In 2012, the Toyota 86 GT took Australia by storm. An innovate blend of features, design and price, the sports car has maintained consistently high sales numbers month after month.
Five years later, the 2017 Toyota 86 GT has arrived. With an updated look and several significant engineering changes, does the current version of this rear-wheel sports coupe capture the same excitement of the earlier model?
Quick Look at Fast Facts:
- Vehicle Style: Sports Coupe
- Fuel Economy: 7.81/100km
- Engine: 152kW / 212 Nm 2.0-litre 4-cylinder petrol
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically-assisted mechanical steering
- Transmission: 6-speed manual and automatic, rear-wheel drive
- Safety Features: Dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags
- Price: $36,490 (plus orc)
A New Look at an Australian Classic
If you’re familiar with the 2012 Toyota 86 GT, you’ll feel right at home behind the wheel of the 2017 86 GT. At its heart, the 2017 is more of the same – and then a little bit more on top of that. The engine is stronger, the on-board tech is more advanced and, yes, the price is higher.
Let’s Take a Look at the Head-Turning Exterior
At first glance, the sleek design of the 2017 Toyota looks familiar. Perhaps too familiar, actually. There are no massive design changes like a stripped-out track special or turbocharger.
The most obvious design change is to the head and tail lights. They’re now all LED with a more modern, high-tech style. The tinted look is similar to the GTS. The car also includes daytime running lights and fog lights.
While the lights are a definite improvement, they do seem to be the only obvious major design shift. And they are. But there’s a bit more to the re-design than initially meets the eye. Look closer and you’ll see a whole host of subtle, slight and significant improvement.
The front and rear bumpers now have a more modern, organic style. This is more in line with the recent designs of many different Toyota designs. The front bumper is lower and sharper, which helps reduce turbulence over the wheel wells. The new bumper also improves downforce.
In case you don’t remember, the 2012 model had vents and a piston badge on the front quarter panel. Those have now been replaced by a smaller, round 86 logo located behind the front wheel.
The rear of the car has an all-aluminium boot lid spoiler. This is a significant upgrade from the previous plastic unit.
The rear of the car also has reinforced spot welds. The rear sway bar is thicker than before, with revised spring and damper tuning. The car now handles tighter and more reliably when turning at high speeds.
Overall, the body of the GT doesn’t have major design changes. But the more rigid body, revised suspension system and power increase do result in significant performance improvement on the road.
Take a Seat and See What’s New Inside
Standard equipment includes power windows, power mirrors, manual A/C, remote locks, multi-function trip computer and cruise control.
The exterior of the car might not knock you over with a new design. But significant changes have been made to the interior.
Let’s start with the steering wheel. At 362mm, this is the smallest diameter wheel ever seen in a Toyota. This small size and leather trim make the wheel comfortable with great handling. Unfortunately, unlike the GTS, the GT does not have wheel control for either audio or trip computation.
The tachometer has a different placement than you might be used to. Twisted to an anti-clockwise position, information is available at a glance. The 7000rpm power peak is located at the 12 o’clock position with 0rpm at six o’clock.
The infotainment system is a significant step up from the earlier model. The 6.1-inch colour touchscreen includes a USB input, Bluetooth and audio streaming. Six speakers fill the car with sound. One downside to the system is that it lacks the active, automatic updates found in other Toyota vehicles.
Overall, the infotainment touchscreen has quite a few shortcomings. It lacks navigation, a digital radio, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. These features are found in many other Toyota models so it’s disappointing to see them missing from here. Plus, the screen has low-resolution graphics which seem a little dated by modern standards.
But hopefully you’ll want to pay less attention to the dashboard readouts and more attention to the road. Driving is generally comfortable, natural and lots of fun.
Seating is much lower than many similar vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 Roadster. With the Toyota 86 GT, the driver’s seat sinks into the floorpan. When seated, you’ll be surrounded by supportive buckets. The cloth seats are comfortable and remain cool even in the hot Australian summers.
This is a sports car and the backseat reflects that. Rear riders will be pretty scrunched up without much leg or headroom. Backseat seating is really only tolerable for short rides or short kids. The boot fits about one suitcase and another small bag. Of course, neither a small backseat nor a small boot should be too surprising to sports car aficionados.
Overall, the inside of the Toyota 86 is rather sparse. With all-black cloth trim, manual air-conditioning and the lack of many high-end features, you won’t be rolling in excess. However, the simplicity of the interior also seems rather refreshing.
Under the Bonnet
The previous intake manifold was plastic but the 2017 86 GT is upgraded to cast aluminium painted Ferrari-red. The 2.0-litre boxer flat four-cylinder engine has 152kW with a torque of 212Nm.
