By the power of grey paint!

Why mess with a win­ning for­mula? So they haven’t. It’s not as if the GT86 has any com­pe­ti­tion it needs to keep ahead of. By Ben Barry

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars -

IT’S FIVE YEARS since Toy­ota launched the GT86, the back-to-ba­sics sports coupe that com­bines low power with low weight and rear-drive in­ti­macy. We’ve tested the pro­duc­tion ver­sion nu­mer­ous times, and ran its Subaru BRZ twin as a long-term test car; you might re­mem­ber that the 2+2 sports car is a joint project be­tween the two com­pa­nies. An up­date for 2017 pro­vides an ex­cuse to get the Toy­ota on CAR’s fleet.

Ad­mit­tedly, new GT86 looks much like old GT86 at a glance, and there are no pow­er­train changes: the 2.0-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated en­gine – a Subaru flat-four with Toy­ota di­rect-in­jec­tion – still pro­duces 197bhp and 151lb ft.

But there’s a new front bumper that adds fins and con­tin­ues the con­tour of the bon­net to a lower point than be­fore, and new head­lights that in­cor­po­rate LED in­di­ca­tors and LED day­time run­ning lights, and push the ac­tual head­light unit right out to the side of the clus­ter – it makes the GT86’s snout ap­pear lower, wider, a bit an­grier too. There are new rear light units, a deeper rear dif­fuser and a new rear wing, which you can delete; I did. The body changes ap­par­ently all en­hance aero­dy­nam­ics. In­clud­ing that, erm, deleted wing.

In­side, the steer­ing wheel is now 3mm smaller, and 10% lighter, the 7000rpm red­line now sits at the top of the tacho, Fer­rari-style, and there’s a new 6.1in in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen to re­place the frus­trat­ingly poor unit in pre-facelift cars. You also get a new 4.2in TFT multi-func­tion dis­play in the in­stru­ment bin­na­cle – you can check your re­main­ing fuel range, or watch how fast you’re burn­ing it with the lap-timer func­tion.

Toy­ota says front and rear spring rates are ‘op­ti­mised’, and that they can now flex for more pro­gres­sive steer­ing feel as the body starts to roll. The Showa shocks, mean­while, are ac­tu­ally softer in a bid to im­prove ride comfort. There’s also a thicker rear anti-roll bar, a new Track mode to min­imise sta­bil­ity con­trol in­ter­ven­tion with­out leav­ing you en­tirely high and dry, and a re­vised ABS cal­i­bra­tion. Toy­ota has mod­i­fied the bodyshell, adding a thicker mount­ing bracket for the front sus­pen­sion tow­ers, a thicker re­in­force­ment in the trans­mis­sion cross­mem­ber, plus ex­tra welds in the rear wheel arches.

The en­try-level model starts from £26,855, but our car is the top-spec – and only other spec – Pro, for £28,005. The ex­tra £1150 brings heated front seats, leather and al­can­tara trim (an up­grade from cloth), a leather arm­rest, and suede-look trim for the dash and door cards. Both specs get fresh 17in al­loys, adap­tive head­lights, cruise con­trol, elec­tric heated door mir­rors, key­less en­try, Blue­tooth and DAB.

We had to part with £750 ex­tra for the Touch 2 with Go in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, which in­tro­duces sat-nav and a few other niceties. We’ve also spent £545 on grey paint (only red is no­cost), and £250 for rear park­ing sen­sors.

That’s a fi­nal tally of £29,550. The Mazda MX-5 con­vert­ible comes clos­est to be­ing a di­rect ri­val, and you can get hot hatches with more power for sim­i­lar money, but five years since its launch, the GT86 con­tin­ues to have the af­ford­able rear-drive sports coupe niche to it­self.

How worth­while are the changes? What’s it like to live with? We’ve six months to find out.

LOGBOOK TOY­OTA GT86 En­gine 1998cc 16v 4-cyl, 197bhp @ 7000rpm, 151lb ft @ 6400rpm Trans­mis­sion 6-speed man­ual, rear-wheel drive Stats 7.6sec 0—62mph, 140mph, 180g/km CO2 Price £28,005 As tested £29,550 Miles this month 605 To­tal 1039 Our mpg 29.8...

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