Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted July 23, 2015 18:35
If there's one car that has revitalized interest in the sports car scene, it's this one: the Toyota 86.
For the unfamiliar, the Toyota 86 is the direct successor of the Toyota Sprinter Trueno and Corolla Levin from the mid 1980's, a line that was popularized by Initial D and the drifting scene. The 86 was launched in 2012 and now, three years on, we'll see if it's still the great car we know it to be.
This particular 86 is the base variant, meaning there are no aero or TRD kits around; this is the 86 at its core. The low-slung coupe profile of the 86 says its a sports car, not a coupe version of a sedan. Toyota gave the 86 a look that harkens back to when sports cars were curvy and sleek, echoing a modern interpretation of the design they put on the road with the legendary 2000GT. Unlike the AE86, however, the current 86 does not have a liftback version; instead it only comes as a coupe with a bootlid; though there isn't much trunk space to go around.
Sitting in the driver's seat, the 86 really hugs you. The seats are properly bolstered, and fits body types of all shapes and sizes. The orientation of the cockpit, err, cabin is definitely for the driver, with a large tach staring you in the face, a rather large steering wheel with a nice full grip. There are red accents on the steering wheel, the shift knob for the 6-speed gearbox, and the bucket seats. There is seating available for two more persons in the back, but do note that the headroom and legroom in the rear is rather non-existent.
This 86 may be a base model but it does come with a lot of good equipment. Automatic climate control is standard, and it's dual zone. A smart key is standard along with push-button ignition, cruise control, HID headlamps and LED running lights. Unlike the rather basic 2-DIN audio system Toyota initially launched the 86 with, the 2015 model gets a better Kenwood audio unit with Bluetooth, USB and Aux input. For safety, seven airbags come standard, along with a sport-tuned Vehicle Stability Control system. The list of standard kit is actually pretty good, especially considering that this is priced at PhP 1,636,000
At the heart of the 86 is the FA20, a flat-4 engine that was jointly developed by Toyota and Subaru. With dual overhead cams, 16-valves and direct injection, the 86 gets 200 horsepower and 205 Newton meters of torque; plenty of numbers to kick the tail out thanks to a 6-speed manual gearbox and a rear-wheel drive layout.
Press the ignition and the Boxer motor lets off a growl. Driving it on urban streets, the 86 is much stiffer than your average car. The suspension is clearly sharpened for handling, so no magic carpet ride here. The ride height of the 86 might not be for those who live in places with huge speed bumps. Of course the 86 isn't a car that belongs on city streets; much like an athlete, it's a car meant to have its legs stretched, and it loves to do it.
Up in the mountains and on a challenging road with no traffic in sight, we begin to truly explore the limits of the Toyota 86. Floor the throttle and you can clearly hear the note of the boxer engine in front; the intake note is actually reminiscent of the 1.6-liter Toyota 4A-GE from the original AE86. Acceleration is not blinding quick with a naturally aspirated 2.0-liter, so don't expect it to outdrag Evo's and WRX's. Still the 86 builds up speed well, thanks to a gearbox that has a very good range of ratios to play with, but the real gem is the handling.
Load up the front tires under braking, heel-and-toe the perfectly positioned pedals, downshift to the correct gear, and then feed in the throttle. That's how you play with an 86. The response of the engine was also quite interesting; one blip easily match the revs and speed with the gear. If you really did want to push it further, the TCS can be easily deactivated to allow for some sideways fun, though do so at your own risk. Once you do turn off the electronic driving aids, then the 86 truly becomes a drift toy, and the only limit to the growing smile on your face will be your skill set.
That's the real magic with the Toyota 86. Yes, some people were underwhelmed by the lack of acceleration, but do keep in mind that the Toyota 86 is not a high performance supercar, but it is a superb car... it just takes more than an eager right foot to realize it.