Five instalments and more than 5000km across two variants of Toyota’s updated-for-2017 86 and we can report that it’s basically the same car as launched in 2012, but the interior tweaks, concentrated on the GTS, make it just that much nicer to live with.
And the brand new chassis electronics – ESP and traction control – are game-changing in that more people who buy the 86 are able to enjoy its wonderful handling with a safety net intact. Previously the electronics would intervene so clumsily and abruptly you had to turn them off to properly enjoy a fast drive.
Which would leave you exposed. Fortunately, not anymore. Aside from those two things, the updated 86 really just looks a little nicer (thanks to a new front bar, rear spoiler and 17-inch wheel design) and goes a little harder, thanks to bumped-up outputs (up 5kW and 7Nm to 152kW/212Nm) and a shorter final drive in the manual models.
Prices are also up slightly ($800 for GT, now $30,790; and $500 for the manual GTS, now $36,490) for what has been a mild but effective update on the now five-year old 86. Would we buy one? Yes, of course – a GTS ideally.
The engine is still as dull, uninspiring-sounding and limp below 6500rpm as ever (7400rpm redline) and indeed it remains a gripe of the car. While it does the job in the higher revs, making for a surprisingly quick clip, it is very difficult to feel affection for it.
But it’s more than made up for by the handling. If you love driving, particularly in a rear-drive setting, the 86 is still easily one the most fun and satisfying cornering devices under $100,000. There is a slight trade-off, and another long-term gripe – this is still a bumpy-riding car.
We dream of the day Toyota fits adaptive dampers to its 86 like a VW Polo GTI or Golf GTI, but we are indeed dreaming. If the 86 had a nicer ‘Comfort-mode’ ride, it would be the whole package. Despite any complaints, one conclusion I’ve reached is that I will own an 86 one day.
A used one. Even now there are so many for sale with full service histories, less than 75,000km in mint condition and owned by people who – not to judge books by their covers – would rarely go over 5000rpm. And the market is slowly filling with used 86s, driving down prices.
The cheapest used 86 I could find online was a 2013 GT for $16,500. In five years they will start dipping below $10,000. If your idea of driving thrills doesn’t require 600 horsepower, an 86 might be all the sports car you need. I’ve had as much fun driving an 86 (or BRZ) as I have had driving a Ferrari 488 or Porsche 911 GT3.
While those cars are undoubtedly much more exciting, the humble 86 knows how to please when you arrive on a twisty road. Buy a new GTS for the daily grind and you’ll appreciate the slightly jazzed-up interior; and, when pushing the envelope a little bit, the smarter chassis electronics which you no longer have to fully deactivate like the first generation systems.
Want to see more of our Toyota 86 long-termer?
Or buy a GT, fit a half cage, upgrade the brakes and fit wheels in a size that can handle a tyre like the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 or Bridgestone RE-71R. Adding grip to an 86 should make it much more fun.
And if that doesn’t make sense to you, consider that a red flag that you might never be satisfied with the 86’s level of power.
Fuel this month: 11.4l/100km
Distance this month: 245.8km
Total distance: 4646km
Liked: This is as fun as cars get. Simple
Disliked: Engine impossible to fall in love with