I bought a gt86, and you should too.

Why the toyota gt86 is the last of a dying breed, and we should all be fighting for it.

4y ago

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

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.

Join In

Comments (13)

  • I have the FR-S here in Canada and I really enjoy the drive of the 86 type cars. I agree that the sales numbers on these cars are low and 'normal' people aren't interested in a small space, manual trans, rough ride car just for the driving experience.

    Go out and try and buy a manual transmission car these days. Unless you are picking up a bottom end starter car our an older one, they are really hard to find. The Subaru WRX is doing well to keep the stick alive, but not too many customers left here in North America and the manufacturers are responding. They just don't bother spending the money on a manual gearbox as no one is buying them.

      4 years ago
  • Great article ... It is also true that GT86 means different things for different users ...

    For some it is a good base with a very rigid chassis for tuning, for younger folks it is their first real sports car, for olders it is a very driver's focus every day car ...

      4 years ago
  • Funny, here I was trying to pick between 86 and golf R, cars so vastly different. Every time I try to reason, golf easily wins but by ignoring the other car i feel like I'm killing off some crucial part of my soul

      3 years ago
  • This is an argument I've had with a friend of mine a lot recently mainly about m3s and in the last week or so my new (to me) mk5 golf gti. Said friend argues that having a do it all car is pointless; you want a true driving experience? Get a caterham or something of a similar ilk, drive a golf tdi daily. I personally don't agree. I am actually lucky enough to have two cars, the first being an admittedly not ancient mx5 (25 years old though...) which i have spent hours spannering on, hacking up and fitting a turbo to. I drove it every day for the last 8 months, including my short commute to work. Frankly it wasn't great, and i never really played about with it or drove it for pleasure during that time, having now got a second car i am back to spannering with the engine soon coming out and a tough choice being made which is again relevant to this post. Do i remove the turbo, up the rev limit skim the head etc and fit ITBs along with slightly less sticky road tyres rather than the current nigh on slick track tyres or go forged and hit 300 bhp, currently swaying towards the former for all the same reasons the gt86 is a great road car.

    Swerving swiftly back to my original point though, if i didn't already have the mx5 (and being what i like to think of as a true car guy), i wouldn't be seeking anything else. The golf is honestly brilliant; commute to work? no problem, its refined has a radio and all the creature comforts one would expect from a modern car. I could happily drive to scotland in it and get out the other end feeling fine, not something I could say about the mx5- bleeding ears, broken spine, aching arms, tired brain from constant steering input as it wonders around the road, not to mention its general impracticality. After that drive to scotland I could blast it round the highland mountain roads with a true feel for what I was driving and a massive smile on my face, probably comparably sized to the one I would have in the mazda.

    I was as sceptic myself until recently, but honestly think until you have driven a modern car of this type its unfair to judge. A gt86 is on my list to at least have a drive in the near future.

    Just as a side note the spannering bit is admitedly something that you dont get to the same degree but on a daily driver i personally think that is no bad thing, I do not miss the mad rush to get my car back together and functioning on a Sunday evening ready to commute on Monday.

    Sorry for the utterly vast no doubt slightly clunky post, its something I have been thinking about a lot recently! My phone is lagging to much for me to continue to vomit text any more!

      4 years ago
  • Ralph I would love an older car. Thing is, I can only afford one car, and I got fed up of shelling out thousands fixing old ones! Also, cars of this era will be the "Vintage" cars at some point. And I would much rather my future children picking up one of these as a classic, rather than a Toyota Yaris Hybrid. So if people who are in the market for a newer car and love driving, they shouldn't turn their noses up at this. It makes for an excellent daily, weekend toy or track weapon. All in one package that you can finance for about 50p.

    Granted, there are a lot out there just bought for the "Look at me, new car" status. They're mostly owned by middle aged men/women who know not alot about cars, but at least they're getting bought. The more cars like this bought new, the less boring new cars being made. It sends a message to manufactures "We want fun stuff, not boring stuff".

    For me, classic cars are always cooler. But we are going to run out of classics to enjoy in the future if we don't create them now.

      4 years ago