People should just quit their bitching about these cars already. Less than a year into production and all I hear is nonsense from people who know absolutely nothing about them. These people’s opinions are like ex’s; we’ve all had one and yet, most of what comes with the fallout is baseless trash talking. And the 86 and BRZ quite simply don’t deserve it…

These cars suffer from the same dilemma as if they were a girl dumped unceremoniously for not having big enough breasts or a guy, shot down for not having a fat enough wallet. Both situations are shallow, conceited, baseless and downright ignorant; not to mention completely and utterly stupid. This then, brings me nicely around to why these types of people should just sit down, shut up and drive an 86 or BRZ before saying anything else.

The biggest problem is that almost all of these people simply haven’t driven one and yet they bang on about how bad it is. 95% of people rubbishing the car haven’t even sat behind the wheel of one of these magnificent things, let alone driven one in anger or gotten one completely sideways and held it there on the redline. Yet, my posts on them are often littered with expletives on how “shit” it looks and how “gutless” the engine is, how “common” they are and let’s not forget, how “overpriced” they are.

These people have rocks in their heads. Sure, it’s natural instinct to be afraid of something you don’t understand but the invention of the internet has given people instant gratis for unleashing verbal diarrhea straight from head to keyboard without even the slightest amounts of thought going into the process in-between. And that gives me constant migraines.

Truth be told, I have mercilessly caned both the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ on a number of occasions over the past year and have come away utterly spellbound by just how good they actually are. So, in the interests of internests educations, I have decided that I am going to list, in no particular order, the reasons why the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are the best cars to come out of Japan in almost two decades and why they are currently two of the absolute best cars in the world right now.

And don’t think I’m trying to sell these things – I couldn’t care less if you buy one or not but hopefully, through this article, some people will remember to still tongue and hands after reading this and just go out to their closest dealer to test drive one in order to find out for themselves…. chances are, they will come back and say they have been converted.

1. They’re Ridiculously Affordable: Not everywhere of course but certainly in most countries where the government doesn’t try to rape its citizens for aspiring to own a sporty box with 4 wheels attached to it. ( Shame on you, governments of Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia… you’ve let everybody down with your ridiculous taxes. ) The 86 and BRZ in base trim are more or less about $25 large in the States and about the same in Australia, Japan and Europe.

That’s stupid cheap for a car that has the highest fun factor of anything around the same value. The AE86 when it came out in 1986 was the same price ( around $25,000 ) and that was 27 YEARS AGO. I find that absolutely remarkable value for a car where 91 per cent of its parts are bespoke and a tad eerie that Toyota has brought in the new model at virtually identical pricing points, 27 years later, even accounting for inflationary issues.

And people are STILL complaining about the price?! Toyota and Subaru – you can’t win! I’m not talking about second hand cars at this price range, either. What else can you get brand new on the market today for the same price and ability as an 86 or BRZ – two cars that are compared to Porsches for their prowess? A Mustang? Overweight and can’t take corners anywhere near as well. The Genesis coupe? Keep trying Hyundai… you “might” get there one day. So what else is there in this price bracket that comes remotely close to being as good as an 86? The BRZ and FR-S are two of the only cars that can. Oh, the irony.

2. They’re Tunable: I knew this was going to happen the second the concept was announced, almost 6 years ago now. We’ve been covering it ever since the details started leaking. And my predictions have come true in the blackest of spades. The single biggest WTF moment came at the 2013 TAS, where the halls were literally FLOODED with 86’s in every single tuning configuration you could think of and with any part your heart desired. Want a bolt on turbo kit? Right this way. Supercharger? Yep. Bigger brakes? Of course. Every single other modification you care to name? Absolutely and catered for better than a Kings breakfast.

Virtually every single Japanese tuning manufacturer you care to name has gone absolutely crazy on the ZN6 and ZC6 platforms. Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s because the car is “shit“, “ugly“, “overpriced” or “too common“? No, it’s because it is the opposite of every one of these things.

So you don’t like the wheels because you think they are ugly? Dump them in the trash and go some after market items. (< —One of the first things I would do actually, but do so after you have blown them to smithereens in a massive smokey burnout.) Don’t like the standard exhaust? Go aftermarket. Don’t like 200hp? Go aftermarket. Don’t like the standard design? GO. AFTERMARKET.

The stroke of genius to what Toyota and Subaru envisioned when creating the 86 and BRZ was to enable a customer to start with a blank canvas. The cars are literally sheets of clean white paper and the after market tuners have just handed you a massive box of crayons to draw and color whatever you damn well like on it. These cars are like being kids all over again.

Sure Toyota and Subaru want you to buy “genuine options” but they aren’t complaining if you go elsewhere with your money. In fact, they encourage it, they support it. Why else do you think they were doling out exclusive pre-purchase cars for the tuners to play with for months before the official release?

3. They’re Extremely Lightweight: People need to shut up about this cars weight. It’s a real buzzkill. It weighs only 1210kg’s in full trim and a good stripping down of whatever you deem unnecessary will bring it well under 1100kg’s and into sub 1000kg territory if you went bonkers enough. The hell is wrong with people these days where all they can think about is massive amounts of power in a 600 or 700 kilogram chassis? It seems everyone dreams of killing themselves in the most violent way possible these days.

4. They’re Rear Wheel Drive 6 Speed Manuals: Nuff said. If that isn’t a selling point alone in the car, then you should just stick to driving a Prius or some other vapid and lifeless appliance that gets you from A to B in the cheapest possible way. Better yet, take a bus and leave the cars to those who want to enjoy them. At least that way, we wont have the 18 month waiting list in countries like Australia to deal with. Even in Japan, demand is far outstripping supply. Neither company can keep up with the amounts of sheer “want” both these platforms bring with them.

5. They’re Incredibly Simple: Imagine working on an R35 GT-R with its complex space brain, AWD black magic and multi-clutch trickery … all by yourself. Yeah, I don’t think so. The 86 and BRZ? Get me the damn tools – I’ll do it myself! They are incredibly simple cars to work on. I was crawling around underneath a brand spanking new 86 that was in for super-charger tuning at Pentroof recently. I couldn’t believe how simple the multi point suspension arrangement was, how neatly packaged the braking, cooling and exhaust systems were. How incredibly basic and compact the entire layout was. It looked like absolute childs-play.

There’s no unnecessary electronic nonsense to fiddle with – it’s an almost entirely mechanical arrangement and that is pure genius. This is a car you can work on with your kids, crawl all over and customize together while having an absolute ball along the way. There’s no obtrusive hybrid systems or battery packs to worry about, no sophisticated electronic devices to be wary of – these cars are willing accomplices. They desperately want to be tuned. They’re literally screaming at you, “TUNE ME!!”

These cars literally represent the automotive equivalent of a modern day renaissance between fathers and sons, friends and even husbands and wives. Imagine doing that with your Prius? “Okay son, let’s go out to the shed and tune the Prius!”. Just shoot me before that ever happens.

( well, maybe not husbands and wives/gf’s so much, if this video is anything to go by…^^^ )

But you get the point. Think about it. No more stripped or threaded bolts on that 80’s or 90’s JDM ride you passionately love. No more scrounging around for hard to find parts. No more cursing and muttering expletives when the thing refuses to start or run. It has all been made so much easier with the 86 and BRZ. Passion has just taken on a completely different form. It no longer means you have to bleed to get anywhere with it. You don’t have to resort to extortionate modification charges if you have the nouse to D.I.Y. You have a machine that Subaru and Toyota have deliberately engineered to be tuned even further from stock with bolt on modifications and that’s brilliance right there.

Subaru told me there’s no room in the engine bay for a turbo, which was utter bollocks ( …all you have to do is open the hood to see there’s ample room for a front mount ) but Subaru HAS to say that don’t they? They have to tow the company line and maintain a strong sense of plausible deniability, lest they be found out. But I knew that, just like the R35, they were talking nonsense. Nissan said the R35 could never be tuned.

I still laugh at that today when I see companies like HKS pushing out 1200hp at the crank on conservative boost levels via their GT1200 4.1 liter, VR strokers. There is more than ample room in the engine bay of both cars to a), work quite easily and freely and b), for the addition of aftermarket tuning parts including the turbo that EVERYONE thinks this car needs to have. Most of the people who say this, again, haven’t even driven one of theses things yet!

What Toyota and Subaru have done is give you just enough to start with. The rest is up to you on where you want to take it. Some people will be happy with 200hp and a few simple mods. Others will want to go apeshit on them and try to extract 1000hp from the cars somehow. Each to their own in this case. One of the craziest FA20’s I have seen was actually built by HKS and it was built into Max Orido’s D1 car. It is turbocharged, 2.1 liters and puts out 700hp in a car that weighs about 1050kg’s. No, of course not, the FA20 is a piece of crap to some and HKS don’t know what they are doing, right? Do tell… I’m intrigued.

6. They’re Beautiful to Look at: Here’s where we may have to agree to disagree. I personally think both cars look stunning, with curves and angles in all the right places. I prefer the 86 factory kit over the BRZ but that’s just personal preference. Both have a wide, square rump, leading around into a high, bulging waistline and narrow mid section; broad shoulders at the front, swooping down the elongated bonnet into those aggressively angled, LF-A-esque headlights. That jutting chin spoiler connected to a space wide enough for the fitment of a massive intercooler. A very simple, yet purposeful and striking design for little more than a mind numbingly boring FWD Corolla, wouldn’t you agree? And that’s before you even get to fiddling with it’s appearance which has been catered for massively by the manufacturers and aftermarket tuners.

It just so happens that I was fortunate enough to have been involved with the design process of a kit for the 86. Having convincing them that an 86 body-kit was where the smart money was, Abflug went about creating one of the most elegant designs to come out for the car; a definite standout among the 91 individual 86/BRZ builds at the TAS just last month. I was there the entire way, vocal on the way the kit should accentuate and not detract from the 86’s natural lines. Naturally, I’m biased in this regard but it doesnt change what I’m trying to say here, if you can grasp the underlying meaning.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder sure but the point I’m trying to get at is that the 86 is infinitely customizable, body included. You can literally throw yourself at it in any way you like, knowing there is a massive amount of support for the platform in every corner of the tuning industry. And the prices, like the car itself, won’t ask for organ donations.

7. They’re Fun to Drive: So you haven’t driven one yet? Foolish human! Grab your iPhone right now (…or that crappy Android thing you insist on using instead) and check for your nearest dealer. Then get on the damn phone today and book a test with one. Don’t bother with the auto (not that its bad in any way). Don’t care about the color. Force them to give you a couple of days with a manual. Trust me, you might now want to hand the keys back at the end of those two days.

The 86 and BRZ are incredibly fun and easy cars to drive in any situation. Power Junkies need to go and look somewhere else – this is not a car for the uncivilized. It’s for discerning and passionate enthusiasts who love to drive and understand the purity a visceral driving experience can give them; for people who feel it through the cheeks of their backsides, through the vibrations coming through their hands from the road beneath them and on every bend after that. This is not a car for “drag strip heroes”. It’s as BMW has always said; “Pure. Driving. Pleasure.”

No wonder BMW and Toyota are getting into bed with each other. Their babies are going to be global superstars.

8. They Actually Exist: Toyota almost canned the entire project because the corporate suits on the board are paper pushers who wouldn’t know automotive passion if it slapped them in the face. They wanted more beige appliances. More cream colored boxes on wheels to get people from A to B. More boring cars with no soul. Luckily for them (and for all of us), Toyota has a passionate Commander in Chief and an equally passionate Lieutenant. If it weren’t for Akio Toyoda and Tetsuya Tada, my hopes for the automotive world would have imploded. For almost 15 years, I’ve been looking to the manufacturers to bring up new models for the entry level market and almost none of them wanted to go 6 speed manual and RWD.

All of them insisted on this ridiculous notion of “Going Green” and running hybrids… which nobody worth their sweaty sports socks wanted. It was literally forced down our throats. And then there was Toyota… the New Honda. Toyoda san and Tada san are racers, car nuts and they knows what people want. Toyoda in particular, forced it through despite the objections; despite the plans being strangled with bureaucratic Japanese political and corporate red tape. You are my heroes Akio Toyoda and Tetsuya Tada and car fans the world over, owe you a debt of gratitude.

So, back to the people mindlessly complaining about these cars. Be thankful they actually even exist. Some will complain either way, so Toyota and Subaru are damned if they do and damned if they don’t but that didn’t stop them thankfully and the whole world is raving about these machines… rightfully so. If people like Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Harris and Tiff Needell are all raving about it simultaneously, then something has to be right… right?

What is wrong with people these days? People complained for half my adult life that there was “..no passion in Japanese sports cars anymore..” and that “…Japanese industry is dying…” and yet when Toyota and Subaru do something to change that and build something absolutely amazing, people are STILL complaining, except for different reasons this time.

And finally to you, my dear Nissan. You made a big mistake not bringing back the S16 Silvia when you had the chance to beat Toyota to the punch. Your conservative attitude has now cost you dearly. When you had the initiative and Toyota was faltering in the boardroom over the decision to bring out these two automotive superstars, you absentmindedly threw the plans for the S16 in the trash and now all you can talk about is Baby Zed this and Baby Zed that while looking lustfully at the sales figures of the BRZ and 86. No one cares. There’s already a Zed on the market and it fits well above the entry level point where the Silvia should have been in the first place. It’s too bad, because Subaru and Toyota have literally handed you your own bottom and you have no-one else to blame but yourselves.

