Toyota GR86


K-pop, cruise holidays, Game of Thrones, country music, Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue, football and Wimbledon – well, all ball-sports for that matter, Bounty bars, Coldplay, Ant and Dec, beer, coconut, The Scott Mills show… All of the aforementioned have an enormous and devoted following. However, the appeal of each and every one of them is completely lost on me.

     And then there’s the Toyota GR86.

     Such was demand, it took little more than a few minutes for Toyota to completely sell-out of its initial allocation of 430 GT86s destined for the UK. Top Gear Magazine declared itself “enraptured” by the GR86 just before it carried off their Sports Car of the year award. A fellow motor-noter, who’s also a very good friend of mine, wrote after Toyota came to collect their press demonstrator from him, “I gazed rather wistfully as the GR86 disappeared off down my driveway”. Apparently he’d driven more than 700 miles in it.

    I drove the very same car; it was here for a week. Did I miss something?

    On paper, I can see the GR86’s appeal - let’s be honest, that’s why I asked Toyota if I could borrow their car in the first place. And let’s not forget that the GR86 it is the latest version of the Toyota GT86 (and its Subaru BRZ sister-car), a car that I myself once said had been “been built purely to offer good old fashioned front-engined, rear-wheel-drive fun”.

    The GR nomenclature comes from Toyota’s Gazoo Racing sub-brand, and is something that has been previously applied to both the GR Supra and GR Yaris – cars I’ve driven and very-much enjoyed. Together with the GR86 they make a trio of Toyota GR models, all of which are available with three pedals and a proper, manual transmission. No flappy-paddle, semi-automatic nonsense here: heel-and-toe downshifts it is. Praise The Lord!

    The naturally aspirated flat-four engine has been bored-out to 2.4 litres, the body-shell has been stiffened to improve handling, torque has been increased to 184lbft at a now much lower than before, 3700rpm. Power has risen by 35bhp to 231bhp, a new fuel injection system and redesigned air intake and manifold have significantly sharpened the throttle response, the rear track has been widened. Also at the rear, altered springs, dampers, and suspension geometry contribute to a 10mm drop in ride height.

    Wrap that little lot up in a coupe body that’s slinkier than the ones you used to doodle on the covers your exercise books, sit it on set on 18 inch alloys that look ever-so slightly too small and are shod with Michelin Cup Sport tyres, and set it all up with wonderfully precise steering and the ability deliver the most controllable on-request oversteer by the bucket-load, and surely you’ve got the recipe for one of the most entertaining two-plus-twos ever built? 

    And did I mention that, if you can find one at list price, the GR86 can be yours for just a smidgen over £30,000 pounds? 

     What’s not to like?

      Funny, you should ask…

      Let’s start with the GR86’s interior. It isn’t worthy of anywhere near so much praise. The suede covered hip-hugging seats maybe nicely supportive; visibility is good in almost every direction, and the driving position, once you’ve wriggled aboard that is, is pretty good too. But, the quality of the materials really is a let-down. The plastics are hard, the chunky rocker switches feel cheap, and the overall look belongs somewhere way back in the last century. The digital dash looks like a leftover from Ceefax, there’s no built-in sat-nav, and the radio looks altogether aftermarket – as if it’s been shoehorned in by some weekend super-upper. It all feels a bit kit-car. By comparison, it makes Mazda’s similarly priced and similarly sized MX-5 RF feel like a luxury car.

     And then there’s the engine note – or lack of it. Whatever the throttle position – which in the GR86 seems to be either ON or OFF, there is no in between – the boxer engine sounds more akin to an industrial leaf-blower than it does a thoroughbred sports-car. The ride isn’t good either. So much so in fact that since being a passenger in the GR86, Mrs B is now on first name terms with her osteopath. On all but the smoothest of surfaces the chassis’ lack of compliance wears you out. And the gearbox is notchy.

    Oh alright, I’ll concede. I’m all too aware that the GR86 isn’t for everyone. No-one will ever thank you for making them sit in the back, the rear seats are far too small for anything but the shortest of journeys, the boot is shallow, and the fuel consumption is nothing to write home about either.  I’m also very much aware that I should be praising Toyota for continuing to make a proper driver’s car. Or as they put it: “An analogue car for a digital age”.

    People I know and whose opinions I respect are raving about this car, and I’m genuinely glad for them that they are. Nevertheless, the fact is I just can’t gel with the GT86. It’s like Bohemian Rhapsody to me. Or kippers, or Marmite.

    I don’t get the hype. I’m sorry, I’m just not a fan.



Toyota GR 86

Engine: 2,387 cc 4-Cyl 16 valve, boxer, petrol

Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Power:  230bhp @ 7,000rpm,

Torque: 184lb ft @ 3,700rpm

0-62 Mph:  6.3 Seconds

Max Speed: 140 mph

CO2: 200 g/km WLTP combined)

MPG: 32.1 (WLTP combined)

Kerb Weight: 1,316 kg

Price: from £30,140 OTR (as driven £30,785)


Many thanks to Graham and Delena at Toyota for the loan of the GR86




Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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