On Tuesday last, the Toyota 86 made a spectacular entry at the Yas Marina, with the world’s first synchronised 3-D mapping unveil. And with it comes the hibernating sporty spirit of Toyota back into our world. But amidst all the fanfare and great expectations of Toyota, the 86 faced its greatest challenge as I stepped into its cockpit and launched myself on the Yas Marina Circuit’s celebrated F1 track…
Of all the developmental challenges it faced and overcame so gracefully, few would have been as threatening to the Toyota 86 (as the new GT86 will be succinctly called in this region) as the one it faced on the afternoon of 29th May. The challenge of competing with my virginal ecstasy of driving on the racetracks of Abu Dhabi’s F1 circuit! As I pulled on my cranial covers, and slipped into a slightly-larger-for-my-skull helmet, and prepared to do for fun what ‘Schumi’ did for a living (I guess I can call him that, now that we have shared five laps of life, though at different points in time!) it was hard for any machine to match this adrenaline rush, forget surpassing it! So did the brand new 86 fail miserably in this daunting task or live up to the glory days Toyota has envisaged for its new baby?
Good news for you, and Toyota. The 86 not only imparted its joy of handling, but complimented the sheer pleasure of driving on the racetracks with its impeccable balance too.
This wasn’t one of those faux-sports car made to turn heads only on the road. Here was a capable sports car that doesn’t claim to be the fastest but should be happy with the award for the most satisfying handling prowess, and has everything in perfect balance – from the weight ratio to the drag co-efficient, and most of all its price. To quote the thought of Simon Frith, the Managing Director of Al Futtaim Motors, “What use is a sport cars if it can’t be owned by its admirer?” This, my dear DriveMate, is what I call “the people’s sports-car”!
Toyota 86: The Yas Marina Experience
Being a first-timer on the track, I cautiously stepped on the accelerator pedal but caution was quickly overtaken by the sheer pleasure and excitement of negotiating the corners and the mid-ride slalom created for us motoring scribes. If not a cone was killed and not once did I end up climbing the outer wall, I simply can’t blame it on beginner’s luck. The excellent handling and response mechanism of 86 had something to do with it, at least. And, as I was in the last car of the guided convoy, I could afford to lag behind on the gallery stretch and just push it beyond 150, seconds before restraining the engine and steering sharply to throw myself in and out of the apex!
The Toyota 86 revs up on a Subaru Boxer 4 flat engine front-loaded. But unlike Subaru’s all-wheel-powered drivetrains, this one pays tribute to Toyota’s 2.0L lineage of rear wheel drive sports cars. The 86 seems to have softer suspensions, and is more accessible than the Subaru BRZ in terms of price.
The 2 L engine has been tweaked to churn out almost 200 bhp of useful power on track, with a 205 Nm thrust, but the most impressive thing about the 86 is its superbly balanced chassis and drive. The car has a reassuringly efficient Vehicle Stability Control and Torsen LSD (Limited Slip Differential), which makes for excellent handling in err… unfavourable climes as we were about to find out!
Soon, as we found ourselves in the drifting arena of the Yas Marina circuit, the air soon started reverberating with intermittently revving engine sound, screeching tires and muffled inside those rolled up windows – I’m sure – screams of delirious riding pleasure. Seated beside Ahmed Al Mari, the UAE drifting champion, I was given a no-holds-barred demonstration of the drifting prowess of the 86. Not once touching the handbrake in the entire set of manoeuvres, Ahmed said: “In the 86, I can rely solely on the weight of the car to get it drifting around corners. I feel I’m at the centre of the car. This car is gonna make my life sideways!” Toyota 86 indeed has some magic figures about it other than the price itself (I’ll save the best for last!). The car has one of the lowest centres of gravity achievable, placed at just 46 cm above the ground, which favourably compares with their benchmark – the Porsche Cayman. As for the magical front to rear weight ratio of 53:47, it betters that of the Cayman (45:55). Add to this a Drag Co-efficient of .27 and a compression ratio of 12.5: 1, the 86 sounds like great news for drifters and a guarantee check for aspiring racers!
The next on the agenda was the Handling zone. In the midst of those fountains lay perhaps the most slippery spot on earth – I wouldn’t walk them with my Timberlands on! Ricardo asked me to step on the pedals, and do whatever I wanted. I trusted this veteran driver, and even the 86 had by now garnered some of my respect – so I did just that. With the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) on, I held the gas pedal flat and smoothly slid around the fountains just where I wanted to, even as I could feel the tussle between the completely traction-less surface beneath and the electronically toned muscle of the 86. But with the VSC off, well I can say I spun a lot of fun and learned to trust the car even more.
The class of 86
The Toyota 86 is perhaps the only front-mounted horizontally opposed engine and rear-wheel drive combination but it isn’t the first. That was a milestone Toyota crossed back in 1962 with its two-cylinder boxer engine Sports 800! The Corolla Levin AE 86 was again front-engined and rear-driven, but it celebrated the universal spirit of the sport car enthusiast in its mass-production philosophy and moderate price. The very same spirit has charged up Toyota’s production line-up after more than 25 years in this new avatar that shares nothing but the spirit with its namesake. But there is more trivia about the name than the AE86 link. The prototype’s in-house development code happened to be 086A. And guess what is the square bore and stroke setup of the boxer engine: 86mm x 86mm!
Toyota 86: Priced to be owned
The partnership with Subaru saves a good bit of development cost on Toyota 86 and it is generously passed on to its loyalists – who can now own a real manual sports car for just AED 95,000! The Toyota 86 comes in 3 automatic variants at AED 100000, 115000 and 125000. At these prices, the Toyota 86 could make those who still miss the Honda S2000, eye the Mazda Miata or long for the Cayman extremely pleased! Something else that should push the number of ‘likes’ for the new sports star from Toyota is its promised flexibility in being jazzed up – a TRD kit will soon be available at an extra cost.