U.S. gets first crack at new Toyota GR 86

Initial verdict suggests that we're right to be impatient when it comes to the GT 86 successor

By PH Staff / Tuesday, August 17, 2021 / Loading comments

Are we excited about the new Toyota GR 86? You betcha. It is possible that no model launched by a volume manufacturer since the millennium has worn its heart so flagrantly on its sleeve as the GT 86 did. In retrospect it seems inconceivable that Toyota did not appreciate the car’s relative shortcomings – but they launched it anyway. This was how a rear-drive coupe should look and drive, it said to the world. And it was different and terrific, even with its baked-in imperfections.

Somewhat inevitably it was under appreciated too, and this might’ve been reason enough to can it – especially with the riotously popular GR Yaris providing the manufacturer with ample evidence as to where many more buyers might be found. But it hasn’t. Instead the incoming GR 86 is a Toyota-like attempt to address some of the issues that were identified pretty much from day one, without sacrificing everything that was right and true about the original.

Of course, because the new car is very much a global model, we’ll have to wait a little longer to discover what it’s like for ourselves. But our sister site in the States has already had a go, and it sounds like there is much to look forward to. Speaking to the larger 2.4-litre engine, core to the GR86’s overhaul, Cargurus’ Test Drive Review noted in its Performance section:

“Quicker acceleration is also enabled by a lower torque peak. You now get maximum torque at 3,700rpm, compared to 6,600rpm before, according to Toyota. That might be the GR 86’s killer spec, because engineers managed to make maximum torque more accessible without adding a turbocharger, preserving the engine’s naturally-aspirated character. That, along with RWD and that relatively low curb weight gives the GR 86 one of the purest driving experiences available today.”

Promising, no? There’s more. “In addition to the revamped engine, Toyota added bracing to the body shell for increased torsional rigidity, and stiffened up the mounting points for the rear axle and steering box as well. Those small changes had a big impact on the track, where the GR 86 felt noticeably more focused than its predecessor, with a more planted rear end, and more precise steering. Toyota also improved the manual gearbox, and we could feel that in the crispness of its mechanical action.”

So quicker, stiffer and more accurate. Check, check and check. Our brothers in arms even found time to address one of the chassis attributes closest to PHers’ heart: “Toyota and Subaru famously fitted Michelin Primacy tires to the 86 and BRZ, respectively, to make the cars more drift-friendly. That’s still the case with the Primacy-shod GR 86, which can get sideways pretty much on command, while still remaining controllable. However, we were also fans of the GR 86 Premium’s Michelin Pilot Sport tires. Their extra grip allowed for more aggressive cornering, but still with enough rear-end rotation for the car to turn in easily.”

Preaching to the choir, chaps. You can read the full test drive here – and you absolutely should – but rest assured the final verdict is the one Toyota will have been aiming at: “The GR 86 improves on its predecessor’s formula. The torquier engine and chassis upgrades make a noticeable difference in the driving experience, and an updated infotainment system and availability of more driver aids could make the GR 86 more appealing to a wider range of buyers.” Or to put it more succinctly: “the GR 86 delivers on what it was designed to do. It makes driving fun.”

Pricing has not been announced in the U.S. yet, although indications are that it will start from below $30k, as the GT 86 did over there. We’re expecting Toyota to confirm UK prices later this year ahead of the car’s launch in 2022. If you can’t wait that long, you can pick up a barely used GT 86 for comfortably under £30k. But on this evidence we’re more inclined than ever to bide our time.

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