to business in Miura though. The guys and girls spent the entire afternoon just enjoying themselves immensely and I realized it IS possible to mix business with pleasure!
Tell me about a better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon…
Or with better company…?
There was just so much else going on around the 86 that it made things hard… to keep up with.
I’ll be back shortly as I have a little more to say about the 86 with a final conclusion and a special behind the scenes selection of shots from the day at the beach in Miura!
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