Back to the future in an 86
Toyota has introduced a new sports car simply called 86. Rob Maetzig reports from its launch that it is a little beauty
With a historical connection such as this, this new sports car can’t miss.
Almost 30 years ago Toyota introduced its AE86 series Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno, a pair of lightweight front- engined and rear- driven cars that quickly became popular for the spirited quality of their drives.
Their careers lasted until 1987 when they were replaced by frontdrive versions. But even today these little cars are fondly remembered and remain popular for various motorsport events, particularly rallying and drifting.
Now there’s a new 86 – again it is a lightweight front-driven and rear-driven sports car. But this time, instead of being powered by a conventional Toyota twin-cam engine, under its bonnet is a 2.0-litre boxer engine developed with Subaru.
And why is the new vehicle called 86? Obvi- ously there is that connection with the muchloved AE86 but interestingly its boxer engine has a square bore and stroke set-up of 86mm x 86mm.
Not only that, Toyota New Zealand has chosen to make full marketing use of the two numbers by offer- ing this new car with prices all ending in 86.
And another good idea was to have Australian motorsport ace Neal Bates at the New Zealand media launch of the Toyota 86.
This guy can really drive, as he quickly proved by taking journos on drifts around a speciallyprepared car park in Rotorua, followed later in the day with hot laps around the motorsport track at Hampton Downs.
He did it so well in the 86. This new coupe impresses as a beautiful car with a kerb weight of as low as 1222kg, a 50:50 weight balance and a low centre of gravity thanks to the boxer engine design, and as such it cries out to be driven with enthusiasm.
In that respect the Toyota 86 can probably lay claim to offering the purest form of sports motoring since the launch of the original Mazda MX-5 more than two decades ago.
There are many other sports car around that are more powerful than the 86. But this car’s engine does develop 147kW of power, which gives it an excellent power-toweight ratio of 120kW a tonne and that contributes to a special motoring experience.
This is a car for enthusiasts and I can see it not being long before the 86 appears on the country’s race tracks and rallying special stages, providing those behind the wheel with loads of fun.
All grades of the 86 are powered by the same newly developed 2.0- litre flat four engine, a joint-venture project with Subaru – that manufacturer’s version of the car, called BRZ arrives in here soon.
It’s a high- revving engine that doesn’t sound like any boxer engine I’ve listened to before. It offers sufficient oomph to get the manual versions to 100kmh in 7.6 seconds ( the autos take 8.2 seconds) and the top speed is more than 200kmh.
Being a flat four, the engine is able to be sited just 459mm from the ground, which is more than 20mm lower than most sports in-line engined cars. The Toyota people were very pleased to advise that this low centre of gravity is beaten only by the likes of the Ferrari 360 and betters the likes of the Porsche Cayman and Nissan GT-R, and that’s what helps give the car its precise handling.
A low interior hip point of just 400mm from the ground lets those aboard the 86 fully appreciate all of that, too. Climb into the car and settle behind the smallest steering wheel yet seen on any Toyota, flick the shortthrow manual into first and go. You’re soon into an enjoyable motoring experience, whatever the speed.
The 86’ s exterior design pinches quite a few design cues from the Toyota 2000GT of the late 1960s and which in itself was the predecessor of such product as the Celica and Supra. Side window shape and the rear wheel arches are all inspired by the 2000GT, and it helps contributes to the lines of a smooth-looking car.
It appeals as the ideal revival of the good times achieved years ago with the AE86.
Sporty lineup: Toyota 86 models ready to run at the Hampton Downs motorsport track.