Reader Review: 2017 Toy­ota 86

Toy­ota’s light and fun 86 trans­ports Cal­gar­ian to his Cel­ica days

Edmonton Sun - Autonet - - NEWS -

Greg Wil­liams

Years ago, Gary Rokosh learned to drive us­ing his dad’s Ford Coun­try Squire sta­tion wagon.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter, with money earned work­ing in the restau­rant in­dus­try, he bought a used 1976 Toy­ota Cel­ica. It was cer­tainly smaller and more ag­ile than the Coun­try Squire, and of­fered greater per­for­mance with much less horse­power.

“I’m taken back to that ear­lier car with this Toy­ota 86,” Rokosh says of his week driv­ing around Cal­gary in a 2017 Toy­ota 86 equipped with a sixspeed man­ual trans­mis­sion. “I use my cars mainly for com­mut­ing year­round, and tend to keep them small yet in­ter­est­ing.”

Rokosh drives a 2008 BMW M3 and a 2016 Ford F-350, which he uses for tow­ing a travel trailer. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, also ride mo­tor­cy­cles; Rokosh rides a Har­ley-David­son Road Glide, while she pi­lots a Moto Guzzi.

“If I had a pre­con­ceived no­tion go­ing into this test, it was that I’d be driv­ing a car some­what mod­est on horse­power [but that] would han­dle well and be fun to drive,” Rokosh says.

Ac­cord­ing to Toy­ota, the 86 her­alds the re­turn of the sports car to the au­tomaker’s lineup, thanks to its rear-wheel-drive ar­chi­tec­ture, im­proved aero­dy­nam­ics, and re-cal­i­brated sta­bil­ity con­trol, now with a Track Mode set­ting. The 86 comes from the demise of the Scion brand, as it’s sim­ply a fresh­ened FR-S with new front and rear fas­cias.

The 86 con­tin­ues to be built along­side the nearly iden­ti­cal Subaru BRZ. In fact, Subaru builds the 2.0-litre boxer four-cylin­der en­gine found in the 86, where it makes 205 hp and 156 pound-feet of torque. Both the BRZ and 86 can be had with a sixspeed man­ual or au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, although en­gine out­put drops to 200 hp and 151 lb-ft with the au­to­matic.

“I’d read quite a bit and had seen pic­tures of the 86, but I was struck at how low it is when you get up close to it,” Rokosh says of his first im­pres­sion of the $31,398 coupe. His tester was fin­ished in a colour Toy­ota calls Ablaze, while the in­te­rior was black fab­ric.

“The hood was re­ally low and it had a clas­sic sil­hou­ette, but I do think it could use a lit­tle more tire to help fill the wheel wells,” he adds. Toy­ota does of­fer op­tional 18-inch al­loy wheels as a TRD ac­ces­sory.

In­side, Rokosh liked the in­stru­ment clus­ter with a large tachome­ter front and cen­tre, and fuel-level and wa­ter tem­per­a­ture gauges to the right. An ana­log speedome­ter sits to the left, but Rokosh found the dig­i­tal read­out placed within in the tach eas­ier to use.

Although a low car, nei­ther Rokosh nor Mary Ellen had dif­fi­culty get­ting into the front bucket seats. He says the seats were com­fort­able for short jaunts but he wor­ried about how cosy they’d be on longer jour­neys. With their man­ual con­trols, the seats were eas­ily ad­justed, and Rokosh, who is just over six feet tall, fit with ease.

“I wouldn’t buy the car for its elec­tron­ics,” he says. “But the cen­tre in­for­ma­tion screen in the con­sole looked like too much of an af­ter­thought. I think a bet­ter job could have been done there.”

Both the leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel and shift knob felt com­fort­able in his hands, and the shifter of­fered di­rect, short throws.

“There’s ad­e­quate horse­power there and it gets the job done with the gear­ing they’ve got back­ing it up,” Rokosh says of the boxer en­gine. “It was zippy in the first three gears and it went well out on the high­way. There was a bit of tire noise, but wind noise wasn’t no­tice­able.” In his opin­ion, Toy­ota “nailed” the ride in the 86.

“The sus­pen­sion was the high­light of the car for me,” he says. “It felt like a high-end sys­tem, and the body was re­ally solid, with­out any squeaks or rat­tles.”

This was only Rokosh’s sec­ond ex­pe­ri­ence with electric steer­ing, and he didn’t even know the car was so equipped un­til his third day be­hind the wheel.

