2012 TOYOTA 86 GTS REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Two-door sports coupe
Price: $37,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.8 l/100km | tested: 10.1 l/100km
Yes, you can trust all you've read and heard: Toyota's new 86, in manual or auto, is simply brilliant buying.
Sports performance, a cracking drivetrain and low-slung two-door style, all for the price of a four-door butterbox - that's the 86 (and its cousin the BRZ). In the past 25 years, if ever, the market has not seen a better-value sports coupe.
Ponder for a moment the $37,990 price point of the GTS auto (tested here). That sticker price - in this, the up-specced version of the 86 - is $6000 less than the $43,880 Hyundai Tiburon V6 was in 2002.
That's ten years ago.
But unlike the try-hard FWD Tiburon (that could manage only a dozy 127kW and was bit of a schlock at the wheel), the 86 is 'the real thing'. It's no tarted-up dumpling, an exercise in badging - the 86 is a real sports coupe with rivetting handling.
And in GT manual form, there is only small change between driving the 86 out of a Toyota showroom, or an up-specced Corolla Levin ZR.
So, how good is it, how worthy? Try this: you would be barking mad, completely out of your nut if you drove this car, then a Lotus Elise, and still went and dropped $90k on the Elise.
Quality: The GTS looks and feels a step up from the GT. Mostly. The leather seats with red stitching look smart; so too the leather highlights on the doors and centre console.
And the multi-function wheel looks and feels great. The dash though spoils the impression. It has a hollow 'plakky' feel to it, and the style - looking suspiciously like something stolen from a 70s Dr Who set - is ordinary at best.
The steering wheel and gear-selector are leather trimmed, both look and feel great.
Comfort: Seats are ok; the bolstering is about right and there's enough padding under the bum.
Inside, sitting low, almost on the floor, with legs and arms straight out, hands to the square-on wheel, it's like sitting inside an old Triumph GT6 or early Z.
The wheel is rake and reach-adjustable, there's ample seat-adjustment and headroom is not an issue.
In the front that is. The back seat is only for garden gnomes and your invisible 'special friend'... or a bag of oranges.
Equipment: The up-specced GTS isn't brimming with gear, but Bluetooth is included and the sound system is ok.
There’s also a 6.1-inch multi-information display screen, sat-nav with live traffic updates, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, auto-levelling HID headlamps, leather-accented front seats, dual-zone climate-control air-con, aluminium pedals, LED daytime running lamps (DRLs) and red stitching highlights.
The 86 GTS also adds 17-inch alloy wheels over the GT's 16-inch alloys.
Storage: The boot is kind-of tiny. Toyota reckons there's 217 litres in there but, thanks to the protruding spare-wheel cover, it's as shallow as a baking dish.
The rubberised mat is useful and durable though, especially if you intend to do a Houdini and squeeze in the four wheels and tyres Toyota reckons you can get in there with the rear seat-back folded.
There are useful cubby holes about the cabin for drinks and oddments, but the cup holders in the centre console are too near the gear-shift (I kept finding my elbow in the cappuccino).
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: I had the six-speed auto. That alone, in a sports car, would normally have me running a thousand miles.
Perhaps it's the greying hair, or rapid onset old-fartism - I don't know - but this auto I like.
Six-speeds, conventional torque-converter with lock-up, 'sport' setting and stubby lever or paddle shifters for manual control, it will rattle off gattling-gun up-shifts, blips the throttle on downshifts and - from the seat of the pants - feels only marginally adrift of the manual.
It's lively and it's fun - what else is there?
Helping the fun is a pearler of a 2.0 litre Subaru boxer engine. Just 147kW and 205Nm, it sings its head off.
You've got to stretch it; peak power chimes in at 7000rpm, but it sounds sporty and feels faster than it actually is - the GTS auto can hit 100km/h in 8.2 seconds (while the manual is good for a 7.6 second sprint).
The auto, left to its own devices, keeps things usefully in the meat of the powerband when in 'sport'.