I’m not going to wait for your hot air, either. Toyota and Subaru, you’ve got my monies. All of them.

Words – Adam Zillin

Photos – Adrian Venner, Rob Shaw and Adam Zillin



  1. Loved your note, still I wish in my country they were that affordable. Toyota official price tag in Argentina for an 86 starts at 48800 USD. One day, one day we will have the country flooded on RWD turning beasts.

  2. Adam Zillin your article written was far more childish than speedhunters, or any other automotive journalist. a professional journalist would not use the words like “bollocks”, “bitching”, “stupid”.. etc etc. very rude.. you should head back to elementary correct your proper english and learn to respect. this is why “7Tune” untill today didn’t gain robust popularity.

  3. Adam Zillin your article written was far more childish than speedhunters, or any other automotive journalist. a professional journalist would not use the words like “bollocks”, “bitching”, “stupid”.. etc etc. very rude.. you should head back to elementary correct your proper english and learn to respect. this is why “7Tune” untill today didn’t gain robust popularity.

  4. “A Mustang? Overweight pile of American rubbish that can only go in a straight line and doesn’t understand what a corner is. The Genesis coupe? A flaccid, notchy, poorly built, uncommunicative Korean excuse for a “sports” car. Keep trying Hyundai… you “might” get there one day.”

    With that paragraph, you destroyed whatever credibility you had. You tell everyone to get their collective head out of their asses, and then you go and pull that out of your ass. Good Job. 

  5. Great write up Adam! Have to agree with what you saying! I wish Nissan would pull their socks up and do something about the S16, but like you say, it may just be to late for them… I praise Toyota and Subaru for taking a leap of faith and giving the car nuts something we want…a car that is RWD and as customizable as your imagination allows. There will always be the haters, but thats ok, we need them, just to prove to them how wrong they really are!

  6. Adam I could not agree with you more. In fact I would like to add one more; It has a 5 Speed Auto that doesn’t suck! Sadly, the only thing that is holding me back is the price. At the moment where I’m from, due to availability and brand the cars are way way overpriced, costing US 34K !!!! I had to take a pass on the car but I picked a used auto RX-7 to tide me over.

  7. The last statement rang so true with me. I was Nissan at heart, I’ve owned 5 and nothing else. Then the 86 came out and caught my attention. Then the BRZ came out and I knew I had to have one. They are simply sublime to drive. My BRZ arrives in April after waiting since August.

  8. The last statement rang so true with me. I was Nissan at heart, I’ve owned 5 and nothing else. Then the 86 came out and caught my attention. Then the BRZ came out and I knew I had to have one. They are simply sublime to drive. My BRZ arrives in April after waiting since August.

  9. Just the fact, that this car has been designed to be at least as good as the AE86 is a selling point for me. Number of cylinders, weight, balance and ability to be modified. The engineering compared this car with the AE86 throughout the development. But…

    I kinda don’t like the tone of this article. When the haters are on one side of the coin, you look like to be on the other side of the same coin though. But there is no doubt truth in it.

    People complained about the auto industry for not listening to the drivers. Now they listened, Toyota in particular brought back an RWD rocket, a car, which is an actual car and not a computer, and they complain about it again. This car is made for fun (especially sideways). While the US is building bigger engines to go faster and faster, while being death traps, building small, light cars with small engines does actually work.

  10. Shervin Gohari Moghadam

    I love the 86/BRZ, it´s perfect in every sense but you are a bit too radical. Specially when bashing Ford, Hyundai and Nissan. They are still cars. Nissan is still developing one of the most amazing cars to come out of Japan the R35 GTR, they are still producing and updating the Z, they are helping out private race teams, they are getting closer to Nismo. The Mustang is not the most exciting car on the planet but it is still an iconic american car, that is still after all these years being produced. Ford could have ditched the Mustang many years ago. Hyundai has come a far way with the Genesis, remember where the company was five years ago? Today tuning companies offer packages for their cars, teams build drift cars and car journalists praise the Korean company for their achievement.

    The 86 is amazing and one of the best cars to come out of Japan in a very long time, I will never forget the launch. The car is perfect in my opinion but we can´t bash all the other marques.

    We are all car enthusiasts, we love cars. A true car enthusiast can see something good in every car, unless it is a total piece of crap and the car enthusiast has a very good reason to hate it.

  11. I love this car as well ! But price is a bit more than 25k here in Europe. In France/Belgium/Germany, you can’t get it for less than 40 000$. And for that kind of price, or even waaay cheaper, you could get a 1 serie BMW. 
    I know, it’s ugly and so, but go ahead, explain people here why a Toyota is half the price more of a BMW…

  12. Talk about written diarrhea! I was nodding and smiling with the clueless author for awhile but this article quickly turned to dribble…

    To compare this car with a Porsche or a Mustange is a joke – Most mustangs will destroy the FRS/BRZ. As for Porsche I currently own a 997 as well as its japanese 4wd tt counterpart, I could put the smack down on the FRS or BRZ in reverse. . But of course a used 997 or gtr costs 3x the price of this car new so that’s not a fair comparison. What is a fair comparison is the Hyundai Genesis coupe. Having had quite some seat time in the coupe and currently daily-driving a Santa Fe awd turbo I can say Hyundais are much superior vehicles than the FRS and that’s due to pure economics.

    The simple truth is Hyundai has a far superior cost advantage to Toyota who is struggling to make ends meet with 95:1 JPY:USD conversion rate. This is why you simply get more bang for the buck with a Korean car – a more powerful engine that is easily modifiable as well as a decently put together chassis, and a decent interior with decent looking lines. As for the EJ20 variant engine, this engine is simply tired and again was chosen for economics. I mean come on in an age where sports cars are making 550+HP out of the box, Toyota is building a 200HP sports car? No thank you I’ll take the genesis.

    As for aftermarket tuning you really think all the “tuners” jumped onboard this car because it’s “awesome”? No – economics strikes again! The “tuners” all jumped onboard this car because there was nothing left in the industry to monetize. The GTR market was already saturated and the “tuning” market was crashing because all the kids are broke these days, so all the tuners decided to “tune” the FRS. You really think with its production run rate TEN PLUS forced induction companies can all make money selling a $3k+ kit after development costs? Certainly they cannot quite a few are losing their shirts.

    The bottom line is the FRS is a good looking, decent handling, slow car. It’s convinced tens of thousands to spring for a slow car – a cult following if you will – but that’s like the early days of the civic or integra – everyone thought they were the king of the world running high 16’s until you got your ass handed to you by a Mustang 5.0 or Mitsubishi Eclipse. You want a fast car for $25k? Get a Genesis Coupe. And no, I don’t own a Genesis Coupe..

  13. Though some of the words chosen here may have been “crude”, it is sometimes refreshing to hear someone write their true beliefs in a completely legable format.
    I for one, have not had the chance to drive an 86 as of yet, but i enjoy N/A motoring and understand its not all about the face-shredding horsepower game. Having owned a 2000 CL1 Honda Accord Euro R i understand how it feels to have a great handling chassis with a powerplant that (though wont win any drag races) will certainly put a smile on ones face.
    Its about balance, it seems Toyota and Subaru alike have decided on where this balance should rest, then given you the metaphorical tools to form your own idea of that balance and how it should be.

  14. Way to take being a fanboy and a nut swinger to a whole new level. I like the frs/brz a lot, but come on….

  15. compete rubbish, for $22k I can got get a new mustang that will run circles around one, just as tunable and just as catered to the aftermarket community, also comes with a 6 speed rear wheel drive and just as easy to work on, oh did I mention it has 2 more cylinders. now true I’ve never driven one and i’m not bashing them i’m sure their a blast to drive but i’m currently on the band wagon they are way to hyped up, and yes I could afford the car but it would be bone stock for 5 years till it was paid off (so would the mustang so another point to the mustang for it being a better car for those 5 years), so tunability doesn’t really mean squat to me, or any other owner I’ve seen as every single one of them I see on the road is also bone stock. In fact the only ones I’ve seen that aren’t bone stock are shop/show cars or people with to much bloody money, that had a shop build their’s.

  16. I stumbled over this article last night. After reading it I wrote a message to a befriended car dealer if it is possible to make a test drive in a gt86. So today I had a day off, went to him and drove one. Thank you for making my free day somewhat interesting ;).
    It handles really good, but the “punch” is missing. I drive a jzz30 Soarer. I would not trade it for the gt86 but the gt would be a nice car to have as well.
    The engine felt like a h22 in a bb6 prelude I used to have. Not bad but a little bit underpowered.
    Greets from Germany

  17. I have had my GT86 base model for 18 months now and until today, I still think this is the best car that I have owned and driven all my life. I had an 850 hp supra, R32GTR, and a couple of V8 Commodores, and none of them closely matched how good the 86 is. As a person who loves driving, I just realized that having the highest hp does not make a car great at all.

    The 86 is just a very good car on so many levels. Driving it is pure fun, and you cannot put a number to that. To the haters, I don’t really give a sh1t on what they think, no… I don’t give a god damn what they think.

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