A great sports car, or the best driving instructor ever?
The great thing about the Toyota 86 has always been its purpose.
There are many out there who consider it a sports car, much like the Mazda MX-5. There are those out there who see it as a tuner car, much like the Honda Civic SiR. There are even those who call it by its European name, which is GT86, GT being grand tourer. With respect, however, I don’t see the 86 as a fit for those characterizations.
The 86 has been in the market since 2012; I still remember when Toyota launched it at the now-defunct Subic airport. The 86, as a car, really hasn’t aged much, but Toyota saw fit to implement a mild update, one that gave the 86 a fresher lease on its showroom life.
A new bumper, new headlamps, taillamps, a revised fender, and a few other little touches were all it took to update the car. Inside, the changes are likewise subtle with some new panels, textures, and best of all, a new steering wheel with audio controls; if anything, the wheel looks like it was lifted off of a Lotus.
The engine wasn’t changed, but they didn’t need to: it’s still the same 2.0-liter four banger that it shares with its brother, the Subaru BRZ, hence its horizontally-opposed design. With 200 horsepower, the 86 achieves the magical 100 horsepower per liter, and that’s without a turbocharger and an intercooler. And this one we’re driving doesn’t have the 6-speed automatic with paddleshifters; no, this one gets the proper 6-speed manual.
In urban traffic, the 86 drives alright. Low-slung coupes really weren’t meant to be daily driven in the city, and that goes double for our metropolis. Still, it does OK. The ride and the seats are firm, as expected; this was made for carving corners, not cruising on bumper-to-bumper traffic. The exhaust can be a bit loud, but again, that’s expected. As a city drive, the manual gearbox doesn’t exactly give the last word in comfort. It’s efficient though, easily returning 8.7 km/l if driven sensibly (22 km/h average) in the city and 13.2 km/l on the highway.
Yes, an 86 in the city is like a fish in a swimming pool; it’s not really meant to be there, and the longer it stays, the quicker it fades away. No, where the 86 truly belongs is on an open road, the track, or a mountain course.
The 86 is not particularly quick in a straight line, so if you think you’ll have blistering acceleration times, think again. 200 bhp may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. What the 86 is great at is balance; from the power, the rear-wheel drive layout, the weight distribution, the way it manages body roll, the braking, the shifts, and the way it feels when the tires are just about to reach their limits of lateral acceleration, all these work together with a unison that’s very, very rare.
There’s a natural air about how well the 86 can connect with an experienced driver. The steering wheel speaks volumes, even though it’s electrically assisted as opposed to classic hydraulics. The shifts into each gear just feel positive and firm. The pedals are pefectly placed, and the quick response from the engine makes it excellent for heel-and-toe rev-matched braking.
This is a car you can push and dance with on the limit if you have the skills. And if you’re still learning, it has the ability to teach you how to control it with its nimbleness and willingness to be tossed around corners, and be forgiving about it.
And that’s what the 86 is to me: the ultimate driving aid. The more you learn with it, the more you can maximize it, the more driving aids you can turn off, and the more fun it becomes, and that’s without any modifications.
Engine: Flat-4, 1998cc, dohc, 16V, direct injection, 6-speed MT
Max Power: 200 bhp @ 7000 rpm
Max torque: 151 lb ft @ 6400 – 6600 rpm
0-100 km/h: 7.5 sec.
Top Speed: 220 km/h
Fuel Mileage: 8.7 km/l City / 13.2 km/l Highway
+: Superb driving pleasure, forgiving to toss around
-: Seats could be better
Price as tested: PhP 1,771,000
C! Rating: 9.5/10