Robert Pepper’s 2017 Toyota 86 GTS review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The 86 is still the definitive budget sports coupe.

2017 Toyota 86 GTS

Pricing $36,490 (manual), $38,790 (auto) + onroad costs Warranty 3 years 100,00km Engine 2.0L boxer petrol 4 cylinder, 152kW @ 5700rpm, 212Nm @ 6400-6800rpm (manual), 147kW@ 5700rpm, 205Nm @ 6600-6800rpm (auto) Transmission 6 speed manual / 6 speed automatic Drive rear-wheel-drive, Torsen LSD 0-100km/h 7.4s (manual), 8.2s (auto) Dimensions  4240mm (L); 2008mm(W); 1285mm(H) Turning circle 10.8m Seats 4 Tare weight 1270kg (dependent on spec) Fuel tank 50L Fuel consumption 8.4L/100km (manual), 7.1L/100km (auto) combined cycle Fuel petrol 98 RON Spare space saver (full size option) Towing not rated


What is it?

THE TOYOTA 86 is that rare thing, a pure-bred sportscar designed specifically for the driver as opposed to a wannabe hatch with “sport” tacked onto its badge.

Back in 2012, Toyota, and their partners at Subaru, ignored the measurbator trend of knocking tenths off 0-100 times and focused squarely on driving enjoyment. The result was the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ; a 2+2 coupe, rear drive, light weight sportscar with a Torsen limited-slip differential and six-speed manual/auto transmissions. Toyota Australia then shocked the nation by introducing the entry-level GT manual at a shade under $30,000 exclusive of onroad costs, and demand was such that in Australia you had to wait months for a car that needed no advertising.


Four years on, secondhand examples can be picked up for less than $20k, and the car has built up a firm following with a huge variety of aftermarket parts available, the Toyota-backed race series has been a hit, and every weekend lots of 86s compete in grassroots motorsports from motorkhanas to dirt-road autocrosses to competitive track sprints. I own one, have chronicled the experience starting here, and fellow writer Jane Speechley is also an owner, writing about hers here.


The 86 was never meant to be a volume seller; its purpose was more subtle, to make Toyota cool again, bring back memories of the Supra, Celica and the hotter Corollas after years of worthy but boring kitchen-appliance motoring. Well, mission accomplished there.

Yet sportscars don’t have a long life – there tends to be a mad rush, then a steep dropoff in sales, and the 86 is no exception as we explore here. So it’s time, even overdue for a refresh. And that’s what we have here, the MY (model year) 2017 Toyota 86.

As before, there’s two trim levels, the entry GT and our tester which is a manual GTS finished in orange…and we also spent time in an automatic GTS which was delivered in blurple (blue, but looks purple in some lights). The manual had 82km on the clock when we picked it up, and the auto a whole 179km.


The budget for the exterior design refresh must have been small as the panels remain the same as before. Only minor items like the bumper have been changed, adding two bumps, plus some different badge locations, new wheels (GTS only), slightly revised headlights, new taillights and a new diffuser.

Opinion from owners of existing cars was mixed; some hated it the newish front end, others didn’t like it. All agreed it was a bit of a weak effort. Toyota really could have done more to differentiate the styling. 097a1007-2

With such small changes, the overall impression is the the same as before; like most coupes, the 86 says “sports” so strongly the marketing people managed to resist putting “sport” in its name. Yet there’s not much go-faster bling; no skirts, splitters, ostentatious air intakes or super-wide tyres, just a little spoiler at the back. It’s too cheap a car to give an upmarket impression – good or bad – like a Porsche, and over its short life it has built a well-deserved reputation for handling, so it’s certainly not a coffee-cruiser posemobile that is known for all show and no go. It’s also now very common, but is one of the most easily modified cars on the market. 097a1499

What does all this add up to? It’s not expensive enough to attract tall-poppy negativity, it’s known for being a true sportscar, and it’s reasonably practical. It’s hard to come up with a negative view for the 86 unless you’re a particularly bitter and twisted naysayer who hates other people having fun.



