By Funizwe Moleme
We will kick off this review by admitting to a few small things. We did not like the previous Toyota 86 for several reasons and some of which are more personal than factual. We didn’t like how it looked, its lack of power and the torque dip it was famously known for.
Things, are however, very different now. The enthusiast would have already spotted that it carries the GR badge, which changes things drastically. Other immediately noteworthy upgrades are the looks, power, chassis updates and interior upgrades.
Starting of with the power, it is now a 2.4l naturally aspirated (still a 4-cylinder) that produces 174kW/250Nm, up from 152kW/212Nm. The boxer engine feels like it has more torque than the specs suggest and pulls very nice and hard all through the rev range. Each gear has its own tinge of added adrenalin rush on every build up. This is a momentum car that rewards. Our test car had the 6-speed option, which is more than a joy to use. Joystick, I guess?
The chassis upgrade on the GR86 now gets a thicker sway-bar at the rear, a lower front spring rate upfront and a higher spring rate at the rear. This translates to a car that is more playful and geared up for drifting. A limited rear slip-differential is also in the mix as standard.
All the above transmutes to an overall better driver’s car. The level of driver engagement in the short gears, what feels like a sharper front end, torquier engine, more oomph and improved cabin just elevate the driving experience. Steering position was never an issue, but it feels a little more weighty and purposeful. Seating position remains good and the seats, with our test unit having Alcantara (which is also thrown on the binnacle cover and window line) adds an extra touch of comfort.
The GR86 now feels like it has its own personality and the upgrades make it more usable as a daily driver and a bit more practical and worthy of the GR badge in how it feels, handles and engages the driver. If there was a scale that measures driver excitement and it started with hot hatches like the Golf GTI, Megane RS, Ford Focus all the way up to the Toyota Supra’s, BMW Z4’s and Porsche Cayman’s – the GR86 would sit closer to the latter in terms of driver excitement as an enthusiast’s car. And we cannot think of greater praise than that.
The GR86 is priced from R755,500 for the 6MT and has a 3 Years / 100,000km warranty.
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