“Han­dling felt very di­rect, and it’s such a light car it changes di­rec­tion very eas­ily,” he ex­plains. “The brakes were good; there was never any in­di­ca­tion that there would be a lack of brak­ing power when you needed it.”

Over­all vis­i­bil­ity for shoul­der checks and park­ing-lot rou­tines was good, but the rear-view cam­era did come in handy when back­ing into a stall. Rokosh was not con­vinced the rear seats would be en­tirely use­ful for haul­ing around pas­sen­gers, un­less they were rel­a­tively short. With the rear seat­back folded for­ward, the car be­came much more util­i­tar­ian, able to carry two sets of golf clubs and a few bags for a week­end getaway.

“This car best suits the kind of per­son I was in univer­sity,” Rokosh says, “some­body look­ing for some­thing smaller with rear-wheel drive and nim­ble han­dling.

“It’s a very en­joy­able car if you’re not look­ing for high-per­for­mance turbo power, and the out­stand­ing el­e­ments for me were the sus­pen­sion and han­dling,” he con­cludes. “It’s very fun to drive.”

Day 1: First im­pres­sions — nice look­ing car; the de­sign­ers did a great job. In­side, ev­ery­thing looks rea­son­ably high qual­ity with the glar­ing ex­cep­tion of the in­fo­tain­ment. Looks like an af­ter­thought, like they sourced an af­ter­mar­ket head unit just be­fore the pro­duc­tion lines be­gan to roll. Throt­tle is set up to be ag­gres­sive on the first few cen­time­tres of travel. Drove home mainly free­way; no trou­ble keep­ing up with traf­fic off the lights. Short gears and ag­gres­sive throt­tle make it seem quick. Very solid-feel­ing car.

Day 2: Light traf­fic into down­town. Very con­fi­dent ride with good straight-line sta­bil­ity. Fun to shift up and down with traf­fic flow, but clutch work a bit tricky with the ag­gres­sive throt­tle from a stop. En­gine has good power, torque comes in fairly low, but I wish it sounded bet­ter; not great mu­sic from the dual ex­haust. Dropped the back seat that opens up into a nice flat cargo space.

Day 3: Run to the air­port. Re­ally en­joy­ing the great han­dling and lots of fun in the turns. Steer­ing is very di­rect; for­got how good a rel­a­tively light car feels in the han­dling depart­ment. Gets up to speed on Deer­foot eas­ily, revs are around 3,800 rpm at 100 km/hr in sixth gear. Easy to turn the trac­tion con­trol on or off with but­tons on the cen­tre con­sole. Tight gear­box is a lot of fun to shift and sur­pris­ingly quick in the first few gears, con­sid­er­ing the mod­est horse­power. En­gine sounds are not ex­cit­ing; it gets the job done, but there are bet­ter sound­ing four-cylin­der en­gines out there. Very good gear­box, in my opin­ion.

Day 4: Com­mute into down­town. Af­ter four days with the car, I am en­joy­ing it more each day. This car has far less horse­power than my cur­rent car, but I’m be­ing re­minded that light weight and a short-ra­tio gear­box com­pen­sates to a large de­gree, es­pe­cially at nor­mal city speeds. Put the golf clubs in the back and went to the driv­ing range, eas­ily han­dles a cou­ple of bags with the back seat folded down. Car is rel­a­tively pain­less to get in and out of, wasn’t an is­sue. Picked up some gro­ceries on the way home. Plenty of room next to the golf clubs. Day 5: Didn’t drive the car to­day. Day 6: Com­mute into down­town. Parked next to an old 1960 Mus­tang GT 350, a black and gold Hertz edi­tion. Sur­pris­ing to see how sim­i­lar they are di­men­sion­ally when next to each other. Funny how my per­cep­tion of the Toy­ota 86 is a very small car and yet it’s sim­i­lar to the early Mus­tang. I think the power is ad­e­quate for this car but can’t help think­ing an­other 50 or so horse­power (and torque!) from the Subaru WRX’s 2.0-L turbo-four would re­ally trans­form it.

Day 7: Re­ally en­joyed my short time with the 86. I love the nim­ble han­dling and the fast-shift­ing gear­box. Seats are good but not great; would prob­a­bly need to stretch my legs a few times on a longer trip. There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion out there with some very good cars around this price point. If you re­ally en­joy driv­ing a nim­ble, well-built car with rear-wheel drive and are will­ing to look past the mod­est horse­power, this car would be a good choice.


Gary Rokosh poses with the 2017 Toy­ota 86 on Thurs­day Au­gust 10, 2017 in Cal­gary.

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