The 212 Nm is rather slow to produce, requiring 6400rpm. During stop-and-go driving the car can feel relatively sluggish at low revolutions. But on an open road the car can really open up. The manual transmission especially has a strong single-pitch growl which you can hear and feel.
The Toyota GT has a far smoother ride than ever before. While city performance is only slightly improved, rough road control has been improved dramatically. Fast, responsive control is now possible on basically all dry surface types.
The tyres remain the same. The Toyota 86 has 16 inch Yokohama dB decibel tyres. While great in dry weather, the tires can have some real issues in wet weather. Even low speeds can cause spins. If there’s one aspect of the car you’ll want to upgrade, it’s the tyres.
The torque curve has been remapped to heighten the response even at low speeds. The 212Nm of torque on manual arrives between 6400 and 6600 rpm on both manual and automatic. On manual, the 152kW arrives at 7000rpm. On automatic, 7000rpm delivers 147kW.
The Toyota 86 has never been the most fuel efficient car, and the 2017 model doesn’t make any significant changes. Previous fuel consumption was 7.8L/100km with today’s model clocking in at 8.4L/100km.
Fuel can be expensive. The car requires 98RON, which is one of the more expensive options at the pump. Regular driving averages around 595km for every 50-litre tank.
Warranty and Service
Nothing to really worry about here. Standard warranty is for three years or 100,000km. Service is recommended every nine months or every 15,000km. The Toyota Service Advantage Capped Price Program is another option. Members pay $180 for each for the four checks, which lasts for three years.
Let’s Look at Other Options
These cars have similar features and price points:
- Mazda MX-5 Roadster
- Subaru BRZ
- Volkswagen Polo GTI
If you’re not happy with the Toyota 86’s infotainment system, the one in the BRZ is newer and more feature-rich. Looking for more speed on the road? The Polo GTI has a bit more muscle under the bonnet. Finally, while the MX-5 is very similar, it has an overall looser feel behind the wheel.
When the Rubber Meets the Road
While the specs sound good, what’s the car like on the road?
As you settle into driver’s seat, you can feel how the entire experience has obviously been designed with you in mind. The backseat might be a little cramped. The boot might be a little small. But the driver’s seat is designed entirely for your needs.
The seat wraps around you like a glove. Low to the ground, you’ll feel like you’re in an old-fashioned open-wheel racer. The rake and reach adjustable steering column give you total control.
Starting the car up gives you a nice, full roar. Even at low speeds this car has a lot to say. Throttles and revs help you create a symphony on the road.
The handling is something special. With the electric steering, every flick of your wrist results in an instant response. Curves and twists are easily conquered. Even at high speeds, the car always felt in complete control.
As the specs indicate, the tyres could definitely use an upgrade. The fat sidewalls of the 16-inch wheels give you a gentle ride, but a bit stiffer one than you might expect from a sports car. I tested the car in both wet and dry conditions. Dry was fine but I was definitely wary on the wet roads.
I’d definitely recommend the manual gearshift. This is a car meant to be driven for fun, and the manual shifter adds an element of excitement and performance. Plus, manual shifting provides an added element of control during rough (and wet) conditions.
Of course, I had to try the Track mode. This loosens up the stability control envelope. While you probably won’t see a huge time improvement, the controllable oversteer really let you cut loose with total performance.
The combo of limited slip differential, tight steering and centred seating truly had me feeling at one with the car. While not suitable for everyday driving, Track mode lets you feel like a professional driver – and it sure is a lot of fun.
Toyota 86 Review: The Final Verdict
The new Toyota 86 GT doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it doesn’t really need to. What you likely loved in the 2012 model is still here. In some cases, performance is improved. But if you’re looking for major improvements and upgrades you might be disappointed.
The Toyota 86 price is both a blessing and a curse. For just under $37,000, you get a solid engine, tight handling and a fun ride. But the price definitely puts some limitations on the feature available. The infotainment screen seems surprisingly out-dated. Overall, luxury features are generally non-existent.
Plus, the 16 inch Yokohama tyres are surprisingly slippery in rainy and wet conditions. If you’re serious about all-weather use, you’ll probably want to upgrade the tyres.
However, there’s also a lot to like here. The car isn’t about extra features. It’s about function. A powerful engine, high-performance steering and a sleek design all combine to create a special sports car feel. For the price range, you’re not going to find much to compare to terms of speed and fun.
While the improvements may not be as showy as expected, the understated changes do have an impact. Whether you’re already familiar with the original Toyota 86 GT or are just meeting this car for the first time, get ready to buckle up for a great ride.
Have you driven the 2017 Toyota 86 GT, or the earlier model? Share your thoughts in the comments below.