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Toyota GT86 Aero


There's no accounting for taste: that much is clear.

Toyota's new 86 sports car is undeniably one of the most exciting new models to appear this year and arguably one of the most entertaining and engaging sports cars you can buy at any price. That's especially pleasing when the little Toyota starts at just $41,986.

I've driven that entry-level model – albeit very briefly – and I'm certain it's the best of the 86 bunch. Underneath, the 147kW/205Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection boxer engine (built, like the rest of the car, by Subaru) and rear-drive chassis are the same as every other 86. But the entry 86 has the right wheel/tyre choice for a near-perfect combination of ride/handling: modest 16-inchers on 205/55 rubber.

The basic car also looks right: elegant, clean and very distinctive. It's unpretentious, like it was made for driving more than showing off. Just love it.

Then there's this week's test car, a GT86 Aero. It has some extras which I would argue are a little superfluous and some others which are downright embarrassing. That's just my personal taste of course.

The Aero kit is only available with the higher-specification GT86 model, so you already get lots of extra dressing, including leather/Alcantara upholstery, different cabin trim, climate control for the air conditioning and so on. All good stuff, although not strictly necessary in a car of this type.

The GT86 also rides on larger 17-inch alloys with even lower-profile 215/45 tyres, which look great but do affect the ride without adding a whole lot to the handling. Perhaps a little more grip, but who wants more grip in a beautifully balanced rear-drive car like this?

Standard transmission for the 86 is a slick six-speed manual, but you can also have a six-speed automatic. Our test car was thus equipped. I don't really see the point of a two-pedal transmission in a car like this, but the 86 gearbox is particularly good: smooth, decisive and capable of a little throttle ‘blip' at it changes down. In GT-specification you also get steering column-mounted paddle shifters.

So let's tally up so far. The 86 in GT mode costs $46,986, add the premium for automatic and you're up to $47,986.

The Aero package is another $1600 and adds skirts for the front and bumpers, plus a massive rear wing. When I say massive, I mean it: the top of the spoiler is roof-height and the struts are so think that they block your over-the-shoulder vision during motorway lane-change manoeuvres.

Anyway, the grand total for our test car is $49,586. I want to say that takes the 86 out of value territory, but a pricetag under $50k for one of the best sports cars on the market is still fantastic value. If you must, the Aero kit is certainly a lot of extra plastic for just $1600.

I love driving the 86. It has the right amount of power (not too much) and grip (not too much) to enable the driver to really enjoy that sublime rear-drive chassis. It also sounds great, courtesy of Subaru's thrummy boxer powerplant. I wouldn't consider an automatic 86 myself, although I accept that many buyers will and that's fine.

I cannot come to terms with the Aero kit, which is completely over the top and ruins the elegant shape of this little coupe.

Still, Toyota New Zealand argues that there's a market for an 86 like this and I'm sure it's right. If you're one of them, good luck with your Aero automatic. It's still a sports car more accomplished than most, but as far as I'm concerned it's also the least impressive 86 in the range.

Let's be honest: if the 86 wasn't such a sensational driver's car I would have been a bit reluctant to leave the house in my bespoilered Aero model. That's just my personal taste of course…

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