Reviews

2017 Toyota 86 Driving Impressions



The Toyota 86 isn’t about power or straight-line speed, which is a good thing. The 2.0-liter engine is not a turbo (so far), so the zero-to-sixty time of about 6.7 seconds is not exactly neck-snapping. Still, it’s quick enough for fun, especially considering that cornering is what the car is meant for. More specifically, tossing it around corners.

The boxer engine is mounted low and rearward, for good balance. We got seat time in a model with the available lowering springs, lighter alloy wheels, stiffer rear anti-roll bar, and TRD exhaust system, but we didn’t feel much overall improvement. The lowered suspension reduced lean in corners, but it wasn’t that much to start with; and it bounced more over bumps. But we liked the wheels and exhaust system. And if you’re really into drifting the car around corners, you’ll want that bigger rear sway bar.

The electric power steering is precise, well-weighted and quick, but it doesn’t have much feel, making it not very communicative. The rear tires are low rolling resistance, a bit harder, so they don’t have a lot of grip, part of Toyota’s plan to make the 86 fun to toss in slow corners. But they don’t break away at the limit, they just hang there. So the more you toss the car, the more confident you become in it. It feels light and nimble, and is very neutral.

What makes the 86 exceptional is that this aggressive driving isn’t something you can do with a higher-powered or bigger car. A Mustang is well balanced too, but if you try this on the street with a Mustang, you’re risking too much.

Still, the Toyota 86 is less tail-happy than the Subaru BR-Z. The chassis is a bit stiffer, the shocks and springs are stiffer in front to sharpen turn-in and softer in the rear to give more grip to the rear end in corners. Meanwhile, the Sport mode has been changed to Track, to allow the car to drift a bit more before the stability control saves things. What this all means is that it’s a bit harder to pitch the 86 into a drift, but a bit easier to control it when you do.

The high powerband of the engine is more fun with the manual transmission. It’s happiest up there at 5000 rpm. It’s easy enough to keep it there with the paddle-shifting automatic, but it gets a bit monotonous flipping those paddles all the time. The lack of torque at low rpm is more frustrating in the automatic.

The brakes offer good feel and slow down the car well enough, and in half a dozen hard laps on the track there was no fade. And while we’re on the track, a discordant note: don’t be fooled by all the reviews that toss around the word tossable. On the track, in faster curves where you ease the steering wheel instead of throwing it, the 86 still understeers.

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