Let me start by giving you two figures that most people care too much about these days. 200 horsepower and 200 Newton Meters of torque. Now that I've given you these small numbers, I want you to forget about them entirely because they are of absolutely no importance to the 86.
Those numbers don't correctly correlate to the kind of performance this little giant is capable of. When Toyota called to say that they were leaving the car with me for a week, truth be told I wasn't all that excited about getting the 86. I didn't think the car would be very exciting or different from the BRZ I drove last year, my expectations were further maintained after finding out there was only a 5 digit jump in both horsepower and torque.
I thought, “How could i enjoy a sports car with such small engine figures?” I just wasn’t that eager to have it parked in my house, ready for me to use it. I imagined I would drive it for a day or two and just park it. I thought it would be another so called 'sportscar' that lacked any excitement, character, with the same feeling behind the wheel as an econobox or kid-hauler. I couldn’t have been more wrong about the 86. It is spectacular.
The car is just too damn good for the small spec figures and small price tag that come with it. Let me shed some light on the 86 by taking you through one of the seven days I had with it. Click the video first, don't be shy.
"It's the ultimate anti-depressant, and the beauty of it all is that it barely dents your finances, which makes that grin even bigger."
Didn't that look like a lot of fun? I guess the next question would be, how was it like on the road? On the way to the track there was a mix of long highway stretches and tight two lane roads that twist between little towns. This is where I got a little glimpse of what I had under me. Surprisingly, it was very pleasant to drive. It's tiny and has a quick steering ratio so it's perfect for zipping through traffic. It fits in the smallest gaps, which means you're back on the throttle rowing through the gears ahead of everyone else.
However, I will say that there is very little torque down low, but if you're willing to work the car a little bit and get it passed 3,000 rpm, the car changes completely and gives you the responsiveness that you'd expect from a sportscar. I found that the 2-liter boxer engine had quite a pleasant noise, so pleasant in fact that I found the car constantly nudging me to go faster and faster as the sound definitely got more aggressive higher up through the power band - or maybe it was just the bright red paint job's doing.
Form inspired by function.
I think majority of the changes apart from the slight power upgrade are all on aesthetics. The bumpers all around the car have changed and so have the lights. It now has LED lighting in front as well as the rear, and it really does help give the car a more premium and upgraded feel. I love how the exterior refresh came out, as it gives the car a more tapered look. It has a more dynamic stance even when on standstill.
Inside, there are a few updates too. There's a new radio, which doesn't look very impressive, if I'm honest. The upside is, it now has decent sound quality which is good for days when you're not hooning around. I particularly like the new digital screen on the instrument panel with the G meter. It's a great touch, but above all of that, I adore the new steering wheel. It's great to hold and the controls make it much easier to navigate through certain functions of the car, not to mention the upscale quality of leather they used. Fantastic.
"The brakes were exceptional. They are tiny and I really expected them to fade after three laps but they just kept going all day long."
The seating position was good, allowing me to get nice and low and they were comfy on the street and snug enough on the track. The brakes were exceptional. They are tiny and I really expected them to fade after three laps but they just kept going all day long. The brakes had good depth and feel to them and most importantly never gave a hint of fading. I guess this is a common theme with the 86. It's a car that somehow manages to keep on going and going all day long at the track as the car kept pushing on with zero fuss.
Now the car comes with two stability control buttons, normal VSC off and Track VSC off. Holding the Track VSC off button for a second engages a mode that is very good at allowing you to explore the limits of the cars grip, enabling you to make the rear end dance a little before gently nudging you back into the correct line. However, after getting a good feel of the car's characteristics, I decided to go fully off by holding the standard VSC button down for three seconds. The car was spectacular. The 86 was happy to do slides all day long. Flick it into a corner, and the car is predictable and manageable. It is so easy to catch and correct at any speed, which makes its success no mystery.
A space for drivers.
If you're just like me, and you don't care about not having a place to hang your suit, you can use this car every day of the week. You can have the longest and most boring day in the office, but as soon as you clock out, you know that serious fun awaits you in the basement. It is the divine light at the end of the tunnel.
That's the spirit of a sportscar, isn't it? It's the ultimate anti-depressant, and the beauty of it all is that it barely dents your finances, which makes that grin even bigger. Driving the 86 with a frown on your face is far more difficult to achieve than powersliding your way out of every boring occasion, and for that alone, it makes its case.
Track proven. Street ready.
Professional Racecar Driver