Cruise easy or pedal hard
Modelled on Toyota’s original supercar, the 86 sports coupe is durable and, when pushed, exhilarating
Toyota isn’t the first name that comes to mind when thinking about sports cars but the group has quite a history of fun-filled go-fast cars going right back to the 2000GT of the 1960s.
There were also the tame pretend models like the Celica and Paseo but the release of the 86 coupe was cause for a rethink.
The 86 was a joint effort with Subaru, the latter producing the BRZ. Apart from some specification differences they were the same car.
Toyota had two versions of the four-seater, the base GT and the better-equipped GTS.
It claimed the 86 was styled after the beautiful 2000GT with its long bonnet and swoopy profile — the 2000GT was hailed as Japan’s original supercar but the 86 was a poor cousin by comparison, being more functional and lacking the former’s clarity of line.
Inside, the front occupants enjoyed the comfort and support of sporty bucket seats but those in the rear were not so well catered for. As a 2+2, it was meant to carry rear passengers only on the odd occasion.
It was no surprise boot space was limited but the rear seat backs could be folded flat to expand it.
The 2.0-litre “boxer” engine, shared with the BRZ, ran on premium unleaded and delivered decent performance,
enough to give most drivers a thrill. Those accustomed to high performance sports cars probably would have been disappointed.
Transmissions were a sixspeed automatic with paddle-shifters and a sixspeed manual.
By consensus, the 86 was a true driver’s car that handled superbly, with fast and direct steering and lots of feedback to inform the driver.
Sports cars can be an appealing idea but there’s a compromise. They are great to drive and enormous fun, your friends will be envious but they aren’t the most practical everyday transport.
For anyone a little older who might be thinking of splurging on some late-life fun, it’s worth remembering that the 86 is low, which means getting in and out might be difficult.
Some others more attuned to driving sports cars might find the performance of the 86 uninspiring, even though it’s an exhilarating drive for most.
Virtually all owners we talked to are positive and praise the car — love it, even, and few have any gripes to report.
A couple felt that the build quality wasn’t up to Toyota’s usual standard, with paint being less than perfect. Rattles in the cabin were off-putting.
Even though 86s generally are proving reliable and giving good service, it’s important to be aware that the 86 is popular among motorsport enthusiasts.
It is vital to check for signs of competitive use and while you’re at it look for modifications, such as bigger wheels or rorty aftermarket exhausts that might make them unroadworthy. Walk away if you find any.
The best 86 to buy is the one that has been used as a fun cruiser, one that has been well cared for, rather than a weekend warrior.
Subaru provided the engine, which should last and last if serviced properly. Be aware flat-four engines can use oil so a regular check is recommended.
Regular servicing to Toyota’s schedule is important in keeping the 86 ticking over. If the service record is missing or seems dodgy, look for another one to buy.
There was a safety recall in 2016, covering cars built from 2012 — a flaw in the wiring harness could cause the electric power steering to fail.
Kris Donnellan My 2013 GTS auto was a retirement present to myself. It has been enormous fun, with no vices or issues. Sublime handling and dynamics, sporty auto with paddle or sequential shift manual choices, handy rear seats, comfortable and economical touring, and admiring comments are standout benefits. Lack of a fullsize spare or rear camera, a primitive bonnet prop, very tame exhaust note and low grip tyres are issues but they can be easily updated. The only problem is my husband finds any excuse to borrow it.
Neil East I have a 2014 GTS. It handles and goes well but the build quality is not up to Toyota’s usual standards. The paint is a particular problem.
Madi McGregor Mine is a 2014 GT. It’s a great car and I enjoy every moment in the driver’s seat.
Tyson Lane It’s not the fastest car on the road but it’s great fun to drive. I’ve had no problems with it at all.
Fun cruiser that’s also rewarding to drive if you dare to push it.