The latest addition to Toyota’s lineup is one for the enthusiast. It’s small and sleek, rear-wheel drive, is offered with a close-ratio six-speed manual gearbox and produces just over 200 horsepower from a 2.0-litre engine. This new piece of pure fun is the 2017 Toyota 86 – a two-door that heralds back to the brand’s storied past of building lightweight and engaging vehicles, the name itself being a throwback to the AE86 Corolla – which surprised everyone with its agility when it came out in the early eighties.
However, if you take a look at it, you might think it looks sort of like another car… or two, in fact: the Subaru BRZ and the (recently departed) Scion FR-S.
This is because the 86 is actually a clone of those two vehicles. Back before the FR-S was launched in 2012, Toyota had made a deal with Subaru; Toyota would design the chassis, and Subaru would handle the flat-four engine. Back then, everybody felt that this new creation would be better with a Scion badge on it. Now, however, with the demise of that brand, this coupe is back in the Toyota fold.
So, what changed, apart from the badge?
First of all, there are some visual upgrades: the lower grille is now wider, and there are now LED headlights at the front. Another pair of LED lights on the back gives the car a more modern appearance, as do the 10-spoke wheels.
The drivetrain is also an upgrade. Thanks to some extensive engineering, the 2.0-litre now produces 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Sure, that might only be five more in each department than there used to be, but Toyota’s engineers felt that their sports car didn’t need more… for now.
Handling has also received some tweaks. Thanks to some softer front springs, stiffer rear suspension and a thicker anti-roll bar at the back, the 86 has more turn-in than the FR-S did.
And on the electronic side, you’ll be happy to know that the Sport setting has been replaced with a Track setting. It is even less intrusive and will let the 86 get more sideways than ever. (Track day is calling.)
Toyota wisely chose to keep Scion’s business model when it came to the 86, so there is only one trim level. But, if you want to stand out from the crowd, there is the Special Edition. It adds a layer of luxury and class over the standard 86, with leather seats, a rear spoiler, fog lamps, a smart key with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats and a program that will log the car’s performance data, among other things.
If you want the Special Edition, know two things: one, it only comes with a manual transmission. Two: it is only available in white or orange, so be prepared for the attention you are about to get. You will deserve it.