2019 Toyota 86 GT – A Bite-Sized Bruiser That’s Rough Around The Edges

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In 2017, after the demise of Scion, Toyota began marketing the FR-S under the 86 moniker in America. Toyota initially sweetened Scion’s recipe a bit. The Dirt on Cars reviewed that early effort but very little has changed since then. So how does the Toyota 86 feel today?

Just about the same. The Same engine, the same power and the same looks. But that’s not all bad. The biggest improvements are in creature comforts. From the outside, the car still looks great. This press car was painted in Toyota’s Ablaze red, and a red sports car is one of life’s simple joys.

EXTERIOR

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The 86 is a stylish coupe with pleasant proportions. Aggressive headlights give an impression that this car means business. A long hood lets folks know is a clue to the rear wheel drive nature of this little beast. From the base of the windshield the roofline arcs up and back, sweeping down onto the trunk. A rear wing with color-keyed end plates adorns said trunk, and below that are a pair of handsome exhaust tips. The wheel wells are filled out by 17 inch wheels wrapped in Michelin rubber.

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INTERIOR

Inside, the heated front seats are firm and have high bolsters. The red stitching and red accents bring hints of the exterior color into the cabin. The 86 has rear seats, but just barely. The car is marketed as a 2+2. Which is fine, as long as the +2 is not a pair of humans. The rear seats could easily fit two bananas. Or two Shih Tzus, if they didn’t mind sharing personal space.

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It feels a bit spartan inside, but there are amenities such as power windows, power mirrors and a seven-inch touch screen stereo with Bluetooth connectivity. It also has dual-zone climate control and a backup camera that displays in the rearview mirror. The addition of a proximity key is an improvement over the 2017 model. It allows drivers to jump in and hit the starter button. Gone are the days of attempting to dig the keys out of a jeans pocket after shoehorning yourself into the driver’s seat.

Nobody will brag on how quiet it is in their Toyota 86. In fact, they’ll be turning up the stereo at speeds over 50 mph. At 75 mph the collective noise from the tires, the gearbox and the exhaust become a bit much.

DRIVE

Under the hood, a Subaru designed, horizontally opposed four cylinder cranks out 205 horsepower. It’s hooked up to a six-speed manual transmission that sends power from the engine up front to a differential out back as God intended. Amen. Owners can elect to go with a six-speed automatic, but they’ll get five fewer horsepower, pay about $1000 more and they won’t get the pleasure of stirring the gears. The manual version gets nearly 30 miles per gallon.

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The electrically assisted power steering feels incredibly direct. The car changes direction without hesitation without being twitchy. It has three settings for traction and vehicle stability control. Everything can be turned off by pushing and holding the track button. Even with everything off, the 86 is still manageable. A limited-slip differential ensures that the tail end will step out on cue. The suspension on this car is pretty firm, which makes rough roads a little tedious.

THE DIRT

For a third car, it’d be fine. It’s pretty good on gas and as long as the morning commute doesn’t involve dropping off more than one kiddo, this is not a bad option as a daily. Having some sound deadening installed would make highway driving a little more comfortable.

As tested, this car costs $29,500, making it an expensive toy, but relative to other sports cars it’s reasonably priced. While the 86 is still fun to drive, it’s probably time for a re-imagining. The power is adequate but could benefit from more low down torque. American drivers who are used to the immediate torque of a V8 may be less comfortable really wringing the power out of this flat four which doesn’t get really interesting until nearly 5,000 RMP. Toyota might move a few more of these if there was an available turbo option.

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