The interior is nicely sportscar-like, at least in concept if not detail; the seats are supportive, comfortable and easy to adjust. All the controls are easy to reach. You sit low, cockpit-style, and can see the twin rises of the wheelarches left and right so there’s very much a sense of a performance car. The tacho is front and centre, the short-throw gearshift is within easy reach. You feel set for real-deal performance driving as you slide into the low-slung seats.

Toyota 86 GTS interior
Automatic GTS interior. Smaller steering wheel, revised wheel centre, one-piece trim, steering wheel controls…otherwise pretty much the same.
Toyota 86 GTS
Manual GTS interior.

Otherwise, it’s a functional, basic interior, with no sense of stylish design like you’d find in say a Porsche or Mercedes – but those cars are in a different price range. Toyota have slapped a bit of Alacantra here and there with no logic I can discern – if I had to put it anywhere I’d have wrapped the steering wheel in it to get rid of its rather plasticky feel. Wouldn’t mind a bit more colour here and there, but Toyota’s palette seems to be limited on all their cars to Hues of Skies on a Rainy Day. At least Toyota haven’t gone crazy with the bling.

The original 86 had the smallest steering wheel ever fitted to a Toyota at 365mm. This one has gone smaller again at 362mm, but the design has changed and it feels even smaller than before. The wheel now has controls; on the left, audio controls and on the right, display units. These controls do not get in the way during fast steering movements such as drifting, but we asked a few owners what they felt and opinions were mixed; some liked them, others felt the purity of the car was diminished. I tend to the latter view as I like unique features in a car, and that’s one of them. d11d8196

As for features; there’s a 12v socket in the centre console, and another hidden in the glovebox. The infotainment unit has a USB port and there’s another at the base of the console. There’s drinks holders in each door, and a twin-slot, two-position holder in the centre. There’s no real storage for coins or a phone, something of an omission. There is a pocket on the back of the passenger seat which is useful.

Interior quality is pretty good. Only the trip/odo meter was a bit tacky and felt loose under touch on both test cars. Everything else was well built, including the paddleshifts. On the outside, it seems the micro-thin economy paintjob has been carried over from the previous model.

The 86 is a small coupe, so it doesn’t do well for practicality compared to say a hot hatch, but for what it is, use of space is superb, far better than the larger 370Z, F-TYPE, 911 and well ahead of the smaller MX-5. So with that caveat; the two rear seats lack headroom and really lack footroom. Only the shortest front seat occupants will avoid having to pull their seats uncomfortably forwards to accommodate those in the rear.

Toyota 86 GTS interior
I’m just under 6ft, and that’s the driver’s seat in my preferred driving position. Insufficient legroom for a passenger, so I need to pull the seat quite a way forwards. But, at least it has rear seats!
Toyota 86 GTS
A flat loadspace once the rear seats are folded down. This is how you can carry four extra wheels/tyres to a track day!
Toyota 86 GTS
Loadspace viewed from the front. There’s a lot of room considering it’s a smallish coupe.

The 86 also does well further back. There’s a sizeable boot, and the rear seatbacks fold down to provide a flat loadspace. There’s a space-saver spare, and a full-sized wheel will fit but it bulges a little into the floor.


Here’s one change. This trim panel is now Alacantra, and one-piece:

Toyota 86 GTS interior
Did Tetsuya Tada make this one-piece and Alacantra so he doesn’t have to sign any more of them? What will people pull off now for him to autograph? The fans will not be deterred, Tada-san…

Overall, the 86 is more than practical enough to be a daily driver and perhaps about the most practical affordable coupe on the market bar the much larger Mustang. And maybe the RC F, but that’s also pretty big and heavy.

One little point has been improved over the older model: 20161201_064717

See those bolts holding the front seat in position? They’re now normal hexagonal nuts, unlike the previous model which used a silly star head nut. This is handy because that’s where people tend to bolt in fire extinguishers.

Click any image below to start the Toyota 86 interior gallery.


