THE Toyota 86 continues to defy all manner of conventions.
Its fun first, numbers second philosophy is a breath of fresh air in an industry where power and performance continue to climb and it’s apparently a mantra that resonates with customers.
Traditionally, sports car sales shine brightly for a fleeting moment then fall off a cliff once they’re no longer the latest thing, but the 86 and its Subaru BRZ twin are flying in the face of conventional wisdom, ticking along at a combined 200-odd sales per month. Ford sells roughly an equivalent number of Mondeos!
The recent MY2017 update, including interior updates, suspension tweaks, a smidge of extra power and shorter gearing has helped reignite interest and to keep sales ticking over Toyota Australia has whipped up a Limited Edition.
Just 60 will be built, all based on the top-spec GTS manual and all in retina-scorching Solar Orange; you’re guaranteed never to lose it in the supermarket car park. The look is topped off by a black spoiler and mirrors and 10-spoke 17s.
An odd visual quirk of the 86 Limited Edition becomes apparent when you open the bonnet. The 2.0-litre boxer four is unchanged, but the engine bay itself is white. According to Toyota orange is not a good masking colour so a white primer is required, however production processes prevent the paint being applied to the whole bodyshell.
This is no great drama, however the level of orange overspray would be embarrassing for a weekend hobbyist, let alone one of the world’s largest car manufacturers.
Thankfully, the rest of the package is a bit more professional. Brembo brakes consisting of 326mm front rotors and four-piston calipers at the front and 316mm rotors with two-piston calipers at the rear are a substantial upgrade over even the GTS’s uprated stoppers, while specially tuned dampers from German suspension expert Sachs live under those bright-orange wheelarches.
Toyota has arguably tweaked the areas the 86 needed least help in, however driving the Limited Edition back-to-back with our long-term 86 GT does illustrate its improvements. The Brembos offer a firmer pedal and better retardation than the soft, dead-feeling standard brakes and the suspension setup tames some of the Toybaru’s waywardness.
Our long-termer has a sometimes-entertaining, sometimes-alarming tendency to fall into oversteer mid-corner, but while the inherent trait exists in the LE it happens at both a higher speed and less suddenly – there’s still plenty of adjustability, but more control.
Of course, how much is down to the new Sachs dampers and how much is down to the 17-inch wheels and different tyres on the GTS-based LE isn’t clear, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
Whether or not it’s enough of an improvement to justify the $4550 premium is another matter. The 86 isn’t quick enough to overly task a standard GTS’s brakes and for better or worse the suspension changes don’t fundamentally alter the 86’s character, so $41,490 – turbo hot hatch money – is starting to look a little pricey.
The equation is further complicated by the fact Subaru is offering 150 mechanically identical BRZ Sports Packs; the cars aren’t identical in terms of equipment, but the Subaru is almost $5000 cheaper and, if you’re not a fan of the Toyota’s hi-vis paint, available in the less polarising hues of red, grey, white and blue.
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The 86 LE is still a brilliantly engaging and entertaining sports car, but the same can be said of the cheaper GTS, which won’t make you think your mate painted it every time you open the bonnet. While there’s some quality gear fitted to the LE, any 86 chassis tweaks are going to be limited in their effectiveness as long as Toyota insists on fitting rubbish eco-spec tyres.
The 86 Limited Edition isn’t without appeal, but we’ll stick with the GTS, thanks.
4 stars out of 5
Like: Dynamic improvements; turns heads
Dislike: Erodes 86’s value; paint job
2017 Toyota 86 Limited Edition specs:
Engine: 1998cc flat-4cyl, DOHC, 16v
Power: 152kW @ 7000rpm
Torque: 212Nm @ 6400-6800rpm
0-100km/h: 7.4sec (claimed)