Youthful car with adult appeal
Toyota re-inject sporty sexiness into its bland and sensible brand image with the 86 sport coupe, and bring its age appeal down. Ironically the hooligan ads which drew flack suggest uncontrolled hoonery while the car itself delivers delightful handling. It’s co-developed with Subaru, launching its BRZ variant in December, and features a normally aspirated 2.0-litre engine in a horizontally opposed format that keeps weight low. The 147kw and 205Nm power figures initially seem modest for such a sharplooking car, but power-to-weight is key, the 86 tipping the scales at under 1300kg despite including seven airbags, stability control, air con and enough other comfort and safety features to please during the daily commute. Good power-to-weight ensures off-the-line acceleration is brisk and accompanied by a feral engine note which makes trackday promises we’d later put to the test. The MacPherson strut front and double wishbone rear suspension proved firm over the rural roads we initially traversed, though they came into their own when speed rose, the light-acting six-speed manual my favourite as it feels quicker to respond, and better able to link your hands, feet and butt to the road than the sixspeed auto. The car proved delightfully lively to fling about, but it was tackling the race track that truly proved its pedigree. Four-time Australian rally champ and V8 supercar driver Neil Bates tells me the car took part in a back-to-back test in which Walkinshaw Commodores thrashed it on the drag strip and dyno. But the 86 blitzed them on track where its sublime handling more than compensated for less speed on the straights. Quick-ratio steering, rear drive, a Torsen limited slip diff, a sublime 53-47 front-rear balance all contribute to a level of control that allows even ordinary drivers to play with the car’s stance, to correct it if the rear goes awol and to prompt and control slides, as we proved on both skid pan and race track. That makes for club-day enjoyment – and greater on-road confidence, particularly in difficult driving conditions such as the heavy rain that blighted our onroad drive.
We hope few punters choose the aero package for the GT that adds a front and rear under-spoiler, side skirt and a large rear wing spoiler, for the basic car delivers sleekly dynamic lines that don’t need the caricature add-ons. The cabin is well designed too, with great ergonomics and a character that suits the car.
To deliver a back-to-basics drive experience without sacrificing safety or making too high a comfort compromise, and to do so at a back-to-basics price. To inject sexy sportiness into the brand. And to get enough cars – demand so far outstrips supply that even the press drive allocation has been trimmed.
To the engineers who created a car that delivers such a delightful drive experience, at such an achievable price. Bates calls this an eighty grand car at a forty grand price and he’s bang on, the entry-level pitched at $41,986 and the GT at $47,986. Provided you can resist the TRD catalogue of go-faster bits…
Rear seats barely useable – my 166cm frame just able to sit behind a 166cm driver.
Sporty and sexy: The new Toyota sport coupe.
Delightful: The coupe offers a great driving experience.