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2018 Toyota 86 GT Review by David Colman


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2018 Toyota 86 GT

The deal of the 21st century for dedicated sports car drivers.

By David Colman
Special Correspondent to The Auto Channel


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2018 Toyota 86 GT
A couple of years back, Toyota eliminated their youth-oriented Scion model line, folding a few holdover products into the main Toyota catalog. Luckily for enthusiasts, one of the few Scions to make the cut was this superb front engine/rear-wheel drive sports coupe. As a Scion, it was known as the FR-S, but its Toyota designation has now become "86." Since its inception, the 86 has been a joint venture product with Subaru, which markets its own similar coupe, designated BRZ. In fact, we discovered that the underside of the trunk panel of the 86 we tested is stamped with the word "Subaru." Which version you choose comes down to a matter of taste, options and colors. Our shiny primer gray 86 was painted a striking shade Toyota calls "Thunder." It carried a base price of $28,385, and an out-the-door ticket of just $29,280 - with not a single tack-on option. Even though that price has risen $5000 over the last four years, the 86 still represents the deal of the 21st century for dedicated sports car drivers.

When the FR-S became the 86, Toyota implemented a few significant changes. Topping the list was a direct and new port fuel injection system that bumped horsepower from 200 to 205. In a car that verges on being underpowered, this proves a useful boost, and you will be aurally titillated by the pulsing shriek of the flat four engine as it reaches for its 8000rpm redline. Toyota has standardized Bridgestone Turanza ES400 radials for newly delivered 86s. This is an excellent all-season tire choice, thanks to a pliable wear rating of TW260, and a short sidewall configuration (215/45R17) which generates prodigious cornering grip. Much like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Toyota 86 behaves like a barely civilized go-kart when negotiating switchbacks. For pure pleasure of feedback, it's difficult to top the 86 on a curvy road, no matter how much more you spend on your ride.

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2018 Toyota 86 GT
Unlike the British sports cars of yore that provided driving reward at a price in comfort, convenience and reliability, you can bank on the 86 to take care of such shortfalls with seamless dispatch. Inside the tightly configured cockpit, you'll sidle, butt-first, into form fitting, heavily side bolstered seats. These provide just the right amount of lateral support to compensate for the g-forces the fully independent suspension is capable of generating. Mounted high on the center of the dash is a 7 inch touchscreen display which monitors a 6 speaker AM/FM/HD radio. Also present, just in front of the shift lever, are AUX/USB ports offering IPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability, and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless remote. If your old MG offered all that, its Lucas electrical system would have melted down on the spot. The 86, on the other hand, gets a double green check mark from Consumer Reports for "Predicted Reliability."

One of the true delights on tap in this cockpit is the 6-speed manual gearbox which offers brilliant precision. The clutch action is light and engagement is never overly sensitive. The ratios are ideal for everything from back road bashing to freeway cruising. The only negative is lack of a hill-holder so you'll have to coordinate hill starts the old fashioned way - with the fly-off handbrake located on the central tunnel console. Even this almost lost art proves to be something of a fun challenge. Assisting immensely in generating forward thrust is the 86' standard Torsen Limited Slip Differential (LSD). This unit is the best in the business, the absolute race car standard when it comes to equalizing drive to rear wheels that are spinning at different speeds. You can actually sense the Torsen kicking in when you boot the 86 out of a slow turn and feel the tail end ratchet slightly as the LSD transfers load distribution from side to side. No modern electrical pseudo-LSD will ever give you this level of satisfaction and confidence.

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Directly behind the gear lever is a small button labeled "Track" and identified with a checkered flag pictograph. If you want to up the handling and performance ante of the 86, remember to depress the button for a full 3 seconds to activate sharper steering and throttle feedback. You will have to perform this drill every time you restart the 86, since the settings always revert to normal mode after the engine is switched off. And speaking of that powerplant, it not only issues a pleasing VW-like drumbeat, but also loves to run through the gamut of its rpm range. In fact, the design of this Subaru-built flat 4 is almost identical to the engine Porsche now uses in their Boxster/Cayman range of expensive sports cars. Porsche enthusiasts have been complaining loudly that their expensive toys "sound like a Subaru." Now Toyota drivers can brag that their 86 sounds like a Porsche!

2018 TOYOTA 86 GT

    ENGINE: 2.0 liter Four Cylinder Boxer, DOHC, 16 Valves
    HORSEPOWER: 205hp
    TORQUE: 156lb.-ft.
    FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/28MPG Highway
    PRICE AS TESTED: $29,280

HYPES: THE affordable sports coupe

GRIPES: Hill-holder clutch missing

STAR RATING: 10 Stars out of 10