Awful. The infotainment unit is the same one fitted to the GTS in 2012 and even then it was a fair bit out of date. There’s a tiny, fiddly interface with limited functions; it does Bluetooth, radio, and has a CD player. That’s about it. My advice is to remove it from the car and throw it into the nearest landfill environmentally friendly recyling facility, then fit one of many decent aftermarket options. It is very disappointing and cheap of Toyota not to have updated this unit as it’s a fairly easy change, means a lot to people and would much better sit with the revised, modern and fresh looking dash. I’d actually prefer the GT unit that didn’t have satnav, but did have actual buttons to press instead of that silly touchscreen. The GT now has a 6.1″ touchscreen which I haven’t used, but already prefer to this.


Freeway tests did reveal the Bluetooth phonecall system was better than the previous model, which means it’s bad but not terrible.

Toyota 86 GTS
Now showing you exactly which door is open!

The voice recognition works fairly well, once you realize you can’t just say “call…”, you need to say “handsfree” and then you get into the call menu.

Performance, ride and handling

What’s it got?

The 86 is a purpose-designed coupe sportscar that doesn’t share a platform with other vehicles (BRZ doesn’t count). It has a four-cylinder naturally-aspirated (no turbo or supercharger) boxer engine with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. It is rear-wheel-drive, and has a Torsen limited-slip differential (LSD) which means when cornering the inside wheel isn’t prone to wheelspin, and also means much drifting potential. 

Toyota 86 GTS
Not much change under the bonnet, but the intake manifold is now red.

The Torsen LSD is an interesting choice. Most LSDs are clutch-pack, which means there’s an element of loading right from the start and the LSD increases lockup as the wheels spin faster. In contrast, the Torsen (short for Torque Sensing) is gear-driven only, and sensitive to torque differences. More on that effect on our explanation of the 86/BRZ electronics.

The automatic is a conventional torque-convertor type, and has a sport mode which holds gears for longer and downshifts earlier. There is a manual mode where you select gears with the paddleshifts or the gearshift, which is unfortunately still push-forwards-shift-up. The car does not automatically change up in manual mode, instead banging off the rev limiter.


The parkbrake is a conventional lever type and operates on the rear wheels. That means handbrake turns are possible, something not so easy with the current trend of electronic parkbrakes.


There is an optional change-gear alert; you can set a red light to flash and also a buzzer to sound at any rev point between 2000 and 7500rpm. This is kind of cool, and useful in two ways; first to remind you to change up, and second…not to change up until you get the alert! Changing up too early is a common beginner mistake.



The 86 has:

  • ABS – antilock braking system. Stops wheels from locking under braking.
  • EBD – electronic brakeforce distribution. Distributes braking pressure front/rear; ABS only stops a wheel from locking, EBD uses all available traction to stop.
  • VSC – vehicle stability control, Toyota’s name for ESC, or electronic stability control. Brakes individual wheels to stop you spinning out.
  • Brake LSD – brake traction control, was previously B-TRC. Brakes one of the drive wheels when it starts to spin relative to the other drive wheel.
  • TRC – engine traction control. Reduces the throttle to avoid excess wheelspin.

For a full explanation of the different types of traction control, read this post. There’s also a specific explanation of the 86/BRZ electronics here. Then come back, we haven’t finished the review.

TRC button on the left, Track Mode (VSC, TRC and Brake LSD combined) button on the right. Only the auto gets Sport/Snow modes which change the throttle/gearshift patterns.

Body and Chassis

Other changes; the body is stiffer, including 50% thicker bracing. The rear suspension mount plate is double the thickness, and there’s 40% more C-pillar spot welds. The diameter of the rear anti-roll bar (swaybar) is now 14mm not 15mm, so it resists body roll marginally less, the spring compression rate is 15% less (so they’re softer), but the front springs are 10% stiffer. All four shock absorbers (dampers) are softer.

The old model was good for 147kW @ 7000rpm / 205Nm @ 6400-6600rpm, both auto and manual. The MY17 auto is unchanged, but the manual is now 152kW @ 7000rpm / 212Nm 6400-6800rpm. The manual also has a slightly smaller differential ratio – changed from 4.3:1 to 4.1:1, so all its gears are that little bit lower than before. The auto’s gearing is unchanged. The 0-100 time for the manual is 7.4 seconds, slightly improved from 7.6. The auto remains at 8.2 seconds.

