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Thomas Mallett2012-08-31 15:45:40

The Opinion: Toyota GT86 ‘IT’S ALL ABOUT BALANCE’

The GT86 is an excellent driver’s car...

There has been much debate and a long build up to the launch of the Toyota GT86GT 86Toyota GT 86Japan, 2012 > present9 photos

Will it be powerful enough? Can ToyotaToyotaToyotaJapan, 1937 > present155 models
4672 photos
10 videos
build a real driver’s car? The answer to the first question is most of the time and the second is an unequivocal ‘absolutely’.

I had been looking forward to driving the GT86 for the last few months and this feeling of excitement has only been heightened as the first cars creep onto press fleets and the mutterings about its talents have filled my office. But, the proof is in the pudding, so I had to try one for myself and Autoviva didn’t I?

I dropped off the BentleyBentleyBentleyUnited Kingdom, 1919 > present37 models
1480 photos
5 videos
– I’ll tell you about that later – and hopped into the Toyota. Immediately you are struck by the value that it represents, with a list price of £24,995 it reminds me of the Lotus EliseEliseLotus EliseUnited Kingdom, 1996 > present6 photos
back in 1997 – then priced at under £20,000 – and although it has more creature comforts than the Elise it is a similarly ground-breaking driver’s car priced at a level that the average man can afford.

GT 86Toyota GT 86
122 cu in
200 hp @ 7000 rpm
143 mph
vsLotus Elise
110 cu in
120 hp @ 5500 rpm
124 mph

Let’s deal with the essentials inside the car first, and we must consider this within the context of a £25,000 sports car. If you are used to German engineering with soft touch plastics and leather abounding you will be disappointed, but it has a pleasing functionality to it. The radio, and in this case Bluetooth, are easy to use and don’t need a detailed read of the owner’s manual to operate and it is well put together. I did miss the ability to flick between radio channels or adjust volume on the steering wheel, but…at this price I can’t complain too much. There is plenty of space too, and the controls all fall to hand with ease.

The most important thing about the GT86 is, of course, how it drives and, at least in my world, it is easy to see that the car is very good but it takes time and the right road to realise that it is better than that…it is quite superb.

One of my bugbears over recent years has been the temptation of car manufacturer’s to associate rock solid suspension and damping with a ‘sporty drive’. Especially on our broken, twisty UK roads this seems to me to be ill advised. The issue is that hard suspension settings and unforgiving dampers cause cars to corner well on a race track but serve to ‘chuck’ you off the road in real world conditions as the suspension launches the car over a bump. It’s not the quickest or most satisfying way to progress down your favourite road.

Fortunately for me Toyota has equipped the GT86 with 17” wheels which may not be to the taste of the more fashion conscious buyer but serve the enthusiastic driver well. Especially in conjunction with a well judged suspension set-up which gives plenty of feedback while allowing the car to flow down the road in a way that only LotusLotusLotusUnited Kingdom, 1952 > present68 models
956 photos
7 videos
has previously known how to achieve.

The four-cylinder engine with a paltry (nowadays) 197bhp has been the focus of some debate and it is true that in certain circumstances – on wide open roads for instance – that you have to work it hard to add significant speed. However, on the ‘B’ roads that it is intended it works incredibly well. Throttle response is sharp and healing and toeing is a joy, as is mid-corner ‘on the throttle’ adjustment. With this level of power, on the roads that it is intended for, you can use all the power without going so fast that it all gets a bit silly (as in some supercars) while making plenty of progress. Maybe 197bhp is enough after all.

I have touched on the joys of the chassis, but there is one final thought to mention, and it comes from research undertaken on a roundabout (you know where I’m going with this I’m sure). Most cars today are designed to have a level of safety built into the chassis and this takes the form of understeer. The GT86 does not have this, but neither is it a king of oversteer and wild smoky drifts. It strikes the perfect balance, with the rear end dancing and the front end gripping however inept the driver’s inputs are.

I have not driven another car this year that has such a well-judged chassis, and certainly not for under £25,000. Who’d have thought it from Toyota?


Other articles from this series:

The Opinion: Alpina D5 Bi-Turbo - The Right Tool For The Job
The Opinion: Porsche Boxster 2.7 ‘It’s hard to fault’
The Opinion: BMW 640d Gran Coupe ‘BMW has missed a trick’

GT 86 Gen.1GT 86 Gen.1
GT 86 AutomaticGT 86 Automatic
Flat 4
122 cu in
Top Speed
143 mph
6, Automatic
Maximum power
200 hp @ 7000 rpm
Fixed-head coupé
Fuel consumption (combined)
40.55 US MPG
$ 45.638
* based on Germany prices
annual ownership cost
$ 1.904


Tom, did you take the car on any longer drives? I really like this car, and from the reviews that I've read one of the major complaints is that the seats are uncomfortable and numbing on long drives. ...
16.08.2012 @ 14:42
I am not sure what will happen with engines - I actually think a turbo could hurt the purity of the car. Interesting about the back ache, yes I did a fair few miles in it and I did have a bad back - i...
16.08.2012 @ 18:36
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20.04.2020 @ 13:11


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