Toyota GT-86 (2012) CAR review: a second opinion

Published:18 May 2012

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By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

So absolutely has the company hung its hat on the environmentally-conscientious peg of hybrid drive technology of late that, until the arrival of this new 2+2, the fastest accelerating production Toyota was… Ta-daaah! The Land Cruiser V8.

Mercifully, and not before time, the new 2012 Toyota GT86 changes all that. But only just… Because, drawing on a long heritage of front engine, rear-wheel drive sports cars that includes the beautiful 2000GT (the top of which was lopped off in You Only Live Twice merely so that Sean Connery could fit on board) and the somewhat lumpen but eagerly customised AE86, the world’s most compact four-seater sports car is actually not that quick.

Toyota GT86: CAR's second review

The GT86 is a joint project between Subaru and Toyota. Its engine bay plays host to the former’s legendary 2.0-litre boxer engine, fettled by the latter to produce 197bhp and 151lb ft of torque without recourse to super- or turbocharging. The upshot is a 0-62mph dash despatched in a fairly modest 7.7 seconds, and a top speed of some 137mph. Satisfactory, rather than jaw-snapping…

Outright performance, however, is not the point here. The GT86 spent its gestation inhaling Weightwatchers protein drinks, and weighs in at just 1239kg.

Combine a healthy power-to-weight ratio with a perfect driving position, a centre of gravity lower than a Porsche Cayman, a sweetly balanced chassis, a short throw (if somewhat nuggety) six-speed gearshift and nicely weighted, accurate steering and, even in the hands of a rank amateur, you have a recipe for fun. At £24,995, relatively affordable fun to boot.

Toyota GT86: the handling bit

At one level, the GT86 delivers absolutely on its promise, with beautiful composure, balance and accuracy belying the need to pour monstrous gouts of power through the rear wheels to extract entertainment. Especially since Toyota has equipped the car with the same relatively skinny rubber as that with which the puritanical Prius is shod.

Ironically, though, it’s the GT86’s very lack of power, or, to put it more precisely, low-end torque, that makes the car a less wholesome proposition for the target market – amateur enthusiasts who haven’t got a fortune to spend on their thrills - than intended.

And that’s because the chassis is so good you have to be going at a pretty serious lick to extract the traction control off, tail-out drifting fun available. Track performance is largely irrelevant, because you have the full width of the road at your disposal and know that nothing’s going to be coming the other way. But on the road, you don’t, which restricts drifting diversions to corners you can see through.

Sadly, the GT86’s lack of torque means that, in second gear corners such as the occasional hairpin, there’s barely enough low-down grunt to budge a surprisingly sticky back end, whilst, in third gear corners you’ll be going at quite a lick, making efforts to hang the tail out a somewhat daunting prospect for the potentially ham-fisted amateur at whom this car is so squarely aimed.

Anthony ffrench-Constant's verdict

Bizarrely, then, what we have here a is very fine sports car indeed, actually shackled by the quality of its own dynamic abilities: amateurs will want more grunt to extract traction-free entertainment at lower speeds, the more talented will want more grunt because… Well, they always do.


Price when new: £24,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1998cc boxer four-cylinder, 197bhp @ 7000rpm, 151lb ft @ 6600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 7.7sec 0-62mph, 137mph, 40.9mpg, 160g/km
Weight / material: 1239kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4240/1775/1285

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By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche