A lot of ink, both physical and virtual, has been spilled on the Toyota 86 and rightly so. The world’s top motoring penmen have waxed on lyrically about the way its steers to the way it stops, and even more so, the way it slices so cleanly in and out of the twisties. And, every one of them has picked up on the fact that the 86 manages to do all of this, without exacting a stratospheric price tag.
What this in effect means is that Toyota has been able to create a new class of car, somewhat ironically by dipping into the company’s illustrious sports car heritage. Think of it as a 2000GT or an AE86 for the 21st century.
Kerry Roodt, General Manager of Marketing Communications echoes these sentiments: “The true marvel of the 86 is that it’s every inch as much fun to drive as its vastly pricier competition.”
“Here you have a car that’s priced at the same level as a hot hatch but manages to dish up classic sports car delights - engine at the front, driven wheels at the back, fast throttle responses and quick meaty steering – without the need to be travelling at warp speed to enjoy them. In fact, the 86 goads you to drive it flat out as often as is humanly possible and the good news is that you can pilot it that way 90 per cent of the time,” adds Roodt.
You ‘can’ indeed because the 86 was specifically designed to deliver maximum fun at minimum cost. Chief Design Engineer, Tetsuya Tada, remarked that many of its rivals have turbos, big tyres and four-wheel drive. In his opinion this has diluted their fun factor to the point that modern-day sports cars have become “boring”.
He's right of course. You'd have to fork out vast sums of money to get something to rival the handling prowess of the 86, and then you would have to be going at twice the speed to feel the incredible adjustability of the chassis. Instead, for less than R300 000 you can get behind the wheel of the all-new Toyota 86, a car that is set to re-define how we view the bona fide sports car.
Based on an entirely new platform, the 86 has a low, highly aerodynamic bodyshell stretched tight over the engineering hard points, making it the world’s most compact four-seat sports car design.
Throughout thousands of man-hours spent overcoming hundreds of development challenges, Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada fought tooth and nail for three key elements in the new sports car: a rear-wheel drive format, no turbocharging and ordinary tyres.
Shunning a heavy, large displacement powertrain for its performance, the 86 returns to Toyota’s sporting roots with the world’s only combination of a compact, front-mounted, naturally aspirated, free-revving, horizontally opposed ‘boxer’ petrol engine and rear-wheel drive.
This unique powertrain format combines with light mass, low inertia and a low centre of gravity to realise the best possible power-to-weight ratio. These attributes give the 86 lively, accessible performance, highly engaging, readily exploitable dynamic abilities with minimal electronic intrusion, and maximum driving pleasure.
Conceived to focus specifically on the purity of the classic sports car experience, the 86 inherits the spirit of former Toyota sports cars to reward drivers with pure, unadulterated fun.
Known as the "Hachiroku", which translates as "Eight Six" in Japanese, it is called the GT86 in Europe due to the historical links those countries have with Toyota’s pedigreed sports cars of yore. For our market it will simply be referred to as the “Eighty-Six”.
Though paying homage to both the exhilarating drivability of the Corolla Levin AE86 and its unique relationship with owners, enthusiasts and tuning shops, the number 86 has played a further, significant role throughout the development of Toyota’s new sports car.
The obsession with that number transcends itself all over the car: the chrome tipped exhaust opening measures 86mm, even the boxer engine’s square bore and stroke set-up of 86mm by 86mm proved ideal, the same as the Celica and MR2.
Toyota’s sporting lineage spans more than 50 years, with the new 86 encapsulating the best elements of three key models from that rich heritage: the Toyota Sports 800, the Toyota 2000GT and the AE86.
Though the 86 launches as the world’s only front-mounted horizontally opposed engine and rear-wheel drive package, it cannot claim to be the first. That honour goes to Toyota’s two-cylinder boxer engined Sports 800, which the company presented at the Tokyo Motorshow in 1962.
With its compact body and excellent fuel efficiency, the Sports 800 achieved great success in endurance races. The low centre of gravity of the boxer engine and front-engine, rear-drive powertrain format was considered ideal for a car providing maximum driving entertainment. For this reason, the 86 has adopted this classic layout for the first time since the Toyota Sports 800.
The beautiful 2000GT - of which only 337 units were built - a 2.0 litre straight-six-powered coupe first displayed at the 1965 Tokyo Motorshow, helped establish the company’s global reputation as a sports car manufacturer.
Even now, its styling appears sophisticated, cool and fresh. During the development of the 86, a 2000GT was placed next to the clay model of new sports car being developed by the designers. Without receiving any specific instructions, the designers continued their work, occasionally looking at the 2000GT. As a result, their work infused the 86 with the spirit of the 2000GT without imitating it.
From the AE86, the 86 inherits not its hardware, but its spirit. The AE86 was not an extreme sports car. It was moderately priced, with a mass-produced engine and a compact, front engine, rear-wheel drive body.
