Success in the automotive industry can be a two-edged sword.
On the one hand, limited market performance of a new model can create the need for a mid-cycle boost or two; on the other, immediate sales success leaves the product much as it started.
The Toyota GR86 sports coupe is of the latter, being the third model, after the GR Supra and GR Yaris, to benefit directly from Toyota’s multi-championship-winning involvement in international motorsport with Toyota Gazoo Racing.
It has some catching up to do.
Evolving from the original 86, launched in Australia in 2012 signalling Toyota’s renewed commitment to sports-car engineering, the classic front-engine/rear drive coupe has gone on to sell almost 22,000 vehicles in the past 10 years.
Now the GR86, says Toyota, builds on this heritage with improved performance, dynamics, technology and styling — while retaining the affordability and usability of its predecessor.
What’s it cost?
GR86 comes in two grades GT and GTS with manual and automatic versions.
The GT is priced at $43,240, plus on-road costs, with the GTS (our test vehicle) costing $45,390 — more than $8000 over the
previous model ($32,180).
There’s no doubting the engineering advances over the original.
The GR86 auto will hit 100km/h in 6.8 seconds, according to the maker.
However, there are some question marks against the pricing, comfort and convenience of the new car.
Not only is the vehicle close to the ground, the two doors are designed to open wide side to allow entry to the back seats.
That limits opening in tight spots as so often found in modern public parking, requiring a degree of suppleness not found in the mature human frame.
On the outside, the GR86 retains the outgoing model’s sporty shape and proportions, while Toyota Gazoo Racing’s global motorsport input has added cooling and aerodynamic improvements that deliver a 0.276 coefficient of drag.
Longer and lower than the previous 86, new GR86 features a long bonnet, sloping roofline and tapered rear end with a prominent lip spoiler, giving the vehicle a low, planted stance.
GTS has the advantage of intelligent adaptive LED headlights with auto-levelling and headlight cleaner, LED daytime running lights and rear fog lights.
Dual exhaust pipes and GR badging front and rear, plus 18-inch black alloy wheels with 215/40R18 tyres, complete the sporty look.
All variants feature an upgraded 8.0-inch multimedia infotainment system with DAB+ digital radio and compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The screen is mated with a configurable 7.0-inch TFT colour info display with a Track Mode, designed with help from Toyota Gazoo Racing’s professional drivers — to provide real-time readouts for circuit driving.
In the auto the six-speaker audio adds Active Sound Control which enhances the sound of the engine under load to add a bit of drama.
Standard equipment across the range includes seven airbags, reversing camera with dynamic guidelines, ABS brakes, vehicle stability control, tyre pressure warning and front/rear seatbelt warnings.
Automatic models add more active safety equipment, including pre-collision braking with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection, parking support brake with rear parking sensors, active cruise control, and lane departure alert.
GTS grades further add rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitor.
GR86 is covered by Toyota Warranty Advantage, offering five-year unlimited kilometre coverage extending to seven-years on engine and driveline, with capped-price servicing for the first five years or 75,000km and each 12-month/15,000m service costing $280.
What’s it go like?
New GR86 is offered in two trim levels, the GT featuring black fabric upholstery, while the GTS wears two-tone Ultrasuede and leather-accented upholstery in black/silver or black/red.
While offering four sports-style, deep-set seats, the coupe is strictly a 2+2, with rear leg room something of a myth, even with average-size adults in the front.
The 237 litres of luggage space is enough, Toyota claims, to carry four spare wheels for a day of circuit driving, when the rear seats are folded, or to take luggage for a weekend away.
Powering the GR86 is a new 2.4-litre horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine producing a maximum of 174kW and 250Nm, at least 22kW and 38Nm over the 2.0-litre motor it takes over from.
Pairing with the unit are either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter automatic, with the latter featuring paddle shifters and a
range of drive modes to tailor performance to driver preferences.
Straight-line acceleration is also improved, with the GR86 automatic able to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds.
The naturally aspirated boxer engine provides linear throttle response and the ability to rev effortlessly up scale, with technologies including optimised D4-S direct injection helping to provide significantly more torque for better mid-range response.
With pleasant memories of the original 86, frankly, I would have traded in the auto transmission of the test vehicle for the six-speed manual any day. More fun.
Toyota advises premium unleaded is required and claims combined fuel consumption of 8.8L/100km.
The test car recorded 10.7L in city traffic and 4.9L on the motorway.
Multiple advances have been made under the skin, including revisions to the suspension and steering, with larger-diameter front brakes and chassis reinforcements that significantly improve torsional and lateral rigidity.
A focus on weight reduction and a lower centre of gravity result in sharper agility, handling and responsiveness.
A limited-slip Torsen differential on the rear axle is designed to maximise handling.
Those wanting to take their GR86 to the track can also choose from five different vehicle stability control settings ranging from full on to completely switched off.
What we like?
Sharper agility, handling and responsiveness
What we don’t like?
Mythical back seat
Difficult to get in and out of
Would have preferred a manual
The bottom line?
As a gent of a certain age, the GR(-ed) Toyota 86, from the beginning, presented a few challenges.
For a start there was the wallet-stripping price increase, then the need for contorted entry and exit to the extra-low slung seating and finally, a smooth, if uninspiring, automatic driving experience.