The Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ is a little over three years old now, so it’s time to think about what might come next…

IT’S ABOUT THIS time in their lifecycle that cars get a bit of a makeover – not a complete new vehicle, but a restyling, improved interior, tweaks to the engine and upgraded equipment.
For sportscars this is particuarly important, as they tend to start with a big rush of sales and then tail off.  That’s because the extra you pay for a sportscar is a discretionary purchase, and everybody wants the hot new thing when it first comes out. That was very much true of the 86, which had pre-sales hype such that demand far exceeded supply, and waiting lists extended to months. Toyota even shelved its planned advertising campaign.
Illegal use of a reserved number by the white car, but we’ll let that pass
But will the car even be refreshed? Some say the 86/BRZ will be discontinued due to slow sales. Well, I doubt it, because sales aren’t slow, they just seem that way compared to those first frantic few months.
In Australia there are 25 cars in the official bracket of sportscars under $80k, and the 86/BRZ has 25% of that market based on sales to date in 2015 with 1377 new vehicles delivered. Next best is Hyundai’s Veloster with 1158, then there’s daylight to the BMW 2 with 541 and the A3 with 263, both of which are in a different sub-class. The 86/BRZ is killing its direct competition, the likes of the 370z, French hot hatches, Honda’s CR-Z, hot VWs and the like. It is also beating the MX-5, but we’re yet to see the full effect of that latest model.
Yet Toyota and Subaru have been rather silent on what’s coming next.  We know that Toyota plan a three-car strategy – the 86, below that the newly revealed S-FR concept, and above that the forthcoming “Supra”.  But what of the 86 itself?  Nothing, and I do ask Toyota Australia on regular occasions.  So let’s fill the gap with some good old speculation.
The base chassis is, everybody agrees, superb, so there’s no need to change it.  What the owners demand is more power, and will also help sell the car is an improved interior as the current design on the spartan side of basic. So I predict the 86 refresh will change a body few panels (preferably more at the front than the rear, because dat ass) and deliver a few extra kilowatts.
My guess is 175kW (preferably more) out of the same engine with a few tweaks. I also predict there will be some driving modes a la Lexus RC F and S-FR, such as Sport, Expert and the like, plus an all-TFT dashboard. This is because those features are pretty easy to add, Toyota can claim LFA heritage (yes, apparently that’s a thing) and will help modernise the car.  Adding laptimes and G-meters (again as per RC F) would be very much in keeping with the car’s purpose and another easy change.   Updating the rather basic infotainment unit would be a certainty, but the problem for Toyota is that it doesn’t appear to have a decent one in its parts bin.
I’d also expect standard equipment like a reversing camera, maybe a couple of safety aids like blind spot monitoring or active cruise control.  Oh, and make the steering wheel cover out of something other than the pathetically thin and cheap stuff it is covered in now.  Given it’s a driver’s car and the steering wheel is one of the most important controls it’s surprising how poor quality the covering is.
Whatever happens, the electronic driving aids such as the stability control system (VSC in Toyota-speak) will be retuned, becuase that’s what you do when you revise a car.  Toyota now need to steal an engineer or two from Porsche and do a better job of Sport Mode which while effective, is rather harsh, and simplfying the current two-button system is an opportunity that should not be missed.  I’d like to see the following modes:
  • Normal – all aids on, for street driving
  • Sport – reduced stability control, reduced engine traction control, brake traction control on, ABS on.  For trackwork with a safety net.
  • Sport+ – everything off except for ABS.  This would be your track, drift and motorkhaha mode.
  • Expert (or, “panel shop”) – everything 100% disabled.  Even ABS, for stunts and the ultimate raw experience.
S-FR instrument panel. The sign of things to come for the 86? I think so.
The brakes also need attention, because the stock ones aren’t terrible but they could be a lot better.  
Specifically, improved air cooling (maybe a duct where the DRL is), bigger disks and pads, all in a size that is already well-served by the aftermarket.   Another little improvement would be a better bonnet latch, because I and others  have found the bonnet to flap at high speeds in crosswinds, notably on the run down to Honda at Phillip Island.  This is the fix:
There is one change that would be fantastic, but I’m not hopeful. The 86 should go on a bit of a diet too. It’s a strong car, but 1250kg is a bit much for its size and basic equipment. A reduction to 1150 (1100?) would help all round, especially with the power-to-weight ratio, starting that glorious virtous circle where lighter cars need lighter parts which make them lighter still.  ACBC.
And that’s about it for improvement. If Toyota do that, they’ll have another winner, nobody will buy another 370z, and only diehard drop-top lovers will consider the MX-5. But Toyota could always stuff it up, so I’ve thought about a list of 86 features that should not be touched.
Leave the Torsen limited-slip diff alone.  Yes, yes, torque vectoring is more effective.  But who gives a used brakepad for that?  What’s more fun, a mechanical LSD you can feel working even in the pits, or a computer doing it all for you?  Forget fancy electronics, save the money and spend it on weight reduction.  Leave the tech to the new Supra, or the Lexus RC series which will only ever be hardparked at best.
Don’t bother with a turbo.  The car doesn’t need it.  A lighter car with 175kW would be magic, and while we all appreciate more power I think handling, cost and reliability come first.  If you want to shoot quickly around a track with no effort buy a WRX STi, or if you can afford it, a GT-R.
All wheel drive.  See above.  Rear-drive cars are a thing of rare beauty that should not be sullied, and the WRX and STi are perfectly good track cars, well at least with manual transmission, and then there’s various Europeans such as the Golf R, hot Audis, AMG A45, forthcoming Focus RS and more.  We don’t need more quick compact-medium AWDs, thank you, and we’ve tested the 86 against Subaru’s best AWDs.
Driver help systems. That means no drift mode, no launch control, no throttle blip on downshift for manuals. The 86 needs to a driver’s car first, last and in between which means the driver has to do all the work because that’s the only way you reap the rich rewards of driving satisfaction that is, and should continue to be the ethos of the 86.  Keep the aids as a safety net, not as assistance.
Keep the wheels at 5×100 pitch circle diameter. That way lots of people will upgrade and can swap their wheels over. 
The skidmarks were not made by this car. Well, not all of them.
Handbrake. Do not, under any circumstances, change it to an electronic parkbrake.  If you need to ask why we are not on the same planet.
I think that’s it. But all of the above are just improvements to make a great car, a future classic, even greater.  The 86 is still the best car I’ve owned (although the Defender runs it close), and I rather suspect an 86 will be in my life for some time to come.  And that of many other people…

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  1. Improve interior, try and do something about the road noise, better stereo and sat nav, and of course more power. And please some new colours!!!

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