Toyota: 2015 GT86 review

Toyota: 2015 GT86 review

Effectively a rear-wheel drive two-seater (well, it’s an ‘emergency’ four-seater) you could argue the GT86 only competes with the Mazda MX-5 in its price bracket. If you had another ten grand the BMW 125i looks like a good bet.

Toyota GT86 2015 rear quarterBut at fifty grand there’s a slew of front-wheel drive hot hatches that are as exciting also vying for the money, like the Ford Focus ST and the Hyundai Veloster Turbo, and let’s not forget the all-wheel drive Subaru WRX which is a bargain at under $49,000 for the manual.

Toyota GT86 2015 front seatsWhy would you choose the GT86? With a car like this it’s about image and feel. Yes, a WRX is going to leave a GT86 for dead on gravel, and a Focus ST will carry five people and luggage, but neither of them feels like a race car for the road and neither have quite the Japanese Domestic Market steroidal attitude that the GT86 brings.

Having said that, the GT86 is very Toyota GT86 2015 front interiorsimple to drive. When you get in, everything feels right. When you drive it you can feel what each individual tyre is doing. It may look like it has a dog ‘box and heavy clutch, but our GT86 packs a six-speed automatic, a light throttle, responsive brakes and a direct connection between the tarmac and your coccyx.

The automatic is a bit slower than the Toyota GT86 2015 frontmanual (8.2 seconds to 100kph as opposed to 7.6 seconds), but in the real world this won’t make any difference because that 7.6-second time will have been recorded on a racing track by a driver that has zero respect for clutch plates.

An automatic in a sports car used to be Toyota GT86 2015 rearan abomination. Either I’ve changed my opinion as I’ve got older, or automatics have got a lot better. It’s a bit of both as I don’t mind the DSG ‘box in hot Volkswagens and Audis, and the multi-mode automatic in the GT86, which blips the downshift to make you sound like you’re a heel-toe-hero, is responsive and quick to swap cogs.

Add the torque-sensing limited slip differential into the equation and some paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and you can keep it in a low gear when you need the power (all 147kW) and use the throttle to tighten the line a little.

When you need to rein in the speed, the brakes are strong, but not completely fade-resistant. The GT86 doesn’t weigh much therefore the disks at the front don’t need to be the size of Saturn’s rings, and the tyres only need to be 215/45R17 without compromising grip. The tyre seems the perfect choice for the GT86 – no tramlining and minimal interior noise, yet plenty of lateral grip.

The engine tone is quick to anger and delivers a tuned four-cylinder note. It’s an acceptable note, but would be nicer with an aftermarket exhaust.

The GT86 is extremely well balanced. The centre of gravity is 459mm off the ground (lower than a Porsche Cayman and Nissan GT-R), and the ground clearance is 120mm.

The cockpit wraps around you, accentuated by the bucket seats and high shoulder line.

The seat grips you when you’re chucking the car around and, with the best driving position being slightly closer to the wheel than you would be in run-of-the-mill sedan, you do feel like you’re in a track-bred machine. The steering wheel is unadorned – a simple, racing-style wheel with an airbag and a driver’s knee bag (two of the seven airbags in the cabin).

Rear seats are token, although you’d fit a short adult in the front and a short child in the back with the front seat well forward. Boot space is usable but not ample.

When you look in the rear view mirror you look underneath the spoiler, Rauh-Welt Begriff style. The spoiler is the most dominant part of the aero package – like a slap in the face compared to the more understated front and rear lower spoilers and side skirts.

Looking at the overall ownership experience, I would have had a GT86 when I was in my 20s. I gravitated towards these types of cars – sporty, kind of obnoxious to people of a certain age and over – and I liked the image and the driving feel. In terms of raw speed, it can’t hold a candle to the type of straight line firepower that was available when I was 25 (Evo III, R32 GT-R, WRX STI v4, Integra Type-R, etc), but dynamically it’s a much better car.

If I had a tight and winding track where power wasn’t the deciding factor, the GT86 would be my pick over an old-school JDM weapon. It has an almost effortless sportiness.

Today, though, being an environmental saviour is more important, so at the expense of horsepower we have rapid gearboxes and over 15 years more of electronics and suspension development. What Toyota has managed to do is engineer fun into the fabric of this car, and there aren’t many cars you can say that about.

Price: (with aero kit): $50,086 (automatic); $49,086 (manual)

Pros

  • Handling, handling and more handling – it’s effortless sports car enjoyment on a twisting road
  • If you like the body kit image, this is both tasteful and gaudy in the same breath

Cons

  • It’s a hard sell against capable machines like the WRX which are more practical
  • If you want straight line performance, this isn’t going to be for you


Words and photos: Darren Cottingham
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