YOU may have already heard some great things about the Toyota GT86. You may have also heard, on the contrary, that it’s a bit underpowered. Well I’ve just spent a week with it and I say that’s a load of nonsense.
It may only have 200bhp which, I admit, in this day and age, is little more than your average family hatchback, but it’s all the power you need to have lots of fun. And that’s what this fabulous sports car is all about.
It’s the result of a joint project between Toyota and Subaru and every inch of its design is about delivering a no-compromise driving experience that so many so-called sports cars lack in this day and age.
The engine is a Subaru-derived flat four similar to those found in Imprezas but, with no turbo to speak of the power all comes in one great lump once you send the revs screaming past 4,500rpm. The downside to that is it leaves the car feeling under-powered in normal driving conditions – but the upside is that, on the limit, the GT86 feels every bit as brisk as a true sports car should.
In fact, it’s when it’s on the limit, when the beeper sounds telling you you’re about to hit the rev limiter and a red light flashes away on the central rev counter, that this car feels like it’s actually coming alive. It’s when you wring the GT86’s neck that it really shows you what it’s been made for and what it’s so good at.
I can’t remember driving a new car that feels so alive, so connected and so exciting. It’s like the designers have taken all the rules of safe, predictable, modern car design and thrown them away.
That’s not to say this is an old-fashioned motor though – far from it. It has seven airbags, sat nav, bluetooth, keyless go and climate control. It even has seats in the back.
It’s as easy to live with the GT86 as it is to throw it into a corner a little too quickly and enjoy a controlled powerslide on the way out. And that’s easy because designers have engineered a slippy back end by fitting thin tyres and programming the traction control to let you have just a little bit of fun before it cuts in.
Everything about the GT86 is refreshing in this world of safety, economy and an onslaught of technologies that ultimately water down your experience behind the wheel.
As a driver you feel connected to everything that’s going on around the car in a way that some of the greatest sports cars of the 1980s used to do.
It feels like a nod back to that golden age, but with the benefit of ABS, traction control six gears and heated seats.
Think of it like a born-again biker throwing off the shackles and responsibilities of an office job for just a few hours at the weekend to hare along the A537. Underneath his business suit there’s a hidden Hell’s Angel that’s been yearning to get out.
And underneath the GT86’s airbags and five-year warranty there’s the heart of a true rebel, desperate for you to corner faster and accelerate harder.
So it only feels underpowered if you don’t exploit its great strengths. If you drive around in a business suit, changing gear at 2,500rpm it’s bound to feel slow. But when you cast off your brogues, don your leathers and really start to have a play with it there’s plenty of power to enjoy pushing it to the legal limits on the UK roads.
But while it really is everything a sports car should be has everything a safe and modern car should have – there’s one thing missing. A high price tag.
At around £25,000 the GT86 is the bargain of the decade.
Toyota GT86 Specifications
|Engine:||1,998cc 4-cylinder petrol|
|Torque:||205Nm (151 lb/ft)|
|0-62 mph:||7.6 seconds|
|Top Speed:||140 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||181 g/km (Band I)|
|Official Economy:||39.8 mpg|
*Prices taken from Toyota website, February 2013