There really is something great about the Toyota 86, especially when you wake up on a Good Friday with one in your garage like I did.
I got up early specifically for this, waiting for everyone to leave the metropolis, and go out and just drive. That was the plan all along.
It baffles the mind that the 86 has been in our market for almost 5 years now, initially launched by Toyota Philippines in June 2012 at Subic's disused airport apron and runway. That was a big launch, as it showed us a new, a livelier, and more fun side of the country's number one automaker.
Examining the car again half a decade since, the 86 really doesn't look dated. Toyota did perform a few tweaks here and there, adjusting things like the profile of the front aero bumper, installing a new set of 10-spoke wheels, removing the “piston” logo from the front fenders in favor of a simpler 86 emblem just below it, new 3D headlights and taillights, but that's about it. The update isn't major by any definition of the word, but that's OK.
Toyota didn't change much inside either, at least at first glance. The interior is pretty much the same with the red and black theme on the upholstery, though Toyota did tone it down a bit more compared to the 2015 model I drove. No more red leather on the steering wheel, shifter, and handbrake lever; instead the red is more muted with the stitching and the leading edges of the seats.
The dashboard looks identical to the 2012 original, though they did put in a nicer Kenwood 2-DIN touchscreen head unit with navigation, Bluetooth, and a few other niceties. The gauge cluster is different too; there is now a multi-colored LCD. The controls are exactly the same, sans the steering wheel; I like this design better, and those audio controls will come in handy.
With my seatbelt on, I depress the brake, the clutch, and then press the starter button that lights up the gauges, fires up the motor, and puts out a neat but measured growl from the exhaust. Under that hood is the same 2.0-liter twin-cam flat four; yes, it's a Subaru unit as the 86 is, after all, is the twin brother of the BRZ, and is made at Subaru's plant in Gunma, Japan. With 200 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque from 6400-6600 rpm, the 86 makes it clear that it wants to be revved high. That shouldn't be a problem, especially since it has a 6-speed manual driving the rear wheels.
I put the car in reverse and take care as back it out of my driveway; the ramp is a bit steep, and doesn't care too much for low-slung coupes with little clearance. Thankfully, the Pure Red on the underside of the 86's bumper didn't scrape, and the 86 and I were off.
The 86 has already been in my garage for the past week on the lead up to today, and it really can be a daily driven sports coupe, but only just. The 86 6MT is not something I would call practical nor would I call it comfortable, but it gets by OK. Speed bumps aren't a problem, and you don't have to really angle it like you would a “lowered” car. The clutch is relatively light, meaning driving in urban traffic is alright.
The 86 does communicate more of the road to you as you drive; great for handling but not so for comfort, but that's the trade off. You can negotiate the typical ramp of your favorite fast food drive, though the cupholders are so far back that you'll have to twist your arm to grasp your cup of coffee. And the trunk space (or at least the shape of it) was really pointless with that full-size spare tire having to protrude from the trunk board; even my laptop bag can't be placed flat back there.
You may be wondering why we're looking at the daily driven aspect of an 86, and that's a valid point, but it was meant to show why I was looking eagerly forward a day of no traffic. Zero.
At full throttle, the 86's flat four gives it everything it has. Pop the clutch and grab second, and do it for each one up the sequence of the gearbox, and the 86's speedometer will soon be in the high triple digits on the straights. Again, it's not fast in a straight line if you're used to things like a Genesis Coupe and definitely not if you've been bitten by the GT-R bug. Sure, the acceleration isn't particularly fantastic, but the linear behavior of the naturally aspirated motor far outweighs its actual grunt, simply because you can easily manipulate it with your right foot and the throttle.
When you do get to a corner, a switch in your head comes on, and you dive on the brakes. What's great about the 86 is the feel of the pedals; it's not a big brake kit, but it tells you how the braking system performs, and tells you how the tires are holding up to the abuse. The lightness of the car means that it can easily scrub off speed, and as the needle on the speedometer drops, you can start rev-matching the engine to the braking to the gearbox to the speed, using your one right foot to simulate two by heel-and-toeing as you go. Actually, by the placement of the pedals, you can just offset your foot to the right of the brake pedal, and easily blip the throttle as you downshift.
If you got it right with the speed and the gear, the 86 will oblige you nicely as you turn in, rotating to the corner while keeping the body roll and the weight shift in check. You can easily balance it on the limit based on the feedback from the Michelin Primacy HP tires to the steering wheel. Yes, it's an electrically assisted power steering system as opposed to the classic hydraulic power assist, but it does quite well to give some feedback. If you got this right, there would be no need for the anti-lock braking system or the stability control to kick in, and once you're out of the corner, you can start start feeding in the throttle and keep going.
That's the fun, the beauty, and the magic of the Toyota 86, all shown in just one corner.
This is one of those refreshing cars to drive because of its embrace of old school fundamentals: a good powertrain with ample horsepower, three perfectly-placed pedals, a shifter that feels great in your hand, a seat that keeps you in place, and fantastic driving dynamics. And guess what? There are plenty more corners just on the horizon.