The 86’s seats are the same, and the headrest is still reversible so when you have a helmet on it’s comfortable.


Hardcore 86 enthusiasts may be interested to know the secret sequence of the “pedal dance” is still possible on the MY17 model, and has a different effect on manual to auto.

Around town

This new 86 is a better suburban drive than the last one. It’s that little bit softer in the ride, so it’s more comfortable. Also, the LSD doesn’t feel like it activates as much – it’s the same LSD, so any difference would be in the suspension. Speedbumps are less of a literal pain. And the car puts power down better, so there’s less tendency to oversteer. The previous model was pretty tractable at low speeds in high gears, but the slightly lower manual gearing improves that a bit further. Overall, the 86 manual is driveable around town, and you feel the sharply responsive handling as soon as you start moving. You aren’t going to win any drag races with a 0-100 time of around 8 seconds…and for that you’ll need to rev the engine hard. d11d8363

The auto is, as you’d expect, easier. It’s also quicker at lower revs as it’s able to use its torque convertor to multiply torque, staying in the engine’s sweet spot. But because of that it doesn’t have the sort of throttle-based directness you find in the manual, and it’s not very exciting away from the lights. At least in the manual you feel part of the action.

Much has been made of the 86’s relative lack of power. To some extent the detractors have a point, but as ever, equating sheer power with enjoyment is to complain that sunsets lack light. Yes, the 86 is not massively overpowered, but what the manual does well is power delivery; it’s instantly responsive, pitching the car back on its rear wheels when you touch the accelerator, bringing a smile to the driver’s face. Yes, there may not be much more to come when you push your foot the rest of the way to the floor, but the initial reaction is what matters in a day-to-day drive. Contrast that with bigger, heavier cars like the Mustang which have more grunt but deliver it more slowly so the moment is passed by the time the engine has delivered.


But it’s not all fun. The turning circle is large at 10.8m, the front is quite low and can scrape, rear visibility is very poor and the reversing camera is terrible. The low driving position means you can’t see up and around. The long doors are difficult to open in confined spaces, and the rear seats are difficult to access. Yet for a coupe, especially a small one, the 86 is superbly practical when you compare it to the likes of anything else bar the much larger Mustang.

Fuel consumption is increased over the older model – it’s now 8.4L/100km compared to 7.8, due to the shorter gearing and engine tune. The auto is 7.1, same as before. The car requires 98RON premium petrol, and the engine is not tuned for economy.

One interesting little change from the previous model is that the engine temperature gauge is not visible all the time; when the engine is cold there’s a tiny blue icon which disappears when it’s warmed up. You can check the temperature on the right-hand dash display.

The 86 now has hill start assist, where when on a hill the car holds itself on the brake for a few seconds, making hill starts easier. Yet this is the first car I’ve seen that requires the function to be enabled, and the process for doing so is strangely time consuming. I asked Toyota why this was so and was just told “The default setting is off, allowing the owner/driver to switch on should they wish to utilise the function” which didn’t answer the question.

Overall, the 86’s purity and responsiveness is unchanged and maybe even improved, but in the fine tuning the 86 has lost a little bit of rawness, that mongrel has been tamed just a bit. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is your call.


Long distance cruising is not the 86’s forte, but for the same reasons this one is better around town the MY17 model is an improvement. The lower gearing in the manual means you’re at 2750rpm rather than 2550 at 100km/h but that makes no real difference, and the car is noisy for a modern vehicle. You can certainly still hold a conversation and speak on the phone, but the 86 is no grand tourer coupe. It does however have a spare wheel, a space-saver, and a full-size will fit so you can roam Australia with peace of mind. The 50L tank should see a cruise range of over 500km before a fill. There’s daytime running lights, and on the GTS auto-sensing headlights which throw out a decent amount of light. The cruise control is simple to operate but there’s no associated digital set-speed display.


The dual drinks holder in the centre appears to be positioned a long way back, but it is two-position and can be moved forwards. Still a bit awkward though. It’s set far back so it doesn’t get in the way when shifting gears, which is where you’d want it on cruise.

Open Roads

This is what the 86 is meant for. It’s an absolute driving delight on any curvy road. There’s more than sufficient power to shift along quickly, turn-in is near instant, feedback is immediate, you are rewarded if you run the car to redine, the direct throttle means mid-corner attitude can be adjusted through power when at high revs, and even when fully on the stability control doesn’t intefere with quick public-road progress – if you run up against its limits, then I’d suggest you need to take your car to the track.

The manual gearshift is quick and fun, you can heel and toe shift even if the pedals aren’t ideal, the seats are supportive and the brakes more than adequate for public road work. You can feel the Torsen LSD doing its work out of slow bends at high torque, and generally the 86’s rawness and lack of refinement very much contribute to a feeling of oneness with the car, heightening enjoyment…as distinct from most other cars which do their very best to isolate the driver from the sensation of driving, and then attempt to recreate that connection through faux-experience electronics. The 86 rewards smoothness and technique, it doesn’t flatter through nanny-state driver aids. An easy car to drive, a hard one to truly master.


That was the manual, and the automatic handles the same but is propelled differently. In drive, the auto is efficient rather than exciting. It sensibly changes to a high gear and keeps the revs low, but still leaves enough power for adequate progress. That’s all well and good, but it does mean the auto lacks the intoxicating immediacy of the manual’s power delivery when the driver asks more, requring a hasty but well-executed downshift.

But then you can change into Sport mode, and the car becomes more alert; revs are held, downshifts are earlier, upshifts later and the car approaches, but doesn’t match the manual’s involvement. For example, the auto is pretty smart, but you’re still going to need to use the paddleshifts to ensure you’re in the right gear when powering out of corners. Happily, the car will respond to change-gears commands so long as doing so will not go beyond redline, or be too low a speed for the gear. As usual with modern cars, a double-tap on the paddles directly goes up or down two gears. 


The previous model manual redlined in second gear at an indicated 100km/h, and the MY17 is 95km/h. That means with the manual’s shorter gearing you can short-shift by 2000rpm to third gear for fun and the car still pulls well. The auto’s gearing is unchanged and its second gear redline is an indicated 105km/h. 

The 0-100 time for the manual is improved by 2/10 second to 7.4 seconds, but you won’t notice the difference unless you’re timing laps in which case the improved acceleration should be good for a reasonable amount of time per lap compared to the older car. 097a1115

The engine note is raucous yet fitting, it’s not a small dog trying to sound like a tiger. I did notice that the my MY12 model has a nice little throaty exhaust blip on downshift; that’s muted in the MY17 model for some reason. But the engine’s biggest problem remains: d11d8619

That blue line represents the torque (turning force) the engine produces. You’ll notice it dips downwards around 3000rpm; this is unusual for any engine which usually builds torque smoothly-ish up till around 1000rpm shy of redline, then drops off. The result is that the car pulls strongly up until about 3000rpm, then the acceleration flattens, then it picks up again. That’s noticeable by the driver and it’s a real shame Toyota didn’t fix it this time around.

Read more on the ideal point to change gears for maximum acceleration.

Track test

We took two 86s out to a skidpan, my MY12 model and the MY17, both manuals. The objective was to find out how different the revised electronic aids are in the new model. We’ll publish more detail on the results, but the data shows we can confirm Toyota’s claim that the electronics are improved. Specifically; the all-electronics-on mode interferes less and when it does interfere, there’s less loss of momentum as it’s smoother. The same applies to the sport mode; that’s VSC Sport on the old model, and Track mode on the new. Same concept, different name, better tuning. d11d8534

We can also say the new one is as much fun as the old when driven hard; the slight loss of rawness referred to earlier disappears when you’re looking for on-the-limit laps.

We also need to cover here the new gauges fitted to the MY17 model. These are:

  • G-meter (instant)
  • G-meter (max history)
  • Laptimer
  • Power & torque vs revs gauge

All are near-useless gimmicks. Knowing the instantenous g you’re pulling is of academic interest only, as mid-corner your eyes should really be focused on the corner exit and beyond, not inside the car. The max history G-meter shows you the maximum G you have pulled in any direction. Again, this is of academic interest only. Pulling a lot of G around a corner doesn’t mean to say you’ve got the most from the car.

Toyota 86 GTS
G-meter with record of maximums. The 86 can only accelerate at around 0.3g, but it can brake and corner at around 1g. How it’d go on this gauge with tyres that can generate more than 1g is not known.
Toyota 86 GTS
The laptimer. That’s as much information as you get. No change from best or last lap, no audio, no automated timing…weak effort.

The laptimer is also useless because it’s manually operated. If you’re a novice, you won’t need to worry about it as just driving the car is enough to do on a track. If you’re an expert, then you’re chasing tenths or hundredths of a second, and the margin of error when you press ‘lap’ is too great…you’ll never know if that was your best lap or your start/stop presses were just a fraction off. Also, there’s no sector timing, no indicator as to whether you’re up or down or your lap…nothing. My advice would be to get yourself a copy of something like Harry’s Lap Timer which does a proper job of in-car lap timing during and after your session.

Toyota 86 GTS
Here’s some information for you; engine, oil and battery.
Toyota 86 GTS
Instrument panel showing on the left the hill start assist icon, TRC and VSC off “all off” mode, and the tripmeter information. The fuel meter is digital and the little pump icon turns orange when you’re about to run out.

The power and torque readout isn’t. It just shows a simple progression of power and torque…and makes no allowance for throttle position. For the record, an engine produces more power and torque the more you press the accelerator for a given amount of revs. In the owner’s manual Toyota even acknowledge that this display doesn’t actually display true power and torque.

So as usual, a Japanese manufacturer has made things because they can, not because they should. The 86 is a serious sportscar and it deserved serious instruments. It’s not as bad as the RC F though.

How safe is it?

The previous model scored a 5-star rating of 34.4 out of 37, and given how similar this one is you’d expect the same. There are no advanced safety aids such as blind spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking or lane keep assist.

The reversing camera is very ordinary in every way – the angle, low light performance, bright light performance, screen resolution and it lacks guidelines.

Reversing camera.
Blinded by light and defeated by darkness, the reversing camera is not the best you’ll find.

There are child restraint tethers and ISOFIX child restraint points in both rear seats. No discount voucher for the trip to the chiro afterwards though. 097a1497

Pricing and range

There’s two trim levels, GT and GTS, both available in six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.

The GT’s key features are:

  • 16×6.5 +48 alloy wheels with Yokohama Decibel tyres, 205/55/16 91V (same wheel design as previous model)
  • Torsen LSD
  • 6.1″ touchscreen
  • Reversing camera
  • LED headlamps
  • Space-saver spare

The GTS adds:

  • 17×7 +40 alloy wheels with Michelin Primacy HP tyres, 215/45/17 87W (wheels a new design for MY17, tyres a carryover)
  • Rear spoiler
  • 4.2″ touchscreen infotainment unit with satnav
  • Heated front seats
  • Fog lamps
  • Privacy glass
  • Paddle shift (on Auto GTS)
  • Leather accented seats
  • Dual zone Auto climate control
  • Keyless entry
  • Frameless rear view mirror
  • Front and rear ventilated discs (on GT only front are ventilated)
  • Stainless door scuff plates
  • Illumination on Driver + Passenger visor (GT only has mirror without light)
  • Aluminium sports pedals

Here’s pricing:





GT manual



GT auto



GTS manual



GTS auto



Option: metallic paint $450 (no change)

* Exclusive of on-road costs.

Verdict; the GT has all many owners want, and the GTS adds a few more luxuries; the most important ones for me would be the heated seats and keyless entry but another $6k is a steep ask, even if secondhand GTS models command a premium over GTs. Generally, consider the GTS if it’s your only car, and the GT if it’s your toy car. Some of the GTS items can be added aftermarket; there is a universe of wheels for the car, not to mention infotainment units and reversing cameras. Privacy glass is easy to add (it’s otherwise known as a “tint”) and brakes are easy to upgrade, but you don’t need to unless you intend to track your car. There’s no paddle shift on auto GTs, but you can shift manually using the gearshift.

Now we need to consider manual vs automatic, which isn’t as straightforwards as you might think. Here’s the differences;

  •  Manual – 152kW / 212Nm, 4.3:1 final drive, brake traction control disabled in “all electronics off” mode, combined fuel consumption 8.4L/100km.
  • Auto – 147kW  / 202Nm, 4.1:1 final drive, brake traction control enabled in “all electronics off” mode, combined fuel consumption 7.1L/100km, adds about 25kg in weight. However, brake traction control is disabled if you do the “pedal dance” (more here).

For me, the manual is very much more the driver’s car. The automatic is acceptable as a sportscar transmission, lacking the direct feel you get in other autos until you get it into sport mode, and even then it is significantly less involving than the manual. But that’s only by the very high standards set by the 86 itself; it’s far more fun than most automatics.

Toyota 86 GTS wheels
On the left; the new 17″ wheels, and on the right, the old 17″ wheels. Dirty and with non-standard tyres. Imagine them clean.

Why would you buy one?

Lots of reasons. Maybe you just like the look, or you want to create your very own style and consider the 86 a blank canvas – there’s so much scope, knowledge and parts you can do what you want as long as you ignore the haters. Or maybe you just want a fun-driving, sharp-handling car to make the daily driving errands a little more tolerable. Perhaps you really want to get into motorsports and hammer the car around tracks. The 86 can do all of that, and there’s three specific reasons why it stands out from other cars in the segment.

The first is it’s a true sportscar. The harder you drive this car, the better it is, and it’s built for motorsports. You’d be surprised how many faster cars start spewing liquids, overheating diffs, throwing transmission errors or generally crumpling in a sad little heap of melted dreams once you push them on a track. Not so the 86, it’s properly tough. Mine has done maybe forty track events and never let me down or cost an unexpected cent in maintenance, and that experience is not unusual. Even if you don’t track your car, you can relax knowing it’s strong, reliable and easy to maintain unlike many other sportscars.

The second reason is practicality. Four-ish seats, decent boot, full-sized spare capable. You can go touring in it, in the way that you can’t in say a Cayman, F-TYPE or MX-5.

The third reason is safety, for a specialised sportscar. The hatch-based sportscars like the Golf GTi and Focus RS inherit a high safety rating, but no so the coupes. Ford Mustang, for example, is unrated, as is the Nissan 370Z, Lotus Elise, Porsche Boxster and Jaguar F-TYPE. The BMW Z4 was last rated in 2009 when it scored 4 stars. Yet the Toyota 86 is 5-star rated, as it must be said is the MX-5.


Compared to the previous model?

The MY17 86 is an overall improvement on the previous model, but not by enough to get excited about, particuarly in the case of the auto. Many of the changes can be added aftermarket, for example you can easily change the rear differential ratio, or improve power through a tune, E85 fuel or forced induction (supercharging or turbocharging). You can also buy any number of tail lights and other cosmetic garnishes. You can’t add the new information displays, but they’re gimmicks anyway.


The single biggest improvement and reason to consider the new car is the recalibrated stability control in two modes; all-on and Track, which is the replacement for VSC Sport. The stability control is now very well calibrated, and really where it should have been in the first place. You’d switch it off for slow-speed work like motorkhanas when you need to slide the car, but for racetracks if you’re sliding a lot you’re slow. This new calibration permits a fair bit of slip before it comes in, and when it does so, it does so smoothly with minimal loss of progress. That means you’re able to run the same sort of laptimes on fast racetracks as if it was fully off, but still have the safety net to help you recover. That said, with that reduced interference comes reduced safety and it is possible to spin the car in Track Mode – much harder with everything on.

I was going to write that Toyota’s stability control isn’t as well calibrated as say that from Porsche or Audi, and in a sense that’s true. Theirs is even more subtle and effective, so from that perspective it’s better. But, from a driver’s perspective, it’s worse because it’s so subtle you don’t even notice it. The problem then comes when you switch it off and find out a bit late that the invisible hand isn’t there any more, and even if you don’t switch it off you will not know how much is you, and how much is the car. Some won’t care, but others will. In that respect, Toyota have it just right; it’s noticeable but doesn’t get in the way.

If you were thinking of buying an 86 now then I’d seriously consider a run-out MY16 model to save cash as the changes aren’t all that significant. But if you can buy new, the MY17 car is better than ever, and one of the few on the market to truly merit the “sports” in sportscar.

Other owner’s views

We let a few owners of 86s into the new MY17 model. This is what they said:

“Feels more refined. Mine feels raw. This feels more comfortable.”

“I like new tachometer and digital speedo. A lot nicer to look at. The clutch is so much lighter too.”

“[the manual is] still a bit notchy on the gearchanges when cold.”

“I don’t notice the extra power or gearing [manual]”.

“At 80 wanted to change 5th to 6th, I guess that’s the gearing.”

“The steering wheel takes away from purity. I don’t need to have those controls.”

“The steering wheel felt smaller and more plastic.”

“Traction control [stability control] is smoother less abrupt.”

“Feels like nice and comfy. Nothing over-assisted or harsh. Seats are good, just like before.”

“The ride is compliant with a sporty edge. Feels as if you can throw it around, a nice place to be.”


Further reading


Don't you like the look of your car?


How the electronics on the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ work


  1. Have to say, I tend toward the latter on the steering-wheel-gadgets debate as well. I liked that the steering wheel was kept – deliberately – clear of all the switches and dials. It feels a bit like a compromise to add them back on now?

  2. Not a sports-car, not now, not ever, tries to do and be everything, and fails

    Does have a CD player, that’s good!

  3. Great write up! I really loved this paragraph as it completely sums up not only me experience with my car that I track regularly, but it was the main reason I chose the BRZ/86 in the first place. They are a pretty bulletproof little package and the engine isn’t shy to rev to 7400rpm over and over – one thing though, if its a hot day and you track it, just keep an eye on oil temp (with and OBD2 adapter) and use a 5w30 full synthetic :

    “The first is it’s a true sportscar. The harder you drive this car, the better it is, and it’s built for motorsports. You’d be surprised how many faster cars start spewing liquids, overheating diffs, throwing transmission errors or generally crumpling in a sad little heap of melted dreams once you push them on a track. Not so the 86, it’s properly tough. Mine has done maybe forty track events and never let me down or cost an unexpected cent in maintenance, and that experience is not unusual.”

    1. Yes good point Steve. I should have pointed out mine has that sort of oil, and slightly modified brakes too. You can cook the standard brakes easily enough, but I regard them as consumables. The fundamental mechancial reliability is great, as evidenced by the minor mods required to compete in the 86 race series.

      1. Yes it’s a solid package, the only modification on my car is some Forza FP3 brake pads (~$250) and some Motul 5.1 brake fluid (~$30) and that is literally all that is needed to enjoy the car on track. Even the standard suspension is firm and keeps the car flat – they did a brilliant job! The sound of the FA20 above 6000rpm is pretty addictive too!

          1. Are you tracking the car without oil cooler? I remember that the temps on my car climed above 120°C after only couple of minutes of “more aggressive” street driving (using 0w20 oil).

  4. The only people who don’t actually like these cars are:
    1) People who have never driven one
    2) Bogans whose idea of motorsport and tracking their car is pushing the pedal all the way down on their automatic Commodore or Falcon.
    3) Boring snowflakes

    1. I’m one that thought the 86 would be a disappointment, until I was about 5 minutes into my first drive. Built to a tight budget for sure, but a great example of getting the design and execution right.
      There are some minor backwards steps in the MY17, which I agree is dissapointing, but the 86 remains a great drive and good value for money.
      If only they weren’t so common on the road (yes Robert, can always tweak one to be more individual).

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