Road Tests

Toyota 86 puts a steep price on purity

We’ve been promised that from now on all upcoming Toyota models will be fun to drive. That’s the claim sent down from Akio Toyoda’s lips, the same guy who coined Toyota’s ‘waku doki’ design concept which has since commissioned a sudden charge of adventurous and risky designs, far removed from Toyota’s usual comfort zone to models like the Toyota 86.

What exactly is Akio’s interpretation of fun? For many 147kW of flat-four normally aspirated power barely adds much fizz to the trousers – and that’s in Toyota’s 86, the hero moniker designed to embolden Toyota’s performance arm. Who knows how he’ll manufacture fun into some of the other stalwarts with outputs typically halved?

But then perhaps Akio’s understanding of fun isn’t solely based around horsepower or thrashing the Nurburgring. Time with the latest 86 is enough to reset one’s entire mindset to a very organic wavelength.

Unusual for a brand to invite the predecessor to a new model launch, proceed to line the two side by side and then offer alternate goes in each.  More so when all things considered, the latest 86 isn’t all that different to its forebear on a mechanical level.

We do the usual walk around routine of the latest High spec 86; He points at the lights, full LED in this instance, extols how the widened airdam and contoured bumper generate aerodynamic efficiency. He then pauses to show the new 86 logo and side vents followed by the coolest bit, the wider rear wing. But the 86 is just the type of car you want to jump in and drive, not concern yourself with damper rates (softer by the way for comfort) because this is a simple car. You could call it pure.

And because the 86 shares a nearly identical mechanical remit, the very same things we liked about the previous model are present, just like the gripes. Gripes magnified by altitude.

It’s a very black and white car this; terrifically fun on a greasy surface where its rear-wheel drive, skinny tyres, perfect weight distribution all flourish. Lethargic on the open road with frustrating overtaking ability caused by anaemic torque levels near the bottom of the rev range.

There are many compliments about the interior. The driving position is Porsche-esque, the pedals perfectly placed, the steering wheel slightly smaller, and with steering controls, plus a good old fashioned drift-inducing handbrake.

There’s soft Alcantara and suede, bright red digits, buttons you can’t misunderstand and a touchscreen for everything else. But, it’s the lower specification touchscreen compared to other markets so besides dreary washed-out graphics, omits functions such as navigation.

If your location happens to be a racetrack there’s information aplenty. Lap timer, G force readout, plus a graph highlighting a very jagged power curve nestle into a 4.2-inch TFT instrument cluster. The additional Track Mode offers an intermediate step between full traction assist and ESC OFF.

Toyota has been a value-centric brand for eons but fun and value usually sit at very opposite ends of the table. The latest pricing is crippling the 86’s original USP as a bang-for-buck driver’s car, that trades a mite too heavily on its rear-wheel drive privilege. Remove that from the equation and a bevy of competitors, each boasting greater practicality, more speed, superior technology, expose some of the 86’s vulnerabilities.

SPECIFICATION

1998cc, 4-cyl, petrol RWD, 147kW, 205Nm, 6M

7.8l/100km, 181g/km CO2

0-100km/h in 7.6secs, 226km/h

1260kg

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