COVERSTORY

At last, some feel­ing from Toy­ota

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

It’s been longer than many of us can re­mem­ber since Toy­ota had a real sports car. En­ter — at last — the 86

PAUL GOVER

paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au FOR­GET all about the Cel­ica, Supra and even the MR2.

When Toy­ota fi­nally de­cided it was time to get se­ri­ous about a 21st-cen­tury hero car, it dis­carded all of its wimpy im­i­ta­tion sports cars.

In­stead it turned to the his­tory books for in­spi­ra­tion, lis­tened to en­thu­si­as­tic young own­ers of mod­i­fied cars, tapped Subaru for en­gi­neer­ing ex­per­tise, wrote big cheques and re­jected com­mit­tee-style de­ci­sions on styling.

Then it went all-out for the fin­ish line. In Aus­tralia, that will be April, when the Toy­ota 86 ar­rives, with a start­ing price in the low $30,000s.

Livewire com­pany chief Akio Toyoda is a part-time racer who knows his fam­ily com­pany will not re­main at the top if it can­not com­bat­vwand the Kore­ans by putting some flavour into its vanilla line-up to win younger buy­ers.

The re­sult is a car that eas­ily trumps any­thing Toy­ota has done since the orig­i­nal Lexus LS400 in 1989. The Toy­ota 86 is lively, en­joy­able, youth­ful and, most likely, af­ford­able too.

It’s a car you want to drive. And it drifts like a beauty.

VALUE

The low-$30,000 start­ing price could be enough to push Subaru Aus­tralia away from bring­ing in its clone, the BRZ. It will rat­tle a whole bunch of cages from the Volk­swa­gen Polo in the $20Ks to the Golf GTIS and Re­nault Me­gane RS in the $40Ks, right up to the Subaruwrxand even the Nis­san 370Z in the high $60Ks.

The 86 might not have turbo punch, but it will be tough to beat in any bang­for-bucks as­sess­ment.

TECH­NOL­OGY

The 86 is old school, with the en­gine in the nose, gear­box in the mid­dle and drive via the rear wheels. But Subaru has done a great job in pack­ag­ing the chas­sis for great front-to-rear bal­ance and kept all the heavy me­chan­i­cal bits low in the chas­sis.

Rather than pro­duce a car with uni­ver­sal ap­peal,’’ says chief en­gi­neer Tet­suya Tada, we stuck to our pur­suit of a real sports car. We made no com­pro­mise in per­for­mance.’’

So the 2.0-litre boxer en­gine — part of a new fam­ily of flat­fours from Subaru— nudges the bench­mark out­put of 100 horse­power per litre with its 147kw. Peak torque is 205Nm.

There are six-speed man­ual and au­to­matic gear­boxes, fully independent sus­pen­sion, 18-inch al­loy wheels and quick rack-and-pin­ion steer­ing. The real work went into fine-tuning the chas­sis and it is pos­si­ble to com­pletely dis­con­nect any elec­tronic driv­ing as­sis­tance.

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DE­SIGN

Toy­ota did all the body­work and the cabin, tap­ping the 1960s 2000 GT for the ba­sic shape and over­all feel. The process for ap­proval went out­side the Toy­ota sys­tem, with Akio Toyoda avail­able for ex­tra mus­cle at de­ci­sion time.

If we fol­lowed the tra­di­tional ap­proach it would be a bor­ing car, but uni­ver­sally ac­cepted. There was no ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee. We gath­ered the sports car users from in­side the com­pany,’’ says Tada.

The re­sult is a car that is dis­tinc­tive but not out­ra­geous, with ob­vi­ous vis­ual ties to the

‘‘ 2000 GT but a modern take on de­tails such as the twin ex­hausts, the face’’ at the front, and flared guards.

In­side, the look is clean and sim­ple and the lo­ca­tion of the tachome­ter— sit­ting Porsche 911-style in the cen­tre of the in­stru­ments— says it all. There is good room for two adults in the front and all con­trols are typ­i­cally easy to find and use.

Tada says week­end war­riors will find enough space in the tail for a spare set of wheels for drift­ing and a tool­box.

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SAFETY

Toy­ota prom­ises a five-star ANCAP rat­ing. The car ob­vi­ously comes with stan­dard ESP and anti-lock brakes but there is no news on the airbag pack­age or the fine de­tail.

DRIV­ING

All the talk fades to black when you drop into the colour­ful 3D world of the 86. The car is even bet­ter than I hope, even if the driv­ing only amounts to a hand­ful of laps on a twisty lit­tle track at Fuji Speedway.

It’s more than enough to feel the en­thu­si­asm that ha gone into the car and that it can de­liver.

The cosy cabin puts the driver first. The gear­box is a snick-snick six-speeder, the steer­ing is light but sen­si­tive

As I drive out of the pitla I’mre­minded of the im­por­tance of this first run, and then that the 86 has a Subaru en­gine. The flat-fou note can­not be dis­guised an re­minds me of a mum’s-run

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