The Toyota GT86 is a lightweight, fun-to-drive coupe that the Japanese firm hopes will tempt performance car buyers back to the brand

Toyota GT86 road test

By Tim Saunders  November 9, 2012 | Comments| Print friendly | Subscribe

The Nissan 370Z and Audi TT are dead. Long live the Toyota GT86.

Producing an unbiased road test on such a fabulous coupe is virtually impossible because its looks tug at the heartstrings while its interior and what’s under the bonnet make any motorist drool.

It brings back memories of my Nissan 370Z road test a couple of years ago but the GT86 demands considerably more attention.

Any Celica fan is sure to enjoy the GT86, which uses a gutsy 197bhp Subaru boxer engine, the flat four cylinders laid on their sides, allowing it to be mounted lower in the body. This lowers the centre of gravity and improves handling.

Inside, the driver slides into a well-appointed luxury cockpit featuring a sculpted dashboard, heated front seats, sat nav, air conditioning and electric front windows. An excellent driver’s seat hugs in all the right places providing plenty of lumbar support. Occupants look out over a curvaceous bonnet while a glance in the wing mirrors highlights the aggressive rear haunches, although slightly tamer than a 370Z. This is a welcome return to proper seat of the pants driving for Toyota. Because the GT86 is so low to the ground drivers have to be reasonably athletic and toned to get in and out without causing embarrassment. I cope with that but I have been surprised at how middle aged my body has become; the Toyota’s hard suspension really highlighting any excess weight as I judder over the road surface. The GT86 is a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable coupe to drive and what’s more there’s ample room in the back for passengers.

Its six-speed automatic box has been designed to look like a manual and paddle shifts on the steering wheel allow it to be driven like one. The auto is also slightly more efficient than its manual counterpart, returning 37mpg during the course of the test.

“The Toyota GT86 is a lightweight, fun-to-drive coupe that the Japanese firm hopes will tempt performance car buyers back to the brand,” writes Parkers, the car experts.  “It is aimed squarely at enthusiasts. Critics have been disappointed recently with the absence of any type of sporty offering from Toyota, the firm foregoing fun in favour of reliable, economical and family-friendly machines. It’s good news then that the GT86 is here to try to reform the brand’s image. Co-developed with Subaru, the recipe looks good on paper. The first thing to note is that this car is rear-wheel-drive, which for purists is the only way to make a sports car. It has relatively thin tyres for a modern performance car too, which further serves to improve the driving experience and make it more exciting at lower speeds.”

This roadster is the ideal tonic for recession; it revives low self-esteem. For me, cars have always been a passionate hobby and at a time when my full time role of PR Manager becomes redundant, the GT86 takes my mind off it. Anyone going through a similar situation is well advised to step inside the GT86 and floor it. You’ll feel so much better especially when that unmistakable roar sounds from the oversized chrome exhausts. At a certain rpm the valves open up and the sound resonates throughout the cabin in a similar way to the Mazda MX-5 as you can tell in the video at Book a test drive today!

As a footnote though, die-hard speed freaks have been disappointed with the GT86 because while it is fast, it doesn’t share the gut wrenching force of a Maserati, for instance. This minority will be pleased to hear that Gazoo Racing has added a supercharger and a turbocharger to the 2-litre engine to pump out 315bhp. So that should do the trick lads.

Toyota GT86 2.0 (Nav + Leather) 2d Auto

Model tested: £29,295
New price range: £24,995 upwards

Economy: up to 40mpg
CO2 emissions: 164g/km
0-60mph: 7.9secs
Top speed: 130mph
Power: 197bhp
Fuel capacity: 50 litres

Watch the video at

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Tim Saunders is the former Business and Motoring Editor of the Bournemouth Echo in the UK.

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