First Drive: 2022 Toyota GR86 Review

The world is going electric but the GR86 offers a final blast of petrol-fuelled, rear-wheel-drive fun...
26th May 2022
Dan Trent



An evolution of the GT86, the GR86 adopts the Gazoo Racing branding of its Yaris and Supra stablemates and addresses some of the criticisms levelled at the previous car. With its deliberate policy of minimal grip and maximum fun, that original ’86 was admittedly a successful riff on the traditions of the famous ‘Hachi Roku’ AE86 lineage, while a boxer-four engine from the tie-up with Subaru drew a line back to the diminutive flat-twin powered Sports 800 of the mid-sixties.

The idea of a lightweight, rear-wheel drive coupe for hot hatch money was warmly received when the GT86 arrived but the (perhaps unfair) perception it didn’t have the power to deliver on the promise never went away. This is Toyota’s riposte, the GR86 staying true to the original formula but increasing engine capacity to 2.4 litres for more power and stiffening up the structure without adding significant extra weight. As such Toyota hopes this last blast of internal combustion engined fun finally has enough vim to win over those who thought the GT86 too feeble. Is it vindication? Or, given looming crash regulations, mean it will only be on sale for two years. Too little, too late?

We like

  • A hoot to drive
  • Faster and more focused than before
  • Back to basics thrills

We don't like

  • It’s already sold out
  • Horsepower bores saying it still needs more power
  • Getting black flagged for drifting



The GR86 is a sympathetic remix of all that was charming about the GT86, with enough extra muscularity in the looks to stand out as something fresh. In endearingly precise style the millimetric differences are dutifully listed in the press pack and include a 10mm drop in overall height, an extra 5mm in wheelbase, a driver’s hip point lowered by 5mm and – wait for it – a 1.6mm drop in the centre of gravity and a 0.05 per cent rearward shift in weight balance. Yes, a whole 0.05 per cent.

Of greater significance in the real world are meaningful increases in body stiffness front and rear thanks to additional bracing, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres rather than the deliberately skiddy Prius-spec rubber fitted to the GT86, and big vents in the wings that serve a functional purpose in contrast to the applique ones on the flanks of its Supra big brother. The double bubble roof and front wings are now aluminium (the bonnet already was) but for all the extra metalwork, the bigger engine and extra kit the weight has only gone up by 50kg or so. And, at less than 1,300kg, it’s still pretty light.

Performance and Handling


Not so much of the former, plenty of the latter. True, the engine feels stronger than before, the original 86x86mm bore and stroke (you’ll see what they did there) now bored out to 2.4 litres while improved breathing deals with the somewhat asthmatic power delivery of the original GT86. It also addresses the ‘valley of death’ that lurked slap bang in the middle of the previous engine’s torque curve, slashing the 0-62mph time from 7.6 to 6.3 seconds and improving low-end response. The need to rev the nuts off it to make any meaningful progress remains, and straight-line heroes raised on a diet of torquey, turbocharged hot hatches will still think it’s a bit gutless. Which is their right, as they power understeer off into the weeds while the GR86 driver instead enjoys lashings of hilariously accessible oversteer.

If you’re calm with your inputs and turn-in speed, that oversteer can be as mild as relaxing your grip on the wheel as the GR rotates gently into the corner. Or you can give it a big bung, floor it and enjoy the easily caught slides that result. The handling can be pretty lively in tight, low-speed corners but the uncorrupted linearity of the throttle response and relatively modest power means you can ride slides out without fear of it getting too messy. Expect a healthy collection of black flags if you indulge this behaviour on track days but, even driven with more discretion, the natural, rear-driven balance, pin-sharp responses and easy throttle adjustability remain delightful. It’s just as fun on the road as well, where the GR’s size, agility and real-world performance deliver more impressive smiles per hour than many more powerful and prestigious alternatives.  



It’s still pretty raw inside, but the plastics seem a little softer than the GT86 and the GR feels more substantial without losing that lightweight, minimalist vibe so core to the whole experience. As before, the driving position is absolutely spot-on as well. The low-slung seat, pedal positioning, shift throw and reach to the steering wheel are all fastidiously arranged to meet the needs of enthusiastic drivers. Such are the benefits of being developed from a clean sheet as a sports car, rather than derived from an everyday hatchback.

You might just about squeeze a couple of small kids into the rear seats and it would be reasonable to describe the GR86 as a 2+2 in the traditional sense, which is a bonus compared with most rivals. Of more relevance is the fact you can fit a full set of four track wheels in the back if required (a core development requirement of the original GT86) or, indeed, enough luggage for a proper roadtrip, should the fancy take you.

Technology and Features


The fact Toyota lists the Torsen locking differential as part of the GR86’s safety kit will raise a knowing smile among the target audience, the distinct lack of intrusive driver aids being a major attraction for the kind of people this car is aimed at. The automatic version does get the lane-keeping and other kit modern drivers apparently expect, but the inherent simplicity of this car is one of its major selling points. No ‘mode anxiety’ or gimmicks here either – driver settings are restricted to a straightforward track mode for the stability control if you want, or everything off. Beyond that it’s you, a steering wheel, three pedals and a gearstick. You can now plug your phone into the basic screen on the dash and navigate off your apps if required but, in terms of tech, that’s about it. Bravo.



Another 34PS (25kW) and a slightly flatter torque curve aren’t going to silence those who thought the original GT86 too wimpy to count as a proper sports car, as vocalised by one indignant attendee of the launch event who demanded to know why the engineers hadn’t doubled the power output through turbocharging or an engine transplant. Despite the fact Toyota now offers exactly this with the GR Supra. “This sounds like a question from 10 years ago,” sighed the PR, harking back to sentiments expressed by the original development boss of the GT86 who said, bluntly, those saying it wasn’t powerful enough simply didn’t get it. Bravo to Toyota for sticking to its guns and offering a lifeline to those left cold by machinery that’s got too quick, too blunt and too high-tech for its own good. The GR86 harks back to a simpler age, where driver skill and application mattered more than raw power or clever chassis gizmos. If you thought they didn’t build cars like this anymore, they still do. Just not for long. Let’s just hope Toyota’s UK operation is successful in its hope of securing a few more cars to satisfy demand.


Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder, petrol
Power 234PS (172kW) @ 7,000rpm
Torque 250Nm (184lb ft) @ 3,700rpm
Transmission Six-speed manual/six-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Kerb weight 1,275kg
0-62mph 6.3 seconds/6.9 seconds (automatic)
Top speed 140mph/137mph (automatic)
Fuel economy 22mpg/25mpg (automatic)
CO2 emissions 200g/km/199g/km (automatic)

£29,995/£32,085 (automatic)