With the Scion sub-brand discontinued in 2016, the Toyota 86 is an all new name for a four-year old car that continues to offer a largely unchanged formula of stripped down driving entertainment. The 86 name refers to the original Toyota Corolla 86 which has since become a modern motoring legend for its incisive handling and modifiability.
For 2017 a minor power hike, revised gearing and some trim changes sum up the changed for the 86 sport coupe.
While the basic Scion/86 exterior has remained largely unchanged over the years, the interior has received some welcome updates both to material quality and infotainment systems to keep up with newer competitors.
It is still no luxury sports coupe inside but the supportive front seats and upgraded dashboard and door trim do not feel as cheap as in the early cars. Hard plastics and average build quality on some minor panels are still noticeable and the rear seats are still as unusable as before but the cargo space is decent and the 86 offers more than enough luggage space for two occupants.
The driving experience is at the core of the entire Toyota 86 philosophy and few manufacturers, especially at this price level, have been so focused on providing shoppers with such a pure man/machine interaction.
All the controls feel well-weighed and set up to get the most out of this sporty little coupe, detail changes to the suspension have only improved its abilities over time but the ride is still firm and can be a bit unforgiving over rough pavement surfaces.
The phrase ‘well-balance’ is used a lot when referring to the driving characteristics of an especially sweet handling car but the Toyota 86 takes this idea one step further with no one characteristic overpowering another, the tires, brakes, damping and engine all work in unison to make for one of the most ‘balanced’ driving experiences around.
Motorists used to over-powered cars that mask an inert chassis with excessively grippy tires may need a few miles to adjust to the multilayered driving experience the rear-driven 86 provides.
Ever since its introduction the Scion/Toyota 86 with its unboosted 2-liter four-cylinder boxer engine has been criticized in some quarters for its lack of big horsepower. Still, the 205 horsepower, 156 lb-ft of torque it makes in updated 2017 trim provides the 86 with decent acceleration as long as you keep the revs up.
A 6-speed manual transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard and while a 6-speed automatic is available, Toyota discourages you ticking this box by reducing outputs to 200hp and 151 lb-ft.
0-60 mph times are not the 86’s forte although in quicker manual guise it can dip below 7-seconds, not as quick as most of the competition but then again that is not the point of this car. The rough engine note however can get intrusive at higher engine speeds.
The Toyota 86 is available in two trim levels, the base 86 offers 17-inch alloy wheels, LED head and taillights, daytime running lights, leather-trimmed sport steering wheel with tilt/telescope function, suede-like interior accents, sport-tuned suspension, paddle-shifters on automatic versions and cruise control.
A 7-inch touchscreen with integrated Bluetooth and a rearview camera is also standard as are an 8-speaker audio system although Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is not on the options list.
The 860 Special Edition is available in two unique exterior colors and comes with special 17-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler and body stripes. Heated leather seats and a special edition multi-information display are also offered. Only 860 of each color option are offered.
Available options depending on trim selected are a navigation system, center armrest and LED foglights. TRD performance extras include 18-inch wheels, brake pads, springs, air intake and sport exhaust.
The Golf GTI is closest in term of pricing but it offers a very different driving experience while the Nissan 370Z offers a similar of more brutish driving experience at a slightly higher base price.
The Toyota 86 beats both for driving purity, the question is, are you willing to accept the inevitable compromises that come with such a single-minded purpose over the more general requirements of a daily driver?