Ten Second Review
'Fun'. In recent years it's been hard to construct a sentence where the word sits comfortably with 'Toyota'. The GT86 (known as the FT-86 during its far from secret development) changes all that. Bland and reliable doesn't sell to young, fun-seeking drivers, but Toyota is confident that the smart, rev-loving, rear-drive coupe it's made in collaboration with Subaru most certainly will.
The formula is simply classic: snarly, high-revving four-cylinder engine in the nose, rear-wheel-drive, 2+2 seating, a swoopy body, a stubby gearlever and a cosy cabin with low-slung sports seats - more or less a throwback, quite intentionally, to the Corolla GT Coupe of 1984. Subaru's version, the BRZ, is mechanically identical but looks a little different, and there'll even be a third version for the American market called the Scion FR-S which will look subtly altered again.
Common to all the versions, however, is a 197bhp, 151lb ft flat four engine that uses a Subaru block and Toyota-designed cylinder heads that's been designed to spin to 7000rpm and direct its output to the road via a six-speed manual gearbox. So it's Old School with a modern execution. Best of all is the asking price of around £25,000 which will certainly give fwd rivals like the VW Scirocco R something to think about.
Weighing just 1180 kilos, you might expect the GT86 to make rather more of its 197bhp and 151lb ft of torque than the estimated headline performance stats of 140mph and 0-62mph in 7.6s suggest. But this car isn't just about raw power. Its lean kerb weight will play just as big a role in the way it handles and rides. A limited slip differential also fitted as standard, reaffirming GT86's essential "driver's car" character.
And, in this respect, all the ingredients look especially promising: quick steering (2.5 turns lock to lock), a limited slip differential and, perhaps most importantly of all, ESP that can be fully turned off. The emphasis here is on keenness of response, agility and the ability to adjust the cornering attitude as much with the throttle as the helm, and 17-inch versions of the low rolling resistance tyres that can also be found on the Toyota Prius should ensure that outright grip never overwhelms the desire to play the angles should the driver so wish. Back-to-basics fun was always at the heart of the brief for this car.
The driving environment should certainly help get you in the mood with its low-slung bucket seats and driver-centric control layout, not to mention the drilled pedals and footrest. Disappointments? A short-throw gearchange that's a tad notchy and a six-speed auto option that, while smooth, lacks the snappy alacrity of the best double-clutchers. But that's about it.
Design and Build
Of the two versions of this design (Subaru's BRZ is the other), Toyota's aesthetic approach has been the more conservative. This though, remains a very good looking car indeed and if the styling isn't daring enough for you, then optional side, roof and bonnet decals are available in black or silver to add an extra dimension to GT86's sporting appearance.
The 2+2 cabin further emphasizes the essential character of the GT86, with a cockpit designed around the driver, front sports seats, aluminum pedals and contrasting red stitching around the black leather trimmed steering wheel, gear knob and parking brake. Access is easy thanks to the Smart Entry system, and the cabin environment can be programmed for comfort with dual-zone air conditioning. The six-speed automatic transmission available for GT86s includes paddle shifts to give the driver the option of making manual gear changes.
Market and Model
Prices start from about £25,000, with a £1,500 premium for the automatic version. That looks good value against obvious rivals like VW's Scirocco R, the Peugeot RCZ THP 200 GT and the MINI Cooper Coupe JCW. There are decent equipment levels too. Black cloth upholstery is standard, but customers have the option of black leather and Alcantara, or black leather with red Alcantara and additional red leather styling details on the door grips, steering wheel, gear knob and parking brake.
The high quality extends to an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control, hill-start assist, scuff plates and the Toyota Touch touchscreen control system for controlling the six-speaker audio system, with Bluetooth for phone connection and music streaming, and a USB port. As an option, the system can be upgraded to Toyota Touch and Go, with satellite navigation and advanced functions such as speed and safety camera warnings, on-board connection to Google Local Search and (via subscription) connected services providing data such as live parking and fuel price information and local weather forecasts.
Active safety provisions include a switchable VSC stability control system, which can be adjusted through three driving modes to suit driver preference, and a torque-sensing limited slip differential. Seven airbags are provided, including a driver's knee airbag.
Cost of Ownership
With strong demand and Toyota's (mostly) unblemished reputation for reliability, strong residual values are predicted for the GT 86 in anticipation that buyers will welcome its focus on core driving pleasures. Decent economy and emissions are another strong suit with the manual model managing 36.2mpg on the combined cycle and 181g/km of CO2 in combined driving. Go for the 6-speed automatic and those figures actually improve - to 39.8mpg and 164g/km.
That robust sales await the arrival of the GT86 are virtually a cast iron certainty. For all the undoubted excellence of cars like the Volkswagen Scirocco, the affordable coupe market has probably been waiting for a car like the Toyota for too long. But, in a way, that only makes its timing all the more astute. For drivers old enough to have been cutting their sporting teeth in the '80s, it's a slice of updated nostalgia. For younger would be hot shoes, it will show them what they've been missing.
It may not be the fastest thing from A to B but it was never meant to be. In the GT86 the experience will be all about the journey, not the arriving.