Toyota’s playful GR86 the perfect blank canvas

The newest addition to Toyota’s performance division, the GR86, sets out to improve upon its predecessor’s respectable attempt at being the brand’s playful, driver-centric sports car.

This is certainly no easy task, the GT86 was widely appreciated on a global basis as a ‘driver’s’ car targeted towards the enthusiast. A no frill approach aimed at pure driving enjoyment.


There was never a need to reinvent the wheel

The GT86’s platform was good. So good that there was no need for Toyota to reinvent the wheel when it came to the GR86’s chassis. Aside from the addition of reinforcements near the front and rear shock mounting points, the GR86 chassis is largely the same as can be found in the GT86.

However, the rest of the GT86 wasn’t quite as great. Beyond that playful demeanour and a near perfect balance, we were left underwhelmed by a lack of power from its somewhat measly 2.0L flat-four boxer engine.

Engine noise was similarly ‘uninspiring’, and a few other practicality nuances such as a lack of usable interior storage compartments and door side arm rests left much to be desired.


GR addresses original 86 shortcomings

In true Toyota fashion, the GR division diligently took note of these shortcomings when developing the GR86. Major differences come in the form of a stronger engine, all-new body panels for a refreshed design. And an attempt to fix the prior model’s practicality issues.

A familiar but larger 2.4-litre flat-four sees the GR86 gain a much needed 27 kW and 45 Nm power and torque bump. Toyota’s solution to an underwhelming engine note lies with a trick audio system which artificially improves the perceived engine noise in the cabin.

A refreshed interior brings an improvement with regards to storage compartments and door-side arm rests. On paper, it would seem as though Toyota has resolved the GT86’s underlying problems.


GR86 makes a driving step in the right direction

But what is it like to drive? Well, after spending a couple days behind the wheel I can confidently confirm that Toyota has made a step in the right direction. We were given the opportunity to push the GR86 to its limits during a few laps at Aldo Scribante – a tight, flowy, fast paced, and undulating racetrack in Gqeberha.

It only took a few corners before I immediately felt comfortable behind the wheel. The car handles beautifully, and the additional power is most welcome on track.

Most importantly, the GR86 is still ultra-playful. A 53/47 front/rear weight distribution and low centre of gravity means the car feels perfectly balanced. In tighter corners if you turn in confidently and punch it at the apex, you can enjoy a predictable but impressive power slide on corner exit.


GR86 remains planted up to almost maximum load

The GR86 remains pretty well planted up to almost maximum load, at which point it must be said the car does begin to lean over itself. However, this trait becomes understandable when you take it on the road:

Considering what it’s capable of on track, the GR86 possesses a surprisingly comfortable ride. This, coupled with comfortable sports seats, and a definite improvement in the door-side armrests and storage compartments make the GR86 easy to live with.

Did they fix the sound? Initially I wasn’t a fan of Toyota’s artificial solution to the lack of engine noise inside the cabin. But after driving it, I must admit that I genuinely couldn’t tell that it was ‘fake’. At and approaching high RPM, the engine note inside the cabin is easily audible. And it’s lovely.


It would be better off with a half cage in the back!

However, anything over 80 km/h and road noise inside the cabin is becomes relatively loud. Making it difficult to hold a conversation with the passenger. I would say passengers, but there is so little space for rear occupants that I really wouldn’t recommend even trying to get into the back seat. The GR86 would be better off with a half cage in the back!

It must also be said that the power gains are felt more prominently on track than they are on the road. Despite an improved power curve, most of the grunt still lies up top in the rev range. Meaning that the car still feels slightly underwhelming in road-driving applications. Such as overtaking or when merging lanes.

So, the GR86 still isn’t perfect. But it’s a definite improvement over its already wonderful predecessor. It remains playful and will certainly satisfy anyone looking to enjoy a spirited drive on a winding road or on track.


GR86 a perfect driving enthusiast’s ‘blank canvas’

Most of the GR86’s remaining minor flaws can be easily resolved with basic aftermarket upgrades. Which in my opinion makes it the perfect ‘blank canvas’ for any driving enthusiast. – Giordano Lupini

Toyota GR86 6 Manual      R698K
Toyota GR86 6 Automatic   R733K
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