The ultimate test of a sports coupe like the Toyota 86 – that can delight you on the track – is its ability to keep you engaged even when you shrug your cape off and join the ranks of lesser mortals on the carriageway…
Drifting. It is impossible to get past a Toyota 86 review without skidding on that turf. You’ve heard so much about it already that you ask, “OK, what else?” So I decided to stay away from that beaten track and follow another one – the daily road to office, the weekend drive atop a winding wilderness and of course the sharp corners you stick yourself into, every now and then. Drifting away (oops!) from that spot, Toyota 86 looks, feels and drives like a true sports car- as exciting, as capable and of course, just as vulnerable.
UPSIDE: affordable sports car, full driver engagement, excellent balance and feedback, modification possibility galore
FLIPSIDE: tight rear seats, absence of parking assistance, 86 Manual available only with 16” wheels, modification limited by warranty
The 86 is a contemplated creation in the history of sports cars as much as it is a calculated move in Toyota’s. Balance is the driving factor, as much as it is the drifting factor, in the Toyota 86 – whether it is the 53:47 weight ratio or the centre of gravity that clings on to a spot just 18.1 cm above the ground, admirably close to that of the new Cayman S. There is more to the gripping drive than just the smallest steering Toyota has ever designed or the aerodynamic silhouette with an industry-best drag co-efficient of .27. (Read more on the great handling features of Toyota 86.)
The 86 ride is an enjoyable simulation of the ultimate sports car and that is not as far as many sports cars get. Though sprightly and sharp along defiant curves, it’s not without its limitations. Sometimes you got to grab that wheel and reset your path halfway through your half-moon descend – after all, it’s still a machine you are holding on to! But isn’t that what cars were built to do – you driving them than the other way round?
The steering feels heavy, tight and wanting to be commanded. This wheel couldn’t have been designed by Toyota – wait, this whole car is actually a collaboration between Toyota and Subaru! Now, that’s unfair on my part. Toyota has made brilliant sporty stuff in the past – from the GT2000 to the Celica and the AE86. But the past is almost a generation behind. Now, as they reintroduce the ‘generation next’ of car enthusiasts to the pure, pristine pleasures of a bygone era, it turns out to be something even the most gadget-fed and gadget-fed-up of us will latch on to right away!
The six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifts is what Toyota has been perfecting for use in the Lexus IS-F. That the shift-stick is automatic is hard to tell, which is good news for those going around the manual version. The take off does impress the G force upon you – even in its modest iteration – and the gearshifts that follow actually take distinct stopovers on its climb to the top, each time pulling you to a new high – in the region of 7000 rotations on the TachoM.
The MacPherson Strut and double wishbone dampers of the Toyota 86 along with the rigidly stationed steering make you feel one with the tarmac – the potholes and the bumps – every bit of them.
Cabin and Controls
For once, it was refreshing to sit inside a cabin with only as many buttons as you will use at some point of time. This stripped down sports coupe still has a driver info screen, Bluetooth and phone connectivity option. Well, it even has a CD slot where you’d expect a cassette player! But to the benefit of the Toyota 86 audio system, I should add, how much ever dated it looks (sorry, we don’t do carbon dating here!) it has an output quality that you can live with, even on your daily drives. What I found odd in a car whose manual version is designed to stiffen your calf muscles is the cruise control switch in the full option automatic – it could be a while before I come across an 86 driver who has actually used it!
The Toyota 86 is generous with its safety envelope – driver, passenger, curtain, side and driver side knee airbags – but the leather seats in the top spec option is perhaps the only semblance of luxury in an 86 cabin. The red accent stitching on the seats compliments the black trims and underlines the sporty character of the 86. The rest of the cockpit got to make do with more price-wise plastics but the deck with its “carbon-fibre” finish is a neat sight, I should admit.
The sporty ground-digging seats are a bit too cozy for comfort, the flanks pushing against your shoulders if you aren’t really built for it! The Toyota 86 cabin can put up real people in the rear and even gives you a baby seat provision. But the fact is, not more than baby seat riders can put up with its legless comfort for long. By the way, the boot space is decent for a sports car with the option of folding the rear seats, if a couple of golf bags mean something to you!
The absence of an armrest on the central console is understandable but not the placement of the cup holders – unless you are Daddy long legs or have practiced the art of touching your nose with your arm wrapped around! So if you feel like a drink while driving a Toyota 86 – stop for it.
Remarkable cost factors
Among the best-liked features of the new 86 is its price tag – you could get two and a half of these for what you would pay for a fancy badge and agreed, cartloads of refinements too. The sub-100K tag is largely due to the technical collaboration that gave rise to 3 different clones under the Scion, the Subaru and the Toyota badges, but it also should be because of the purely functional approach to the cabin trims – like the stripped down console or those flimsy looking rear view mirrors! The only manual option can be had for AED 95,000 while the automatic versions are priced between AED 100,000 and 125,000.
Considering running costs, the 86 returned uncanny fuel efficiency figures at 10.74 km/L during my test. This sports coupe will most likely outrun your neighbour’s fuel-sipping hatch in that department!
Toyota 86 Manual
The Toyota 86 for purists is available in a single-spec manual version in GCC, with a six-speed manual transmission and weighs 30 kg less than its automatic counterpart. Chances are, you won’t linger long on the 6th gear – may be not even on the 5th. The atmosphere created by the relentless sound of this high-rev engine and the relatively quickly tiring out top gears, urge you to shift down and you are quickly rewarded for it – the blipping sounds like the crack of a whip and you can feel the power as it is transmitted all over the chassis. The sporty suspension is pretty firm but you shouldn’t be complaining – you wanted a ‘proper’ sports car!
The essential 86
The ultimate test of a car like this, that can delight you on the track, is its real capacity to keep you engaged on the road as well. Even when you have to shrug your cape off and join the ranks of lesser mortals on the carriageway! Toyota 86 does that bit quite impressively, because the soul of gratification lies not really in the speed it attains or how quickly it gets there – but how well it gets there and takes you along effortlessly.
Drive courtesy: Al Futtaim Motors
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy