There’s no understating just how much impact the Toyota 86 has had on Toyota’s wider brand identity. Before it, Toyota hadn’t properly touched the sports car space since the seventh-generation Celica, which itself was nothing spectacular. In the years following, Toyota earned itself an interim reputation for producing only boring commuter products.
But the introduction of the Toyota 86 in 2012 brought a fun factor back to the world’s largest automaker and Australians lapped it up. Despite sales of the 86 gradually dropping off towards the end of the last decade, Toyota has managed to move 20,800 units since its launch in 2012. Toyota hasn’t sold as many sports cars since the first-generation Celica in 1975.
Now, it’s time for the Toyota 86 to end service in favour of its replacement, which is expected to arrive at the turn of 2022. What better way to send off a sports car icon than to head out on a spirited drive, then?
Not many people would think of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula as a playground for a spirited drive, but there’s an expansive road network to explore with a variety of landscapes to see. Once you retreat over the back of Arthur’s Seat and away from the front beaches, the area becomes quiet and twisty, which lends itself nicely to the 2021 Toyota 86 GTS with Dynamic Performance Pack.
The Toyota 86 GTS is the same old one that we all know and love, but this car specs the Dynamic Performance Pack for an additional $2200. It adds a set of 17-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels in gunmetal grey, Brembo brakes and fixed-rate Sachs dampers.
Standard fare on the $37,380 (plus on-road costs) six-speed manual Toyota 86 GTS includes a 6.1-inch infotainment screen with satellite navigation, 4.2-inch digital instrument cluster insert, dual-zone climate control, rear-view camera, keyless entry and seat heaters. It’s a relatively no-frills cabin, but then again, its main attraction is how the Toyota 86 drives.
|2021 Toyota 86 GTS (Dynamic Performance Pack)|
|Engine||2.0-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||152kW @ 7000rpm|
|Torque||212Nm @ 6400-6800rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined||8.4L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.2L/100km|
|ANCAP rating||Five-star (tested 2012)|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km|
|Price as tested||$39,580 before on-road costs|
With that in mind, there are a number of nice touches to the interior that actually do help its cause. Toyota has placed swathes of suede-like fabric on the door tops to provide comfortable arm support, the sides of the transmission tunnel are padded to provide a rest area for a tired clutch leg, and the sports seat inserts are a grippy microfibre fabric that keep you from sliding about through high-g corners.
On that, Toyota’s digital cluster insert offers up cool information graphics like throttle, brake and steering inputs, provides a g-force meter, and even a torque map for when you want to be nerdy on the fly.
The binnacle provides just the right amount of technological integration to be relevant in 2021, while still retaining a satisfyingly functional and attractive analogue rev counter that lights up nicely at night.
Thoughtful interior touches such as the frameless rear-vision mirror, reversible headrest (for enhanced helmet room during track time) and a moveable cupholder all go to the car’s sports focus.
Considering it is near on a decade old, the interior has held up reasonably well thanks to the subtle facelift through 2017. The seats still hold you in very well and provide the right amount of support, and the driving position is bang-on. Taller people will get frustrated by the lack of space in the footwell, especially since some cornering will have you hitting your knees with your hands.
Of course, space in the second row is almost not worth mentioning. Even for short passengers, the second row should be considered an emergencies-only solution rather than to be relied upon. That said, it’s there if you need it.
Space throughout the cabin in general is a hot commodity – there’s a little hidey-hole slot in front of the shifter for keys, the centre console contains a tray for other loose bits and pieces (as well as removable cupholder insert), and the door pockets contain enough space for one drink each, but otherwise there are few options available for storing items.
A 237L boot is there to fit in a couple of soft bags or shopping bags, but the 86 is by no means a load-lugger. At the 86’s launch in 2012, Toyota’s party trick was fitting in four full-size wheels and tyres with the rear seat folded to prove just how track-ready it might be.
But you don’t buy an 86 for practical reasons. Its singular focus is driver involvement and enjoyment, which it still delivers in spades – the optional Dynamic Performance Pack only adding to the package.
