Test Drive : Toyota GR86 : A driver’s delight

Loving cars seems to have become outdated and spirited driving is no longer compatible with our roads. Nowadays, people clogg motorways central lane driving at a steady 110 km/h to avoid being fined. Not to mention lazyness… that way, there’s no need to change lanes and being at risk while textingbehind the wheel. Which means that launching a new sports coupe in 2022 would appear being pretty reckless… or just so enthusiastic, like Akio Toyoda, Toyota’s founder grandson, might be.

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Back in 2012, the introduction of the GT86 thrilled sports car enthusiasts. It featured all the right ingredients : a classic two-door coupe body, an attractive enough sporty shape and rear-wheel drive. Despite lacking power and fit and finish levels not on par with European standards, it enjoyed great success. However, for a long time there was just no plan to replace it at some stage. The GR86 launch earlier this year completes the brand’s range of sporty and dynamic cars. That’s a welcome sign that Toyota is still focused on enthusiastic drivers’ pleasure !

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I like it

It is easy to see that the new car’s overall shape is still based on the former GT86 : the doors and the small rear window being carry on items. Nevertheless,  everything else is new and fresh. The new face features redesigned headlights and a gaping grille is more purposeful. Just like the evocative side air intake and exhaust vents located behind the front wheels. Hovewer, we are less convinced by the rear end treatment. The 3D shaped lights linked together by a black strip are just « in your face », while the bumper is quite fussy. Once inside, both the perfect driving position and the small 3 spoke steering wheel taken from the GR Yaris are good reminders of the old GT86. The centre console design is still a really fussy affair but the infotainment screen is now big enough to be handy, even though it can’t accommodate satnav. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work just fine !

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Quite clever

The Japanese engineers increased the small 4-cylinder boxer engine capacity to 2,387cc. It now uses stiffer connecting rods while the combustion chambers were reworked to improve their efficiency. Power output goes up from 200 to 234 hp but this will seem quite modest and underpowered to fans of highly powerful German beasts. However, it’s the torque curve that’s been mostly improved : 250 Nm are available from a lowish 3,700 rpm and not at 6,600 rpm. The Toyota coupe really feels all the livelier for it. High-speed enthusiasts- like yours truly- will always delighted shifting gears of the 6-speed manual gearbox. Sitting behind the GR86 wheel will soon make bring a large grin on your face. Michelin Premacy is the default rubber choice but Pilot Sport4 ones are featured on « Sport » cars, like the one we tested. Being more efficient, they are also less forgiving once the back of the car drifts… only skilled drivers will be able to take advantage of them ! The steering is still perfectly calibrated. Balancing the car from one bend to the next is a real pleasure, thanks to the very precise front end. And the bigger capacity engine now has enough grunt to get you out of an hairpin at a decent speed just using your right foot.

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I don’t like it

A bigger engine means higher fuel consumption. During our 528 km test drive, we averaged 11.1 l/100 km, compared to 9.5 l/100 km with the GT86. Not even mentioning more expensive tyres that will need to be replaced quite quickly if you have fun behind the wheel. Being a coupe, the GR86 offer minimal back seat space and a tiny trunk but these are usual coupes flaws.

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Why I buy it

If you like to have fun behind the wheel and fluent with hell and toe, this car is just perfect for you. It’s possible to enjoy driving the GR86 without worrying too much at the cost involved. Compared to the big lardy German competition that inevitably disapoint when taking a slight curve in a spirited way, the GR86 is a ballerina girl. It only weighs 1275 kg and will put a smile on your face every time you will drive it. Fun is the name of the game and the GR86 should feature high on all genuine enthusiastic drivers’ shortlist. It can be enjoyed on a racetrack, dashing on a long cross- country run or even negociating the typical Southern Belgium winding curves and bends on a fine Fall afternoon…

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Why I don’t buy it

Simply because we can’t afford it anymore ! When we fell in love with the GT86, we got one for just €30.000. The new GR86 starts from 34.600€ and the « Sport » version (featuring heated leather seats, blind spot detection, adaptive lighting and front parking sensors) retails for €37.030. On top of that, in Wallonia the registration fee is a hefty €5,000 while the old GT86 was half that. Higher fuel consumption will inevitably up running costs, just like the bigger sportier tyres fitted. True, the Toyota coupe is now better and more refined but buyers will have to foot a bigger bill… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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