YOUR eyes don’t deceive you – like a Pokemon, our Toyota 86 long-termer has evolved from a silver GT to a Velocity Orange GTS, as we continue to comprehensively evaluate the most recent updates to the 86 range.
And it took about two minutes of driving for a swear word to come out of our mouths. Toyota has not quietly revolutionised the 86’s ride as we had concluded from driving the GT last month.
It seems we should have waited until driving the GTS on 17-inch, 45-profile tyres before foolishly announcing – having only driven the GT on 16-inch, 55-profile tyres – that the difference in ride is game-changing for the 86’s daily driveability.
Instead, we are left with two lessons: that Toyota’s subtle softening of the 86’s rear suspension, for its MY17 facelift, has taken a miniscule edge off the GTS’s already bumpy ride. And that we never knew 55-profile tyres could produce such a noticeable difference in ride to 45s, although it could also be differences in sidewall manufacture of the tyres.
Mea culpa. Alas, as we jiggled along in the GTS, we were pleased to discover many positive things to talk about in the 86’s change to 2017-spec. It seems Toyota has listened to the many and unrelenting criticisms of the 86’s cheap and cheerful interior, apparently spending a lot of energy trying to jazz it up.
A soft, microsuede fabric is now used throughout the interior – on surfaces you don’t regularly touch, wise for wear and tear – and it brings a little ‘specialness’ into what was, and in a way still is, a place of business. Toyota has also installed new steering wheel controls for the stereo, and a new, little colour screen in the instrument binnacle (with a comical torque graph including enormous mid-range torque hole).
Plainly, the bulk of the 2017 updates was sunk into the GTS – not the GT. From the perspective of a long-term test, the GTS is much nicer than the GT owing to numerous little conveniences that add up. Keyless entry, seat heaters, a better infotainment system (although still maddeningly unintuitive, with ugly menus, and slow to respond to inputs).
The HVAC controls don’t feel like they’re from a base HiLux, the pedals are a bit nicer, so are the seats, and the tachometer, and on, and on. If you’ve saved up to get an 86, or face intimidating repayments – and you plan to hang on to your 86 – try to stretch to the GTS ($30,790 vs $36,490) because it’s worth it.
If you are buying an 86 as a toy and intend to show it no mercy, you may as well just get the GT. And put in some rubber floor mats. To our eyes it looks better, too. While in orange the new front bar does make the 86 look a little like a halloween jack-o-lantern (impossible to unsee –sorry) it’s an effective freshen-up, including the new 17s.
The metal, propeller-blade rear wing might not be to everyone’s tastes. Could we live with an 86? Yes, absolutely. It is ridiculous fun. The GTS actually has an interior you could live with on a daily basis, and the ‘sporty’ ride is tolerable.
Want to see more of our Toyota 86 long-termer?
Next month we broaden scope and explain why the new 86 is not, to our minds, the spiritual successor to the legendary AE86.
Fuel this month: 10.8l/100km
Distance this month: 229km
Liked: GTS interior now a little nicer
Disliked: We were wrong about the ride...