4,240 mm long, 1,775 mm wide, only 1,285 mm high and with a wheelbase of 2,570 mm, the new 86 is the world’s most compact four-seater sports car.
Form follows function was the guiding design ethos for the 86. For instance, the exterior lines and surfaces have been shaped not only for maximum visual appeal, but also to let the driver know where each corner of the vehicle is at all times, helping him place it accurately on the road or track. This ‘viewed from the inside out’ approach was integral to the design process from the earliest stages. The bold front fenders are readily visible through the windscreen, and the rear fenders through the door mirrors. These prominent forms at all four corners of the low-lying body add a new dimension to the feeling of being at one with the car.
Another practical design trait of the 86 is the use of a unique concept called ‘Aero Sandwiching’. The car is pushed by air from the top, bottom and both sides – effectively sandwiched by air from all directions, which stabilises it both vertically and horizontally. In this way the car is settled on the road without unnecessary downforce, which can have a negative impact on the drag coefficient and, hence, fuel consumption. The dented contour on the ‘pagoda’ roof is an example of this system at work, and similar treatment has also been applied to the underbody, smoothing airflow and enhancing downforce. As a result, the 86 has a drag coefficient of just Cd 0.27.
At the same time by recalling the heritage of past Toyota front-engined rear-wheel drive machines, the styling is also intended to evoke the timeless appeal of the sports car. As mentioned, the spirit of Toyota’s beautiful, 1967 sports car was subtly infused into the styling. Hints of this are evident throughout the 86 bodywork, most notably in the absence of cut lines in the cockpit superstructure, the side window forms and the rear fender character line.
Courtesy of the entirely driver-focused cockpit, the 86 re-evaluates the essence of sports car driving through the detailed examination of the ergonomics and functionality of every element with which the driver interacts, allowing Toyota’s new sports car to be driven as if it were a natural extension of the driver’s body.
The horizontal dashboard design helps communicate the vehicle’s roll posture to the driver, whilst its clearly symmetrical construction makes it easy for the driver to perceive the vehicle centre line during competition driving. To that end, a vehicle centreline mark is located on the front upper edge of the dashboard, and its reflected image can be seen on the windscreen.
Built around the large tachometer, the three dial instrument cluster has been designed with particular attention paid to display placement, markings and typeface, ensuring optimum, at-a-glance visibility and readability during sports driving. Hence High-spec models get digital speedometer read-out which is located inside the tachometer as well as a red shift light (Auto only) which illuminates to help drivers change gear at optimum engine revs.
Reflecting the 86’s sporting pedigree, the steering wheel has a diameter of just 365 mm, the smallest yet fitted to a Toyota. Its buckskin finish has been developed through exhaustive feedback from test drivers to offer enhanced steering performance and maximum grip under all cockpit conditions.
With the lowest driver hip-point of any Toyota production vehicle - just 400 mm - the 86’s driving position is 7 mm lower than that of a well-known German supercar. The seat design has been refined to ergonomic perfection through Nurburgring circuit testing, and under race conditions, to ensure it remains comfortable over long periods behind the wheel.
The seatbacks and cushion cross sections are designed to provide optimum support under G-force acceleration from the front, back and sides. In addition, the shape of the front seat is designed not only for comfort, but also to prevent elbows from interfering with gearshift operation.
Two seat finishes are available, a combination of leather and Alcantara on the High models, and a newly designed, non-slip, suede-like fabric on the Standard version which combines durability and breathability with excellent holding characteristics.
Over and above the low centre of gravity inherent in its design, a further advantage of the boxer engine installation is that its compact front-to-rear dimensions make the transmission far less intrusive in the cabin. As a result, the pedal box does not have to be squeezed to one side, and the pedal positions are perfect for skilled and sporting driving.
Soft knee pads built into the door trim and centre console sides provide support and help the driver maintain pedal control even during the lateral movement experienced in a particularly spirited drive.
The 86 interior also features for the first time, a frameless rear view mirror (High models only). This stylish, lightweight design maximises the driver’s view without overly impeding the view forward through the windscreen.
The dedicated driving focus of the cockpit is further reinforced by a centre console-mounted engine start button (High models only), carbon effect trim, a sporting, all-black roof lining, red upholstery stitching, aviation-style switch and lightweight aluminium pedals.
Red accent stitching and silver ornamentation abounds throughout, as does the 86-unique, T-mesh pattern finish which is applied to the instrument binnacle dials, climate control panel, door switch base and upholstery; the connecting rod motif is applied to the instrument dials, side air vents and gear lever base.
On the passive safety front both model grades boast a total of seven airbags: driver, passenger, side, curtain and driver kneebag.
The 86 range in South Africa comprises three exceptionally well equipped models: a Standard 6-speed manual, a High 6-speed manual and a High 6-speed Auto.
External differentiators between the two grades are limited to the HID headlamps with LED accents, 17-inch alloys and the headlamp cleaners – all of which are standard on the High models only.
