We all know Toyota make two kinds of cars; staid, sensible, utterly reliable but bland ‘normal’ cars like the Camry and Corolla, and rugged vehicles like the Hilux and Land Cruiser.
And exciting, fun, light, well-balanced sports coupes. The GT (and GTS) 86 has been on the market for a while now, to wide praise from the motoring writers and buyers alike. With sharp styling, sharper handling and road-holding matched to a willing 2 litre ‘boxer’ the GT86 range looks set to be a part of the Australian motor car market for a good long while.
I got the keys for a white GTS86 on a very wet Thursday morning in November. Later that day, I was to drive the car to Melbourne, for a historic race meeting.
First, my list of shortcomings. The back seat. Why bother? No adult could possibly sit there unless the front seats were shoved so far forward their occupants would have their noses smeared on the inside of the windscreen. We used it for luggage.
There’s a shortage of storage spaces in the cabin. One drink holder in each door, two cup holders in the console (although a long way back – almost impossible to use while driving) and a small holder for change or something and that’s it, apart from the glove box. No door pockets, no roof pockets.
So much for that. The drive experience, however is positive. Much has been written already about the great chassis, the engine’s willingness, the gearbox’s utility. So I’ll add to that. The suspension is very well-sorted. The damping and springing are firm yet compliant, the 17” wheels with Michelin rubber give great grip.
The 2 litre boxer engine has fantastic mid-range torque and will pull from just above idle in any gear without pinging, snatching or lugging. There’s always a gear ready for you in the six-speed box. The gearing is beautifully matched to the engine, taking advantage both of the torque and its willingness to rev.
Like any car should, it drove down the Hume Freeway with no fuss. The radio picked up Sydney stations for a surprisingly long way, the wipers cleared the water from the screen, the cruise control kept us at the set speed. No fuss, no worries.
And we went a very long way on that 50 litre tank. Like, to Victoria. That first tank got us to Wodonga and at that, we still had over 10 litres left. That first tankful returned 6.6 litres per 100 km, pretty good for a performance car.
Sadly, the car has expensive tastes, and drinks only 98 fuel. Of which there was none apparently available near us, so 95 had to suffice. Still no pings, but that next tank, which included three days in and around Melbourne, returned a poorer fuel consumption result of 7.4l/100km.
The third and last tankful was the return trip and gave us 6.3l/100km. Overall our average was 6.7l/100km. If you couldn’t get below 10l/100km around town I’d be surprised.
Back to the nitty-gritty. Coming home, we diverted through the Yarra Valley, via Bonnie Doon, made famous by The Castle. There really is a lake, and power lines and you can buy Ugly Stiks at the local shop. These roads are nice, with long sweeping curves, great views and no Melbourne peak-hour traffic and made both a nice change and a chance to check the 86’s open-road claims to the test. It passed.
The car’s balance and grip, along with the engine and gearbox combo, made it most entertaining, without going over the speed limit in Victoria, whose Highway Patrol are somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun. If Atilla had ever had police. Or highways. We even got to use that old skill of overtaking on a two-lane road. Eventually,’ cause the prick with the truck carrying a couple of his cows would speed up every time you got to a passing place. From sixth down to third, some throttle and whoosh. Job done.
On the day I gave the car back we went for another drive, this time down to the Illawarra, to actually see the Sea Cliff Bridge finally. Feh. Nice. But it’s a bridge. Had a nice burger and took the car back to Toyota via the Royal National Park. Yay! More corners, some tighter ones this time. No problem, the car is every bit as good in hairpins as in long sweepers.
I see that Toyota had a concept based on the 86 at the Tokyo Motor Show. For me, I’d lose the back seat and chop out about 100mm of the car. You’d make it lighter again, shorten the wheelbase (making it even more manoeuvrable) and remove a waste of space.
I think this car will be popular in club and state-level motorsport for a long time. Once they start coming onto the used market in a few years, they might start rivalling Mazda’s MX5 in that regard. And the one-make racing series for GT86s coming up next year? Maybe we’ll see a new star or two born?
Toyota 86 range info: Toyota 86 range