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

South Waikato News - - SPORT -

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.

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