The Toyota GT86 was developed by a team that wanted to produce the best driver’s car – and very effective they’ve been. But, it’s not the easiest thing to live with in everyday life
The Toyota GT86 is a sporty coupe that uses a back-to-basics recipe to produce a car with an emphasis on pure driving thrills. It was developed alongside the Subaru BRZ, but you could also consider it as an alternative to the Audi TT, BMW 2 Series coupe and Mazda MX-5 RF.
The nature of the car may not be immediately obvious from outside, but you can’t avoid it on the inside. And, given that the car was designed from the outset to be the optimum driver’s car, it shouldn’t be a huge shock to find out that the GT86’s cabin is very driver-focused. All the dials and gauges are angled directly towards the driver and the layout of the centre console cocoons the driver into the low-slung seats.
For a coupe, it’s also quite practical. Well, practical for two. There’s plenty of headroom up front for all but the tallest of people and the sports seats are very supportive. However, the rear seats have so little room that they’re pretty much useless for anyone except children and the boot is much smaller than what you’ll find in the TT.
On top of that, the materials used seem to be a bit low quality when compared with what you’ll find in more premium rivals, while the overall design is a bit dated. Then again, if you’re a keen driver, all such concerns may well disappear as soon as you drive the car.
Even at low speed in everyday traffic, it’s an appealing thing from behind the wheel. The suspension is firm – as you’d only expect of a sports car – but the set-up is not so stiff that you feel too many bumps. And the all-around visibility is decent, despite the low-slung driving position.
Once you get the chance to really push the car, you’ll start to appreciate it. It has excellent body control, plenty of feedback through the steering wheel and all the controls are precise and accurate. The rear-wheel-drive chassis is beautifully set up, too, and you can really exploit the well-balanced handling along a country road.
The one thing the Toyota GT86 isn’t is especially quick. There’s just one engine – a Subaru-sourced 200hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Boxer’ unit – but it’s not that punchy at low revs, so it can be quite slow to respond.
The GT86 is a perfect lesson to any car maker that wants to build a great sports car. It has just enough power to make the most of a wonderfully balanced chassis and a set of well-weighted controls
Above 4,000rpm, though, it’s got plenty of punch and, as long as you can keep working the engine hard, it can get the car going at a fair lick – even if the 0-60mph time of 7.6 seconds is nothing to write home about.
The Toyota GT86 is a car made to allow drivers to enjoy rear-wheel-drive motoring, and all the tail-sliding pleasure that can involve. With that in mind, Toyota has added just enough kit to keep things safe.
There’s ABS, traction control, and a stability control system to stop things getting out of hand. If it all does go a bit pear-shaped, then front, side and curtain airbags will hopefully keep you intact, while there’s also an airbag for the driver’s knee.
On the other hand, if your skills permit, you can switch the assists off, and rely on the mechanical grip the car offers, without any intervention from the electronics – something that’s probably best saved for track days.
If you have to use the Toyota GT86 for more mundane journeys, especially long-distance cruises on the motorway, the amount of noise you’ll hear inside could become a bit tiresome.
However, if you’re worrying about that kind of thing, the Toyota GT86 isn’t really your kind of car.
At least, even the base version comes with a fair bit of equipment as standard – including a touch-screen display, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, cruise control and stability control – so you could argue it does offer decent value for money. The Toyota GT86 also comes with a five year/100,000 mile warranty, so that does give you peace of mind, but there are a few areas where the GT86 comes across as a bit dear. Adding some optional extras boosts the price noticeably, and a few sports cars and similarly priced hot hatchbacks do offer more practicality and better fuel economy than the Toyota.
Still, the Toyota GT86 is a car you could (just about) live with on a daily basis, and very few cars of this type that are on sale for this amount of money can beat the Toyota in terms of pure driver involvement.