Classic rear-wheel drive coupe entertainment from the decidedly driver-focused Toyota
Toyota has given drivers a gem with the GT86 coupe. Front engined, rear-wheel drive, powered by a high-revving but not overly powerful 2.0-litre engine, it’s a car that calls for plenty of input from the driver but rewards in a way not even many hot hatches can match. Things are even better if you take it out on track; it can’t help but put a smile on your face.
It’s also sold as the Subaru BRZ, and offers an enthusiast-focused alternative to a more mainstream Audi TT. For this reason, there’s not a turbo in sight: to get the best from the 197bhp flat-four engine, you have to rev it – hard. All its power is delivered way up in the rev range and it will start to feel flat if you let the engine drop below 4500rpm. It sounds good when you thrash it though, and the gearchange is excellent.
Steering is also packed with feel and meaty weight, and the classic sports car layout makes it feel very agile and responsive on the throttle. The fact it doesn’t weigh much gives it a lithe, engaging feel, and it offers endless sideways fun out on a track. The on-road ride is on the firm side but you probably won’t mind; if you want the refinement an Audi TT offers, you’ll buy a TT. Saying that, on a motorway cruise, it is pretty noisy within.
The finish is also rather simple and low rent. Although well-built, it’s plasticky rather than plush, and the dated design is another throwback not everyone will take kindly to. The touchscreen is fiddly too. However, despite offset pedals, the driving position is comfortable, and we love how low it seats the driver – it feels racy.
Those in the back are much less well off. The seats are best used for bags rather than bodies – there’s almost no space in there, and there really isn’t enough head and legroom for anyone remotely adult-sized. The boot is better, fortunately, with 243 litres providing enough space for two passengers’ weekend luggage.
The cheap interior finish is a bit hard to forgive when you look at prices: it’s pitched alongside other coupes such as the Audi TT and Nissan 370Z, although the GT86 won’t hold onto as much of its new car price on the secondhand market. That high-revving engine is on the thirsty side too, and puts out rather a lot of CO2, which impacts on tax bills. On the other hand, Toyota has a brilliant reliability record, and it’s all but guaranteed to prove more dependable than a TT.
The Japanese company has rationalised trim lines for 2017. There’s a base car, and a higher-spec Pro; this has a rear spoiler, heated Alcantara seats and a suede cover for the dashboard. Our advice is to stick with the regular car though: even this has climate control, keyless entry, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity, with sat nav an affordable option.
Fun is the name of the game here: the GT86 serves it up by the barrel load. But such a focused, sharp-handling car will always be of limited appeal. To the right person, it’s a gem – however, its lack of practicality, engine flexibility and interior refinement will always see it lag an Audi TT in the overall desirability stages. Saying that, get it on the right road, and you’ll rate it one of the best cars on the planet…