2023 Toyota GR86 Premium - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Seems Like It Was Designed To Start Racing Careers
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
If you've been following the joint venture hatched by Subaru and Toyota to market a 2+2 sports car using a Subaru motor in a Toyota chassis, you're entitled to be confused by the constantly shuffling nomenclature. The project started out with Toyota calling their entry the FRS and Subaru dubbing theirs the BRZ. While the BRZ continues under its original name, Toyota recently swapped the designation of their affordable entry to "GR86." GR stands for Toyota's factory race team, Gazoo Racing, an organization that just won the prestigious first-ever Hypercar race held at Sebring, Florida over 1000 miles and 8 hours.
Racing plays an important role in the design and development of the GR86. This is a svelte coupe with 4 seats but room for only 2 adults. The jump seats in back look inviting until you realize that: A) you can't climb in, and B) there's no room for your feet anyway. In other words, the +2 part of the description applies to infants and toddlers only. Because of its low roof height (just 52 inches) even entry to the grippy ultrasuede front seats requires an Olympic-quality butt drop followed by a double leg swivel. With a little practice, you can usually stick the landing. Once ensconced in Toyota's speed module, you will discover that the seats offer the same marvelous grip as the super sticky tires (Michelin Pilot Sport 4; 215/40R18) that Toyota fits to the Premium level GR86.
The reason Toyota fits a g-Force meter to the dashboard is to help you memorialize the heroic levels of side stick this little coupe is capable of generating. On our favorite 180-degree freeway off ramp, we were able to peg the meter with a cornering force of .7Gs. It might even have been a tad more, but when you've got the steering wheel cranked hard over, your hand tends to obscure the g Meter. We'd prefer it if g-readout were centered on the central 8-inch touchscreen rather than buried on the left side of the instrument binnacle.
On the right side of the instrument array, you can display a very useful block of information: a resettable lap timer allows you to capture and display sequential autocross or time trial laps with fast time prominently noted. Make no mistake, the GR86 is a track toy designed to start racing careers for an extremely cheap entry price of $33,748. There are numerous GR86-only autocross and racing classes to prove your worth as a budding winner. For starters, Toyota provides you with membership in the National Auto Sports Association, an extremely well organized club designed to teach neophytes the art of track racing, as well as provide competitive events across America.
The GR86 comes so well set up from the factory that you will hardly have to spend a dime (just on safety gear) before you can participate in NASA events. Most aspirant racers start with an undeveloped street-legal vehicle, then spend thousands of dollars to improve engine output, exhaust flow, suspension calibration, and a host of other improvements before fielding their car on a NASA grid. But why bother when Toyota will sell you a box stock GR86 that's been set to factory race specifications with the following upgrades baked into the mix from the start: MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension tuned to track/autocross standards, newly uprated 228hp Boxer 4-cylinder Subaru engine, Torsen limited slip differential, and your choice of a 6-speed manual gearbox or paddle-shifted 6-speed automatic. We enjoyed the ease of operation offered by the 6-speed sequential automatic in our test Toyota, but would probably opt for the manual transmission since it improves the 0-60mph run by 0.7 second (5.4 vs. 6.1).
Ergonomically, there are some drawbacks to driving a virtual race car on the street. One is the jiggly ride which makes it difficult to control the fine-tuning volume and station buttons on the radio face plate. The tiny buttons themselves look like they came from a 1990 Radio Shack catalog. However, you can also access these functions via the spokes of the nifty small diameter steering wheel. Our Trueno Blue test GR86 came with a set of matte black alloy rims which carried extra cost "Black Lug Nuts and Wheel Locks" for $295. Ironically, the black lug nuts were all color tabbed by inspection marks in blue and yellow, which kind of negated the idea of paying extra for black nuts. If we were ordering a GR86 Premium, we would probably choose a set of polished alloy rims to add some extra bling to the car's rather somber blue hue.
If you're in the market for a dependable daily driver that also happens to be a wicked performer and a Toyota to boot, you can't do better than a GR86. Giving it 88 points out of 100, Consumer Reports currently touts the GR86 as the 8th "Most Satisfying" new car for sale today, rated behind only 2 other sports cars: the Corvette (94 points) and the Porsche 911 (90 points). High praise indeed.
2023 TOYOTA GR86 PREMIUM
• ENGINE: 2.4 liter Boxer Flat 4, DOHC, 16-valve, aluminum black and heads, Port and Direct Fuel Injection
• HORSEPOWER: 228hp@7000rpm
• TORQUE: 184lb.-ft.@3700rpm
• FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/31MPG Highway
• PRICE AS TESTED: $33,748
HYPES: Factory Set-Up Hot Rod
GRIPES: Dump the +2 for a Parcel Shelf
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10
©2023 David E Colman