Scion is dead, long live Toyota. Like the millennials to which Scion attempted to appeal, the company was a drain on their parent-company’s resources. So, for 2017 the Scion FR-S is rebadged and worked over as the Toyota 86. Those outside of Canada and the United States have had the 86 for years.
Not a whole lot has changed from the Scion, but the Toyota has improved Scion’s recipe a little. The most obvious change is the grille. The exterior lights are all LED, new 17 inch wheels and different fender vents. Overall, the aesthetic changes are an improvement, but they did get rid of that sweet 86 boxer badge the Scions used on their fenders, which is a shame.
Toyota went a long way make this car stiffer. They reinforced the transmission tunnel, made the front strut tower braces more hearty and they added rigidity to the rear strut mounts. The suspension has been tweaked too. The front got stiffer and they softened up the rear while beefing up the anti-roll bar.
Up front there’s a flat four cylinder engine that makes 205 horsepower. That’s five more than last year’s Scion. It’s hooked up to a six speed manual transmission that sends power to the back wheels. Plus if you get the manual you get red wrinkle painted intake, you know, like a Ferrari. You can tell all your friends you bought it because it’s just like a Ferrari. If you elect to go with the six-speed automatic, you get 5 less horsepower. But why would you get an automatic in this car?
Inside the car, there’s a notable lack of modern amenities. Yes, there are power windows and a touch screen stereo but that’s about it. There’s a digital clock in the console like the one that came in a Delorean. By that I mean that it looks a little dated. There’s keyless entry, but it’s not a proximity system. Drivers have to put a key into the ignition and twist. This is not really a problem until you forget and you have to dig the keys out of your pocket after you’ve poured yourself into the driver’s seat.
Inside, the front seats are firm and have high bolsters to prevent you siding out of the seat in the corners. It’s got a back seat but it looks pretty useless. There is absolutely no leg room, but there are baby anchors, in case your fast and loose boy-racer lifestyle includes not using birth control.
This car is light and small. It weighs in at 2,760 pounds. It’s hard not to make the comparison between this car and the Miata. This car is a foot longer and 420 pounds heavier. The Miata gets to 60 almost half a second faster than the 86. What the 86 does have that the Miata doesn’t is a third gear scratch. The rear tires will chip when shifting into third. It’s also quieter on the road than the Miata but that’s likely due to the lack of a rag top. That said, nobody is going to brag on how quiet it is in their Toyota 86. In fact, they’ll be turning up the stereo at speeds greater than 50 mph.
All of the short comings of this car can be forgiven though. It’s a sports car, it’s not a family hauler or a grocery getter, although it does have a sizable trunk. This car is fun. The electrically assisted power steering is above average. The gearbox feels good too, albeit a bit stiff. I was expecting a tail-happy hotrod, but this car was better-behaved than that. Of course, if you’re after the sideways slidy stuff, this car can do that too. It has three settings for traction and vehicle stability control. You can turn everything off by pushing the track button. Even with this off, the car is not so unruly it can’t be driven. Tail-out drifty slides are possible, but it really feels like you have to push the car hard to do it. The best scenario to live out Ken Block fantasies in this car is a slightly rain-dampened parking lot. I was surprised to feel a little understeer while approaching the point where the rear end begins to break traction.
All in all, I’m pleased that Toyota decided to continue producing and refining this spirited little car. While the Miata may still have the legs on it, it’s also a 25 year old recipe that Mazda has had time to perfect. If you’re looking for an economical, fun car for about 25k you now have two flavors to choose from.