At last, some feeling from Toyota
It’s been longer than many of us can remember since Toyota had a real sports car. Enter — at last — the 86
firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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