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A great sportscar for everyone
Toyota GR86 two door coupe
By: Ricardo   |  Email:

Toyota GR86 10th anniv. (As driven by Ricardo R-Long)

The Toyota Corolla is the #1 sales vehicle in the world for the Japanese company. In the seventies, a twin-cam motor found its way into the engine bay of a Corolla. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) homologated an F.I.A version of the RWD Corolla for rally racing in the eighties. The Corolla AE86 (Hachi-Roku), with its potent 1.6L TOHC, became a legend—the same engine powered for the Toyota Atlantic monoposto racing series and Drifting championships all over Japan.

The "86" spirit is still alive today thanks to the manufacturer making a sports car of similar dimensions and layout. The new 2023 two-door coupe is called a GR86, solidifying the long-time relationship with Gazoo Racing in Japan. I had the opportunity to drive this latest version. And it brought a smile to my face.

Toyota worked in conjunction with Subaru to create this car. The engine is the boxer 4-cylinder 2.4-liter twin cam that has proven reliable and powerful under Subaru's WRX and STI models. The Toyota GR86 delivers almost 230 HP. That is enough to enjoy a quick drive through a mountain road. Why? Because the best part of this car is the chassis, suspension, and rear-wheel drive configuration.

Developed under chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, the new "86" debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2011 as the FT86 and the first units were delivered in 2012. I drove the 10th Anniversary Edition GR86 (limited to 860 units). It comes in Solid Shift Orange color, a matte-black stripe and ducktail spoiler, 18-inch forged alloy black wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport tires, and a cat-back GR special exhaust system with black chrome tips. Additionally, the door interiors have orange embroidery commemorating this limited series Toyota. With a wider stance and a side vent at the front wheel arches, the car looks the part of a real sportscar.

I immediately thought about where to go for its first run. Turnbull Canyon, Little Tujunga Rd., Latigo or Mulholland Dr.? Once on the road, you notice that the car sits low and the suspension is stiff for daily commuting. Not quite a race car, but over older roads, it can become quite bumpy. The Michelin wide and high grip compound is hard as well. But it all makes sense. Once you start pushing the motor to higher revs, and go through a succession of left-right-left corners, the car comes alive. Above 4500 rpm the engine wakes up, and it keeps pulling to the 7000 rpm easily. The base model comes with a manual six-speed transmission. This special edition comes with an automatic transmission that has paddle shifting. It may not be for the purist, but it is as good as a stick shift in performance.

The car does not get tired, nor do the brakes fade, either. I was surprised by how eager this GR86 is to keep going without missing a beat. If you enjoy the art of driving, the AE86 is an even match for the Mazda MX5. Both cars are great for track days or early morning runs through your favorite canyon roads. The Toyota has a McPherson strut front suspension setup and a multi-link double wishbone system at the back. It comes standard with a Torsen limited-slip Differential (LSD) that gives you the confidence to press the accelerator without worrying about losing grip. The car weighs around 2825 lbs, and you can feel how agile it transitions from side to side. Several aftermarket suspension kits are available for this car, but the factory package is excellent unless you plan on racing it.

This GR86 is a four-seater car. However, the rear seats are just an excuse to comply with Japanese regulations and reduce the sales tax on the vehicle. The base model costs $29,750, and the 10th Anniversary costs $36,900. You get your money's worth if you choose the latter version.

There are a few compromises with the car. The ride is stiff,  the road noise inside the cab can be annoying, and a touch screen tablet could be better. But the GR86 offers what very few cars can do today. It will make you part of the experience as you drive it. A vehicle that can handle corners with high grip and even let you slide a bit for plenty of engagement. It is a fun-to-drive and affordable sportscar for all of us.

A great sportscar for everyone
Toyota GR86 two door coupe

By: Ricardo

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