Away from the line it is nobbled a little, and it hangs onto first gear too long, but thereafter the upshifts - and downshifts - are right where you'd want them.
You can give the boxer a real workout and hustle things along with the paddles, ideal for firing around a winding road.
Does it need more power? I'd wonder if it might spoil it. The 86 feels so delightfully 'alive', and it's such fun working it to extract its best, that it really awakens the driver in you.
It's easy to step the rear out, balance it there, then line up the next corner. You would need a serious ham-fist to muck up the 86 on a quick run on a winding road.
Refinement: It's not especially refined but neither is it coarse. In any sports car you want some visceral connection with what's happening mechanically as well as what's happening at the road.
The 86 is happy to oblige. There's a resonance chamber to ensure that the delightful noises from under the bonnet find their way into the cabin.
While not as loud as some - it doesn't wail like the Renault RS265, or growl like the Golf GTI - it makes an appealing hi-tech rasp when shown the whip.
And, interestingly, except at lower revs where the off-beat thrum of the boxer engine is distantly apparent, it doesn't sound like a boxer when working hard.
Suspension: Both GT and GTS employ the same MacPherson front and independent wishbone rear suspension. It's not terribly sophisticated but it works superbly.
Down below its firm, and there's not a lot of travel, but the compliance is progressive with enough initial 'give' to not be uncomfortable.
The damping however is first class, the 86 'rides' the contours of the road, and the tuning front-to-rear is in perfect harmony.
Only a hard washboard surface can unsettle things - it can judder a bit on really poor tarmac - but, such is the inherent balance, the 86 remains arrow true on all but the very worst of surfaces.
Braking: The GTS gets a slightly bigger disc-brake package than the GT and has no trouble pulling up the lightweight 86. Pedal feel is just right for press on driving, with not too much initial bite and a nice progressive feel.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: The whole box and dice here: switchable stability and traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist, dual front, dual side, curtain airbags and a driver’s knee airbag, front seats feature adjustable headrests, reversible to allow a race helmet and front seatbelts with force-limiting pretensioners.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Service costs: Under Toyota’s Service Advantage program the first four services up to four years or 60,000km are priced at $170 each with service intervals set every nine months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
MINI JCW Coupe ($52,600) - Mad as, barking really, but quick as all get-out and huge fun at the wheel. Has 'legend' written all over it, but absolutely killed by the 86 GTS for price, balance and liveability. (see MINI JCW Coupe Review)
Hyundai Veloster SR Turbo ($33,990 auto) - The Veloster holds a price and power advantage.
But that's where the advantage ends. It lacks the classic lines and RWD balance of the 86 GTS, and its quirky looks will date quicker than yesterday's pizza. (see Veloster Turbo Review)
Or what else can your money buy at a similar price-point to the 86 GTS? Right now on carsales.com.au you can pick up a 2001 Lotus Elise with 94,000km for $35,900; best buying among used Nissan 370Zs for sale at the moment is a 2010 model with 45,000km and an asking of $39,700; you might also consider an Australian delivered 1976 Porsche 911 with just 130,000km at $42,790.
Note: all prices (except for used cars) are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
A car as good as this, at this price, perhaps only comes around once a generation.
With a bespoke drivetrain, delightful on-road balance and genuine track-day handling, the 86 GT and GTS reviewed here, are in no way 'ordinary'.
With the BRZ, each, at the money, is simply without peer.
Toyota, with Subaru, has re-written what we might expect of any manufacturer when they trot a sports car into showrooms. Maybe we've simply been paying too much for too long.
If you think you might want an 86 GT or GTS, you absolutely do, because if you miss out, you'll miss out.
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- Toyota 86 news and reviews | Toyota news and reviews
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- 2012 86 GT - manual - $29,990
- 2012 86 GT - automatic - $32,490
- 2012 86 GTS - manual - $35,490
- 2012 86 GTS - automatic - $37,990
Note: pricing excludes on-road costs.