“Hey João, what about a GT86” - I was asked. “What do you mean? A Toyota GT86? The 86?! Yes! Of course!” - I replied. I was completely caught off guard with those words. There’s no real or particular reason why I never asked to review one unit for Garagem Global. Simply never did it because it isn't easy to fill the schedule up with reviews, especially with cars like this, let’s say, more exclusive. There's an actual need to match the media press fleets schedule with my own, and the GT86 was always kept on my notes, highlighted at the “Future Requests” subsection with “Obligatory” as sidenote.
So, getting an offer like this, in one of those days during the week, which, what’s awaiting for us at the office is just more of those plain, grey and repetitive tasks, the invitation filled my day with light and an extra dose of automotive vitamins for the weekend that even on a normal week can’t come early enough.
The GT86 is an extremely important car. For us, car guys and enthusiasts, and also generally speaking, for the automotive world. Firstly, because it symbolizes perfectly what we most admire: driving. It's feelings and the pleasure that comes along from it. Secondly, amidst such a wide number of choices available, the GT86 is a different automobile, an exception. It doesn't hide what it is and what it is capable of, in a huge and long list of technological features. What it offers, is exceptional dynamics and a super rewarding experience at the steering wheel through its capacity to be driven and felt to the tiniest detail.
For a manufacturer like Toyota, to take the recipe out of the cabinet and prepare it one more time is nothing new or surprising, but, nowadays, I praise their courage and am thankful for this initiative from our Japanese good friends. A sporty and eye-catching design, without exaggerations or being too outstanding. Rear wheel drive, low weight (for a modern production car) and properly distributed, powerful boxer engine to help keep the center of gravity of the whole car pretty low...et voilà! We have a winner.
A lot has been said and written about Subaru’s boxer engine equipped on the 86. Yes, it doesn't have a very inspiring engine sound note and its 200 hp do feel short for a sports car. With all due respect, I disagree. Yes, the rhythms that one can cover distance on the road would be higher if the 4 opposed cylinder engine would resort to forced induction. As it would change its linearity of power delivery and throttle response, and with that, losing part of its thrill and feeling inducing philosophy that characterizes it. So, these 200 hp end up being more fun than 300 hp on so many other cars, I have no doubt about it. There’s clearly a window on the power band where the engine breeds a lot better; up there, between mid and high rpm’s, but there isn’t this big surge of power that makes the dial go up all the way to the redline. I like this. This way, it’s way easier to measure the throttle input for those little rear-wheel driven provocations, where its 17” wheels are using 215/45 Michelin Primacy’s. So there isn’t high grip levels present to take away those fun dynamics and turn them into a more effective tool to carve corners. On other hand, this lack of grippier rubber can silence part of the GT86 chassis and steering communication. I repeat, it can. But I didn’t notice it. At all. To put it very simply, whoever decides to switch between GT86’s addictive naughtiness going up the hill for the precision of chasing hundreds of seconds around the Estoril race track, hitting those apexes precisely, here’s a wonderful platform to work on. And about the flat-4’s engine note I only criticize the fact that it’s not very present at low rpm’s just to add a little bit extra to the experience.
On the outside the GT86’s looks standout when on the road, and standing still, its long hood seems to give it speed, taking any doubts away about what this car can do. I’d just consider a set of wheels with a different look, something more inspired in the race track environment and more suitable to the sort of car where they are equipped. On the inside, the seats offer excellent and necessary support for the legs and torso. The steering wheel is perfect and its cluster clearly has a very sporty inspiration, with a big rev-counter in the middle that counts till 9000 rpm being the center of attentions, and the digital display makes checking our speed with quick glimpses effortless, which is great since the time between corners is short. I particularly liked the controls in the center console, that look like they were taken directly out of a deadly fighter jet and the numbers on the electronic displays that give it a 80’s vibe.
Living daily with the GT86 it’s perfectly possible and achievable, as long as it’s understood right away what we can count with. Driving position is perfect and the support given by the seats, as mentioned before, is great. On the dampening aspect, it’s sporty and a bit stiff, but not to the point where I found it to be too uncomfortable. The back seats are ideal for small objects and not really passenger friendly. About its trunk, let me say, it is pretty decent and a really well acceptable size. But better than to “live with” is to live the GT86. Provoking those small drifts leaving roundabouts or at tighter corners applying a small correction after keeping the right foot down. Going for small and casual errands like grocery shopping stops being a boring event and starts to be something that we look for during the day. Super addictive! Goosebumps are guaranteed, unless we have someone on the passenger seat someone who is more prone to get car sick, we don’t want to get the Toyota’s sporty dash. And, of course, the more roundabouts and corners we find along the way, the better- We don’t need to drive it like we stole, at all. We just need to feel the refinement in how the “86” puts itself into corners and how quick it is to change direction. On the braking department, nothing to mention. Strong and safe, helped, also, by the low weight that it needs to stop, it always inspires a lot of confidence when it’s time to press the brake pedal. For the ones who aren’t very experient or the ones who are excessively adventurous, we have traction control system available so that they can calm down and relax a bit, limiting losses of grip from the tires, which are very willing in doing so especially in a wet road.
For common people, the slow and mid-speed corners are actually the main course to guarantee a very high smile per kilometer ratio. Toyota has setup the “86” in a way that we can have fun in pretty safe manner, exploring its limits and adjusting the inputs needed thanks to its brilliant steering and its quick accelerator response given by the naturally aspirated engine. It’s an automobile projected by and for purists. With know-how acquired through the years by people who know and understand perfectly the meaning and definition of joy of driving, and here, shines it and makes it available to us. The tires limit can be reached quite fast when driving spiritedly, but on the daily fooling around my limits were reached even faster. After getting used to the behaviour of a rear wheel driven car, confidence brought me to a place where I could explore the GT86 better in faster corners and turn off the electronic safety systems, so I would test and see its hooligan side at spots where such things were safer to be done.
The Toyota GT86 is much more than just going fast. It’s the ideal tool for us to give in to the driving experience and have a feel of its response, communicating with us through its precise steering where it is going and through its chassis dynamic balance how we are going to do it. The boxer engine is always ready to respond to any accelerator input, but expresses itself a lot better on the second half of the rev-counter when the typical noise for this type of engine display is way more audible. It’s a constant invitation to pile up kilometers on roads with as much corners as possible, almost scraping our rear-end on the road, thanks it’s low driving position. The number of options available, especially in the portuguese market, that offer this kind of ratio between price and pleasure when driving, is very limited.
For me, there is three Toyota GT86. The first one, the one shown to the public, and that as the test-reviews were being published, and described how it was a special car, very strong on the accuracy and sensations it was able to deliver and transmit. The second one, the review unit I had the pleasure to drive during these short and epic four days where I could testify and feel in my bones all that I read and seen, and read and seen again and again. Finally, the third GT86, the one that I hope to drive someday and not give back to Toyota. Mine.