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Toyota GT86 Aero (2015) review

Published:06 May 2015

Toyota GT86 Aero
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

► Toyota GT86 Aero review on UK roads
► No mechanical changes under wild bodykit
► More expensive than the rest of the range

If you were to take a straw poll of additions the Toyota GT86 could benefit from, a bit more torque and a slightly nicer cabin would probably top the list. Maybe even a supercharger. A whacking great spoiler probably wouldn’t.

Nevertheless, Toyota has confidently answered the question nobody asked with this, the GT86 Aero. It tops the recently rejigged UK range, with a new base ‘Primo’ model at the bottom and the regular GT86 model we know and love in the middle.

Is this a long-awaited power upgrade for the Toyota GT86? Looks like it should have 600bhp by the size of that wing…

’Fraid not. Under the (actually slightly ill-fitting) skirts there are no mechanical differences from a regular GT86. Powertrain, suspension, brakes – it’s all standard stuff.

The tyres have changed, though. Arguably the best-looking bit on the GT86 Aero is a set of dark grey 18-inch OZ alloys (replacing the regular car’s 17s), wrapped in 225/40 Yokohamas rather than the relatively skinny 215-wide Michelin Primacy tyres (borrowed from the Toyota Prius) fitted ordinarily.

Do those wider tyres mean a more glued-down, sticky kind of GT86?

Not really – it’s still very, very tail-happy. Colleagues who’ve driven the Aero and ordinary 86 in succession suggest the wider tyres let go a bit more progressively than the space saver-spec ones, but the Aero’s still quick to scribe a wider arc with its rear wheels than the fronts, even at the most modest of speeds. Which, of course, is a big part of the car’s appeal.

Take care on slippery roads, though. So lively is the chassis that the stability control feels really quite necessary sometimes. Shame it’s so abrupt when it cuts in, nipping individual brakes to straighten the car with a jolt that’s more unnerving than the tyres letting go in the first place.

Even without the wing, the GT86 is a car that polarises opinion. Some find the engine’s delivery too flat and its note too harsh (and admittedly, even with its bigger exhaust outlets the Aero still sounds like a phlegmy food blender), the interior too low-rent (a Toyota weak spot in general – how do they manage to make a volume control feel physically unpleasant to operate?) and the handling too imprecise, among various other quibbles.

But I’m going to go on record as an unapologetic GT86 fan. The spot-on driving position, suspension with just the right amount of give for British roads, power steering with so much feel you’re almost fooled into thinking its hydraulic rather than electric, rear seats that are just about usable (well, more so than an Audi TT’s at any rate), the whole mildly rebellious sports car-y-ness of it all. It’s brilliant. Even for me though, the Aero’s bodykit is a bit much.

Is there any actual aerodynamic benefit to the Aero’s bodykit?

Toyota says it’s more about visual attitude than wind tunnel figures. It hasn’t released any aerodynamic performance data, and improbably quotes the same 140mph top speed as the regular, more modestly spoilered GT86.

Design’s a subjective thing, of course, but the everything-up-to-11 extroverted treatment seems a missed opportunity, where a more subtle take on the Tokyo street racer theme (like the pre-facelift Nismo 370Z) could have injected the GT86 with some real personality, rather than just the fibreglass equivalent of a flashing bowtie. Other traffic during our test didn’t seem to take to the Aero; not many people were keen to let me out of junctions, or into other lanes on dual carriageways.

On the practicality front, the kit at least hasn’t spoiled the GT86’s everyday usability. So high is the spoiler that you look straight under it through the rear screen (although the repositioned brake light surround does obscure your lower rearward vision ever so slightly) and you won’t scrape the front apron over speed bumps.

Verdict

The Toyota GT86 Aero has essentially taken a very good car, not addressed any of its flaws and made it less likable. You’ll pay around £2500 extra for the Aero than a regular GT86 and more than £4000 than a basic Primo. That’s a lot of money for a not particularly good bodykit. Unless you really love the way the Aero looks, go for an ordinary one instead and see if you can get a set of the Aero’s wheels and tyres thrown in with some of the change.

Specs

Price when new: £28,250
On sale in the UK:
Engine: 1998cc 16v horizontally opposed 4-cyl, 197bhp @ 7000rpm, 151lb ft @ 6400-6600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 7.7sec 0-62mph, 140mph, 36.2mpg, 192g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1275kg / steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4240/1775/1285mm

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Photo Gallery

  • More show, but no extra go over regular GT86
  • Jutting front apron is speed bump-friendly
  • Tyres are wider than the regular Toyota GT86
  • You can't see that wing from here. Actually you can, in the mirror
  • Aero costs a great deal more than an ordinary Toyota GT86
  • No interior changes from ordinary GT86
  • Plenty of kit, but sat-nav's an optional extra
  • Unlike the GT86 Giallo, the Aero is not a limited-run special - it's here to stay. For a bit, anyway

By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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