Evolution under way
The 86 is still one of the most enjoyable cars you can buy. Point it at a bit of twisting road and you’re guaranteed to be smiling at the end of the drive. The steering is sharp and direct and the car feels incredibly agile and well balanced through corners. Sitting low, you can feel exactly what the car is doing through the seat of your pants. It’s a raw, go-kart like experience, helped by the fact the tyres fitted to it are built for fun rather than grip. But … shared with Subaru’s BRZ, simply doesn’t suit the car. On paper it looks up to the job, with 147kW of power, but it feels as if you’re wringing its neck even when you’re not. The tacho runs out to 9000rpm, peak power is at 7000rpm but a red shift light starts flashing when you reach about 6500rpm. Sports car engines are supposed to rev and sing — this one feels like it’s protesting most of the time. The fake engine noise piped into the cabin doesn’t help. A small turbo could deliver more punch with far less thirst. 86 has aged well. Subtle styling tweaks have given it a more modern look without interfering with the classic shape. The most obvious change with the new model is a black rear spoiler on our GTS test car. Spoilers can look like a bolted-on afterthought but this one looks good. The cabin feels sporty, although the centre screen looks aftermarket and the leather steering wheel feels slippery.
you’re not as flexible as you once were, then perhaps the 86 isn’t for you. The 86 is low-slung and you don’t so much slide into it as lower yourself. If you’re of a certain vintage, involuntary groans will accompany the process. The good news is once you’re there the seats are comfortable and supportive, with good side bolstering for hugging you in the corners. The rear seats appear to be there for show. You could squeeze two adults in on the passenger side with a bit of mix and matching of legroom but behind the driver’s it’s an infants-only proposition.
no Porsche Cayman but, for $37,000, the 86 GTS provides a large chunk of sports car thrills for a fraction of the former’s cost. The new model is $500 more expensive but for that you get more data logging for track days, including a stopwatch and G-force metre. The new model is an evolutionary change at best, and the engine needs some serious work but with the limited budgets available for a sports car these days, we’re happy to cut it some slack.