The hottest driver’s car of the past six months? Toyota’s hoot of a hot hatch, the GR Yaris, has a big shout on that claim to fame, as we have said more than once. Now it’s getting a big brother in the form of the Toyota GR 86.
This 2+2 front engined, rear-wheel-drive coupe used to be called GT86 and was a long-time drivers’ favourite, but this new one, revealed in Japan this week, has been rebadged GR 86 to tie it in with the GR (Gazoo Racing) brand that already boasts not just the hot Yaris but also the GR Supra. GR is turning into a nice little performance family for Toyota, and the new 86 arrives full of pure driving promise, just as the first version did when it burst on to the scene in 2012.
That first GT86 represented a sea change for a Toyota that was desperate to add some driving sparkle to its worthy but dull reputation. The 86 did that, with bells on, and we are pleased to report the second-gen is very much a car from the same mould, including being jointly developed with Subaru. We may not be getting the Subaru BRZ version in the UK this time round, but all indications are the Toyota GR 86 (seen here in Japanese spec) will be winging its way to our shores.
What can we expect? The aim, then as now, is an affordable driver’s coupe for road and track, with the emphasis on sensations rather than sheer speed. The ingredients that make this happen haven’t changed: the new model is front-engine, rear-drive with balanced weight distribution and a notably low centre of gravity, partly thanks to a horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ engine.
The two-door is similar weight (1,270 kg) to before, similar size and boasts a design that while all new and rather more muscular, is clearly derived from its predecessor; that’s no bad thing. The new body gets an aluminium roof – not just to save weight but to lower further the C of G – more efficient motorsport-derived aero and is said to be 50 per cent torsionally stiffer. That latter point pays off in enhanced steering accuracy, says Toyota.
The engine is still a four-pot boxer, courtesy of Subaru, but of larger capacity at 2.4-litres. It still revs: right up to 7,400rpm. With (refreshingly) no turbo here to boost output, power is quoted at 235PS (173kW) backed up by 250Nm (185lb ft) of torque – both usefully up on the GT86. At a quoted 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds, the new GR 86 is just over a second quicker than its 2.0-litre predecessor but there are still plenty of hatchbacks that are faster – including the GR Yaris (5.5 seconds)…
The 86 has always been about response and balance more than numbers and we are glad this still appears to be the case. The stiffer but lighter body, strut front and double wishbone rear suspension, sharper steering, more power and (in Japan at least) a transmission choice that includes a six-speed manual gearbox, all come together in a car that’s said to be even more intuitive and responsive than before.
The car goes on sale in Japan in the autumn. There’s no confirmation yet of UK spec, prices or indeed arrival time, but with GR becoming suddenly such a high profile performance brand, UK sales are surely a certainty.
The 86 has never been the biggest seller for Toyota – 200,000 worldwide in nine years is a drop in the ocean by Toyota standards – but has done wonders for the giant’s image among drivers. So more of the same? That’s fine by us…