This is going to be one of those articles a lot of people will ignore, and I can't exactly blame them. After all, it's an owner going "look how great my car is". But hopefully, those who have got this far will realise I've got something more important to say here.
Lets try looking forward, where is automotive technology going, and what are we going to be driving in the future? Electric or Hybrid cars are all well and good, but it's not what we think of when we consider a "Perfect Drive" scenario. Chances are you're thinking of thrashing the life out of something older, and probably naturally aspirated. A 1972 Porsche 911 ST on the Italian Dolomites, a classic Golf GTI on a damp country lane in wales, or maybe even a Triumph TR6 rushing through the New Forrest. If you're like me, then you would have been around that ballpark anyway. And it makes me a little sad in a way, the idea of a perfect driving scenario is now in the past? Have all the modern Turbo-Petrols, EV's and Hybrids killed the fun?
Firstly, I feel I should state this, I have nothing against modern cars or progression. You can happily go out now, buy a Golf R Estate and have everything you need in one car. That's a pretty stellar engineering achievement for the human race, considering we spend most of our time watching videos of dogs on youtube, or funding a massive hole for no reason whatsoever (holidayhole.com/). However, the pure sensation of driving involves being challenged, having to work for it. And thats where the Toyota comes in.
The elephant in the room is always power, or lack of it. Many of us are guilty of slating the GT86, scoffing at the thought of a sports car with "just" 200bhp in this day and age. I think it's important to put that in context, though. Where it is true you can buy a 300bhp Hot Hatch off the shelf now, it was only 5-10 years ago that cars with a similar power-to-weight ratio were praised for their speed. Imagine if you told someone 10 years ago their MK5 Golf GTI was a slow car? Imagine if 5 years ago you told someone their RenaultSport Clio 200 couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding? Admittedly, the Toyota will always be hampered by a slow 0-60 time for pub bragging rights. You can thank its slippery tyres for the most part, and possibly some insurance group trickery too. But the way it scrabbles for grip is all part of its old-school charm.
So then, what is it about this car that makes it "The last of an era?". I'm pretty sure if it hadn't been made already, and you suggested it to one of the biggest motor companies in the world right now, they'd kick you out of their office. "What? A high revving, Naturally Aspirated, affordable rear wheel drive sports car? With no hybrid powertrain? Are you mad?". And I can prove that theory by just looking at the new car market right now, what is there around like it? The only other similar car is the Mazda MX5, which I've only not mentioned here as I haven't driven the new one yet, so it's unfair for me to comment. But what Toyota have made here is a drivers car, through and through. Sod the emissions laws, and you can stick your MPG. Lets make something that makes people smile. The reason it's a dying breed? I can't see many more cars like this happening again, can you?
So you probably want to know what it is that makes it so great by now, and why I'm writing yet another self indulgent long winded article. I'll start with that engine, a 2.0 N/A Boxer. It's mounted low, and far back in the bay for the ideal weight distribution. The car itself has minimum sound deadening, and stiff engine mounts to boot. This rawness means you can feel the engine as well as hear it, and for me the love-hate noise it makes is fantastic. It really is a screamer at the top end, which is good, because thats where it needs to be. There's quite a noticeable torque gap at the bottom end of the revs, so to make good pace you have to keep it revving and push it hard. All this adds to the excitement, sure you're probably being absolutely smashed by someone in a Civic, but who cares? Keeping it high in the rev band, and daring yourself to avoid braking at all costs, thats where the fun is to be had.
Photo by Andy Liu Photography
Going back to that weight distribution, you really get the sense the chassis engineers were on the ball. The roof has little to no sound deadening at all, which often results in a comedy tin-roof "CLANG" when you receive a direct strike from a seagull, but aids the lower CofG. Pushing this car is something you'll want to continue doing every time you get in it. The way it scampers and slips away from you, it really gives you such joy on a spirited drive. And it's all at pretty relaxed speeds, where as you'd have to drive at twice the speed limit to upset something like a Golf R, you can be full blown sideways in this at about 4mph.
Unfortunately however, as previously mentioned, some petrol-heads feel it should be slated and looked down upon. However, as a community, we should all be bloody buying the things. Trust me, you'll miss cars like this when they're gone. Think of what happened to the RenaultSport Clio I mentioned. When it was manual and N/A, it was praised for its drive. Now the modern, turbocharged version with automatic gearbox is woeful in comparison. But the sad truth is we are heading that way, and the only way to stop it is to buy things like this in our droves. I walked into a Mini dealership at the weekend, and every single car there had an automatic gearbox. Only 1 car in there had paddles, but thats not good enough, it's a Mini Cooper! It's meant to have a proper manual box and be thrown around British roads! Whats happening to the cars for us? The cars for people who love driving?
Thankfully, we still have GT86. We still have an affordable little sports car, designed purely for fun. Sure, it has its flaws. I'm not going to pretend my ownership has been all roses. For example, it's build quality is pretty bad, and this often lands you at the feet of the worlds most useless dealer network. I've probably had about 6 dealer visits for warranty work in my ownership, which is particularly annoying as other GT86 owners have had the same issues (Fogging on the rear lights, and an oil leak) fixed in one visit. Not only that, but the last car I was in with this many rattles was my £300 Alfa Romeo, and thats saying something! Not forgetting of course, the Japanese have cornered the market in bargain-bucket plastic interiors.
However, those things aside, it's pretty practical. I use mine every day, and I'm 6ft 4! Heated driver and passenger seats, a pretty good boot and the rear seats have something called "isofix" too. Which, apparently, is to strap your little shits into the back safely. I'm not sure whats involved with parenting, other than sharing 400 pictures of your potato-like offspring on social media, but I'm pretty sure the GT86 constitutes as a fantastic family car. Probably.
As ever, I have digressed. Back to where I started, where is the car industry going? Well, if all us petrolheads who supposedly "Love Driving" continue to turn our noses up at a Toyota, the future doesn't look bright for us. If we stop buying things like the GT86 and the MX5, it'll be a world of 1.0turbos with Automatic gearboxes. Toyota and Subaru should be applauded for their bravery on this one, it's a silly little car for silly little boys like myself and they've done a cracking job. We will all miss cars like this when they're gone, so I suggest people at least try taking one for a drive. You never know, you might just fall for it like I did.
Or you'll just go lease a Golf R like everyone else on the internet.