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Toyota GT86

 

Should you really mess with such a good thing? We test the upgraded version of Toyota’s highly acclaimed GT86 coupe.

Base price: $47,486.

Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre petrol four, 147kW/205Nm, 6-speed manual, rear-drive, Combined economy 7.8 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 7.6 seconds.

Vital statistics: 4240mm long, 1285mm high, kerb weight 1263kg, fuel tank 50 litres, 17-inch alloy wheels.

We like: Pretty much everything: handling to delight any purist, completely unpretentious, great value.

We don’t like: Needs to be fed with 95 octane fuel (98 recommended), optional red cabin trim is hideous.

How it rates: 10/10

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The 86 coupe is about as close to perfection as Toyota has come with a car for a long time (with apologies to development partner Subaru, of course). Still, that doesn’t excuse it from the usual cycle of mid-life upgrades and so the company has given it a tweak.

Thankfully it’s a small tweak, because there’s really not a lot you would want to change about this car: there are some minor suspension revisions, new interior trim and that’s about it. The only exterior change is a ‘shark fin’ antenna on the roof.

The car on test here is the top GT86, with the must-have six-speed manual transmission.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The 86 powertrain has been carried over unchanged: the boxer-four engine is still a little short on torque but packed full of aural character; both good reasons to use it hard and enjoy the results.

The six-speed manual gearbox is a good one, too: it falls to hand beautifully because you’re sitting so low and the short-throw shifts are delightfully precise.

The main mechanical changes are focused on suspension, with more rigid hardware and retuned shock absorbers. There are revised mounting points, lower-friction bushings and new oil/seals.

These are incremental changes and so the dynamic character of the 86 is much as it was. It has all the ingredients to please the enthusiast: light weight, rear-drive and a limited-slip differential. Not sure if the slightly stiffer ride is a good idea, but it’s certainly not uncomfortable. Toyota says the changes have further sharpened the steering, so we won’t complain.

The 86 is still a dream to drive. It’s not fast and was never meant to be: this car is all about enthusiastic use of the powertrain and beautifully balanced handling. It’s just as entertaining at 50km/h as it is on a track day. Enjoy.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? It’s a tiny two-plus-two coupe that sits low to the ground, so some level of fitness and flexibility is required if you’re going to be climbing in and out of this car every day.

But if that’s not a problem, the 86 is one sports car that easily serves as regular transport. It’s easy to drive slowly, visibility is good and there’s a surprisingly long (if shallow) boot. It’s also relatively refined if you’re easy on the throttle.

The 86 has never been about interior style. The cabin is nicely put together but short on flair. No problem with that: this is not a car for showing off in; or at least not showing off in that way.

The makeover model has an unconvincing ‘carbon fibre’ insert in the instrument panel and the option of red highlights for the interior, which includes the steering wheel, stitching, seats and mouldings on the doors. All pretty dreadful and not in keeping with the businesslike demeanour of the car.

The 86 is not a ‘look at me’ car. It’s more of a ‘see me go’ car, and lurid red interior trim doesn’t really help with your cornering lines.

SHOULD I BUY ONE? The GT86 is a thing that brings great joy to those who love the pure aspects of driving. If you are one of those then yes, you should buy one immediately.

Really, the only thing that comes close for a combination of virtuoso dynamics and value for money is the Mazda MX-5, and the 86 surpasses that for breadth of talent and chassis sophistication. At least until next year, when an all-new MX-5 will be launched.

Can’t wait: the more proper sports machines the better. Cars like this make us happy.

EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

  • Air conditioning: Dual climate
  • Audio: CD, iPod compatible
  • Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/no
  • Blind spot warning: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Cruise control: Yes
  • Driver footrest: Yes
  • Head-up display: No
  • Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
  • Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
  • Lane guidance: No
  • Leather upholstery: No
  • Parking radar: No
  • Power boot or tailgate: No
  • Power seat adjustment/memory: No
  • Rear ventilation outlets: No
  • Remote audio controls: No
  • Satellite navigation: No
  • Seat height adjustment: Yes
  • Self-parking technology: No
  • Split/folding rear seats: No
  • Steering reach adjustment: Yes
  • Stop-start: No
  • Trip computer: Yes

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