Even still, the Toyota 86 handles mundane stuff such as the short freeway jaunt down to the Mornington Peninsula comfortably. While you wouldn’t call it quick, it has enough kick to dispatch most overtakes if in the right gear, and will happily settle back down and run on cruise control afterwards. It lacks a digital read-out for the programmed cruise-control speed, which is pretty old-school.
My Sunday afternoon drive covered a vast expanse of the peninsula, diving off the freeway at Dromana, working my way back via quiet back roads through Red Hill towards Merricks and Balnarring, and then along the back beach towards Flinders.
The drive through Red Hill is tight, twisty and quiet, providing a series of short stretches of tarmac with cambered corners and not a lot of margin for error. These tight point-to-point opportunities are the 86’s bread and butter, with a direct steering rack providing a reassuring sense of what’s underfoot, and body control that stays nice and flat through bends.
The Sachs dampers do firm things up, though the ride doesn’t crash about. It does tend to pogo around on some of the bumpier bends, but not so far as to unsettle the car midway through.
It’s an incredibly easy car to place thanks to a pointed front end that tracks faithfully as you turn the leather steering wheel. The Brembo brakes are a noticeable step-up from the standard set, bringing grabbier initial bite to hard braking manoeuvres, stronger and more progressive pedal feel, and a higher confidence in their ability to pull the car up to a halt.
The tree-lined roads start to open up as you near the back beaches of Merricks and Flinders, giving way to expansive views over the farmland of Western Port Bay. It also provides more of a chance to wring out the 86’s naturally aspirated 2.0-litre engine and to row through its six gears.
Love it or hate it, the 86’s 152kW/212Nm outputs are not going to impress anyone. The upside of that is you can stay on the throttle for a long time and run through gears without breaking the speed limit. There’s a distinct lack of torque that annoys more than any other fault, but it doesn’t impact the amount of fun you’re having while driving it.
The gearshift is nice and mechanical, though it would have been nice to see a short-shift kit included with the Dynamic Performance Pack.
After stopping off at the Flinders Golf Course for a quick photo-op, I continued along Boneo Road that tightens up at certain sections with some neat little switchbacks to really test the 86’s ability to double back on itself. Testament to its rear mechanical LSD and up-spec 215mm-wide Michelin Primacy tyres (over the 86 GT’s economy-focused rubber), the 86 rotates around itself nicely and carries on towards the next bend without fuss.
Annoyingly, accentuated induction noise is still piped into the cabin to big-up the car’s sporty character. I’m not a huge fan of the technique, but maybe others appreciate the added drama.
Bushland encloses the roads lining the back of Rosebud once again for a tighter feel, in the lead up to Arthurs Seat summit. The twisty descent down Arthurs Seat Road gave me another chance to work the Brembo brakes, which remained strong the whole way down. I suspect they’ll take a lot more abuse before they start to give.
A day in the 86 did start to take its toll on the freeway run home. My back did twinge a little from the extended seat time, which surprised me a little, as I didn’t think it was all too bad a tourer. Even around town, the enhanced Dynamic Performance Pack doesn’t impede on everyday usability.
As for the spirited drive through the Mornington Peninsula, Melburnians should give it a go one time. It may not twist and bend to the extent that roads surrounding the Yarra Valley do, but it’s a great place to get lost and is usually quiet.
After a full week of daily driver duties and the run down the peninsula, the Toyota recorded an average consumption of 8.2L/100km, which actually beats Toyota’s combined 8.4L/100km claim.
It asks to be serviced every nine months or 15,000km, and each of the first four visits setting you back $200, the fifth steps up to $396 and the sixth (still inside of five years) a whopping $1867, bringing the total to $3063 over five years. A five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty is supplied as standard, though consistent servicing at a Toyota dealership will reward you with an additional two years of extra drivetrain warranty for a total of seven years.
The Toyota 86 was last tested by ANCAP in 2012, where it achieved a full five-star safety rating. Realistically, it would not come close to the same rating today, as it lacks a number of active safety measures such as autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and blind-spot detection, which are now commonplace in the new-car market.
Along with a lack of safety credentials, the 86 has not kept pace with the equipment and niceties that newer rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Ford Fiesta ST possess. Combined with their more practical body styles and sharp entry prices, buyers with the everyday commute and technological advancement in mind may lean more towards its rivals.