Selected UK motoring journalists were recently invited to get to grips with this eagerly anticipated new rear-wheel drive sports car ahead of its launch. The examples they drove were pre-production prototypes covered in a detail-disguising camouflage wrap.
What did they think of our next-generation coupe? Below is a selection of excerpts from their first-drive reviews, which include a numerical rating where applicable. To read the full online reports, click on the emboldened links.
Toyota GR86 first drive reviews:
“[The GR86 is] a more complex, versatile, raw and absorbing character than its forebear. Toyota went ‘big bore’… and created a [2.4-litre] motor that revs to higher crank speeds than the old 2.0-litre did but that also produces 20% more torque. It’s even more mechanically authentic and interesting on the ear… still fizzingly addictive beyond 5,000rpm.
Could it be another five-star GR? I’d say that’s very likely indeed
“It’s easy to appreciate the extra agility and lateral body control; the car feels notably keener to turn in to faster corners, but also a shade grippier, more secure and more ‘grown up’ when carrying bigger speeds. It sounds better, it goes harder, it feels more serious about its performance ambitions; and yet it’s even more hilariously well-balanced and drift-happy when the occasion presents.
“Toyota would seem to have made… one of the very last great truly affordable sports cars even better. Could it be another five-star ‘GR’? I’d say that’s very likely indeed.”
“More than two thirds of the GR86 is all-new compared with the GT86. Starting with the engine: it’s still a boxer, and it uses the same block as the previous GT86’s 2.0-litre lump, but bored out to 2.4 litres. Torque has risen from 151 to 184 lb/ft, and power has risen by 34bhp to 230bhp, making the engine far more flexible and muscular. Impressively, [it] is no heavier.
This is a great sports car. The evolution into the GR has made it more well-rounded and usable.
“The electric power steering is light but laser-accurate and there’s very little body roll. You feel the low centre of gravity… and feel very much in tune with the car’s every movement. It’s responsive, yet predictable. The extra torque means the 86’s playfulness can be unlocked more easily and smoothly. And when you’re not being a hooligan it has a lovely neutral balance.
“This is a great sports car. And apart from making the 86 a greater entertainer, the evolution into the GR has made it more well-rounded and usable, too.”
“Fans of compact, light, affordable rear-wheel drive sports cars will be pleased to hear it’s… bloody good. Toyota’s little coupe is a gem [which] has an engine that allows you to dive headfirst into its talents.
[It is] one of the best sports car bargains for a generation
“There’s more power… but it’s the additional torque… that makes the difference. It now arrives… nearly 3,000rpm lower than in the old engine and [is] the most significant improvement, transforming the car without removing any of the original’s infectious character. Its straight-line performance remains supermini quick, but the 86 has always been more about how it behaves through the wiggly bits.
“[Its] new engine, revised chassis and subtle exterior and interior upgrades result in one of the best sports car bargains for a generation.”
“Toyota has been through the package with a fine-tooth comb. The GT86 was almost brilliant – this car is intended to nudge it even closer: “An analogue car for a digital age.” Even disguised, the GR is a more convincing bit of design. The stance is more confident and the details more sophisticated. Same goes for the inside. You get in, you drive, you smile. Everything you’re in control of is located, feels, and responds exactly how you would hope for in this kind of car.
As a sports car, it is little short of superb
“By a mile, though, it’s the engine that makes the biggest difference. A wholly positive one, too. It makes for a more mature, relaxing ’86 drive in real life, yet with thrills still there as required. It means being able to work the chassis more convincingly. At any speed, the GR86 is a joy on the road… [but] it might be even better on track. It power-slides wonderfully well, a textbook display of how good this layout can be. The GR86 is hard to find fault with dynamically. As a sports car, it is little short of superb.”
“Other than the fetching patchwork wrap, there’s not a single thing about this test car that felt unready for showrooms. The subtle switch from GT to GR represents a change in mind set, allowing Gazoo Racing ID to bubble close to the surface. Power still comes without the assistance of a turbocharger… [but] it is, in the words of people wearing Toyota fleeces in the pit lane, ‘the engine this car always deserved’.
This is such a heroically driver-focused car
“This is such a heroically driver-focused car… And one that makes the trend for turbocharging… look like the lazy option. So while the power delivery has transformed, the car’s beautifully linear cornering responses haven’t. You just know the hardware’s been pored over with worrying levels of obsession to get this right. The GR86 wants you to up your game. You’ll willingly oblige.”
Learn more: Toyota GR86 design explained