Toyota’s wonderful little sports car has finally emerged from under the dark cloud that was Scion. It’s a fitting change, too, as this brilliant machine was conceived as a Toyota and is steeped in the marque’s deep history of fun-to-drive sports coupes.
(Sure, there’s a Subaru version of this car and its motor is all Subaru, but we prefer to think of the 86 as a Toyota.)
Toyota has used the occasion of the badge swap in North America to make the 86 a little better than before. Not that you’d notice, but it’s nice to know they’ve fiddled with the engine and improved both the intake and exhaust sides, and the 2.0-litre boxer engine now makes 205 horsepower and 156 pounds of torque.
Sure, the overall package is sublime, but it’s this engine that defines the 86. Sure, a high-revving in-line four would be utterly brilliant, but the flat four sits low in the chassis, optimizing the 86’s centre of gravity and all around excellent handling. You can point the nose of this car with almost the same ease of a race car.
And this motor is rightly old school. No forced induction, no wall of torque just off idle. You want to hustle the 86? Well, you’ve got to work for it, son. At low revs, it sounds a bit agricultural, but the further up the rev range you go, the more it rewards you with power. It’s at its best when it’s spinning between 5,000 revs and redline.
The six-speed manual is a perfect match for the engine and has that satisfying, direct mechanical feel that you can’t find in may sports cars these days. It’s so perfect, in fact, that you feel immediately at home with the gearbox and clutchless shifts become second nature.
Speaking of which, the clutch has great bite and feel. Brake pedal feel is among the best with high-bandwidth feedback and precise modulation. The pedals are laid out perfectly, too, which in itself is a reminder that Toyota knows how to build driver’s cars. I hear what you’re saying, but, yes, they do. Forget the Corollas and Camrys.
The seat sets you up for an optimal driving interface. Low on the floor, perfect reach to the pedals and facing that thick-rimmed steering wheel. It’s the right diameter, right angle, right shape, right rim thickness. The only thing that would make it perfect is an alcantara cover, which is exactly what I would do should an 86 make its way into my garage.
For 2017, there’s a standard track mode, which I didn’t bother with. The trouble with the 86 is that’s chassis and feedback is exceptional – utterly tossable, if you will – allowing any competent driver to hoon this little sports car with systems off, no track mode required. Steering with the right pedal is second nature in this car. It’s so good that if you’re going to take it to the track, chances are you don’t need any electronic assistance. On the other hand, track mode could provide reasonable feedback to those new to track days.
Unlike some special editions of the old car (cough FR-S cough), the 2017-spec 86 uses an honest to goodness ignition key and has old school, rotary dial climate controls. Shouldn’t a start/stop button and automatic climate control be standard equipment?
If you’re the sort of driver who will daily an 86, there are a few considerations. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the rear seat is practical for shopping bags and humans of any size will be compromised. The passenger seat moves quickly and easily out of the way for access to the back seat. It’s helpful to allow anyone who’s been voluntold into a back seat passenger, as long as they’re amenable to a lack of headroom and the yoga moves required to have a seat.
The trunk is surprisingly useful, fitting at least a full size piece of luggage and a couple of smaller bags. With the Toyota’s standard reverse camera and relatively small dimensions makes it a breeze to manoeuvre around the city and into less than generous parking spots.
On the outside, the ’17 model gets new-look LED head and tail lamps, and both bumpers are reshaped, too. The changes actually give the 86 a more modern, refreshed look.
While the 86 is one of the few cars that doesn’t need any aftermarket tuning – Toyota really got this one right, straight out of the box – you can be temped rather easily by the dark side. Because the 86 is so balanced, so comfortable, so competent, I’d caution you to stay away from meddling until you truly understand what sort of tuning is right or wrong.
With the correct badge (finally), its balanced performance and handling, and very reasonable price point, the 86 is permanently affixed to our VVUZZ Recommended list. And regardless of where you stand with your tuning philosophy, take it from us, the 86 is best enjoyed in its factory spec.
2017 Toyota 86
Base Price: $29,580
As Tested: $29,580, plus $1,690 freight and PDI, Canada’s nonsensical $100 aircon tax, and eighteen and a half bucks worth so-called environmental handling fees.
Notable Options: your choice of colour and an aftermarket with enviable depth and breadth
Drivetrain: 2.0-litre four cylinder boxer engine, 205 horsepower, 156 pounds of torque, 6-speed manual transmission, rear wheel drive
Performance: 14 litres per 100 km in mixed driving and worth ever damned penny
VVUZZ Recommended: Buy one. Today.
Images courtesy of Toyota.