On board, 86 High models get the aforementioned frameless rearview mirror and digital speedo read-out and in the case of the auto model, this is coupled to a shift indicator and steering paddles. Further exclusive High-spec trinketry comes in the form of cruise control, illuminated sun visor mirrors, Smart Start with a push start button (the Standard model gets remote central locking) and a fully automatic climate control system with independent left and right temperature controls (the Standard model features a manual aircon system).
Both models are equipped with the same audio system featuring AM/FM/CD 6 speakers, AUX and USB input connectivity. The six speakers comprise two 25 mm dashboard-mounted tweeters, two 160 mm front door speakers and two 65 mm rear quarter speakers.
During development of the 86, Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada established a unique combination of performance characteristics for the vehicle’s powertrain. Those characteristics embodied a low centre of gravity and a naturally aspirated, high-revving sports engine developing 147 kW at 7000 rpm and maximum torque of 205 Nm at 6400 to 6600 rpm.
The solution to these potentially disparate requirements lay in combining Subaru’s newly-developed boxer engine with Toyota’s latest direct fuel injection system to create the world’s first horizontally opposed engine with D-4S (Direct injection 4-stroke petrol engine) technology.
With a namesake 86 mm x 86 mm bore and stroke - a ‘square’ engine combining fuel economy with well balanced rotation, the 86’s engine block and 16 valve, DOHC cylinder heads have been newly developed to achieve both high engine speed and a high compression ratio of 12.5:1.
The new flat four revs freely to 7,400 rpm, at which point a gear shift prompt light flashes in the driver’s instrument binnacle. Over-revving the engine introduces a well-judged, soft rev limiter rather than a sudden engine cut out.
Equalising the intake and exhaust timings has given the engine an extremely pleasant, smooth-revving sound. But Toyota engineers were concerned that various countries’ strict noise regulations would make it difficult to increase the exhaust note volume as much as might be desirable for the driver to hear in a sports car.
In response, the engineers decided to bring the sound directly into the car; the first time a system of this type has been used in a Toyota vehicle. When intake pulses hit the sound creator, a damper resonates at certain frequencies to optimise the intake sound. The optimised sound is then channelled directly into the cabin via a rubber hose. A stress-free, soft intake sound is produced under slow acceleration, while a true sports car intake sound is generated under full throttle acceleration.
While outright acceleration is clearly not the 86’s raison d'être, the figures still reveal a car that is capable of sprinting to 100 km/h in just 7,6 seconds (8,2 seconds for the auto). Top speed is pegged at an academic 226 km/h for the manual and 210 km/h for the auto.
Other noteworthy figures are as follows:
Ideal Weight Distribution
The flat-four format of the front-mounted boxer engine combines with the lowest driver hip-point of any Toyota production vehicle - just 400 mm - to give the 86 an ultra-low centre of gravity of only 460 mm.
Both the powertrain and driving position have been set as low and as far as possible towards the centre of the vehicle to optimise balance, giving the 86 an ideal, 53:47 weight distribution.
Incorporating a front performance rod and front and rear anti-roll bars, the front MacPherson strut and rear double wishbone suspension systems have been fine-tuned to react instantly to driver input, with a direct handling feel, sharp response and superb controllability.
Electric Power Steering
The 86 is fitted with a column-coaxial electric power steering system, offering drivers a quick, direct and accurate steering feel. The wheel can be adjusted for rake through 15 mm and for reach through 20 mm. The particularly low, 16 degree column tilt angle is essential for compatibility with the 86’s ultra-low driver hip point.
Braking and Stability Control Systems
Ventilated disc brakes to both front* and rear wheels offer a different brake pedal feel to that of any other Toyota. Brake response to pedal input has been fine-tuned to provide precise modulation, assisting drivers in car control finesse by allowing for the smoothest possible dynamic weight transfer under braking.
The 86 is equipped, as standard across the range, with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control (TRC) and an advanced, three mode Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
The ABS and switchable VSC safety systems have been specifically tuned to combine dynamic stability at the limit of the vehicle’s performance envelope with minimal electronic intrusion on the purity of the driving experience.
The new VSC system features an additional, next generation VSC SPORT mode. When selected via a transmission tunnel-mounted switch, VSC SPORT expands the permissible range of lateral acceleration and movement before the system intervenes, allowing the driver to explore the limits of vehicle dynamics without sacrificing stability.
Both TRC and VSC may also be fully disengaged by pushing and holding the VSC switch for more than three seconds.
There is a comprehensive range of accessories available for the new 86 which will be communicated in a separate release.
All new 86 models come with a four-year/60 000 km Service Plan included in the purchase price (service intervals are every 15 000 km), along with Toyota's comprehensive three-year/100 000 km warranty. The new 86 is supported by the ToyotaCare Roadside Assistance Programme and entitles customers to 24 hour roadside assistance, ensuring ultimate peace-of-mind motoring.