August 28, 2022

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You can’t spell GR86 without ‘GR8’

Toyota’s popular 2+2 pocket rocket is back for more

IF YOUR EXPECTATIONS are spot on, the Toyota 86 will deliver in spades – for much less.

And therein lies the secret to its unqualified success. The 86 (and its soul sibling, the Subaru BRZ) have been hits in their segment – as reachable aspirations for performance-seeking drivers who don’t want to fork over the deed to the condo in exchange for the price of admission to an adrenaline-pumping experience.

That’s exactly what these pocket rockets are, to be honest – affordable sports cars. Now that is not to demean what the 86 is all about. In fact, you can say that the model democratizes exciting mobility.

When it first came out in 2012, the 2+2 fastback coupe captured the imagination for ticking all the right boxes: rear-wheel drive, 50:50 weight distribution, peppy old-school (read: naturally aspirated) engine, and great styling. It absolutely looked the part of the sports car you would have flaunted the first time you learned to drive – the pogi car that would have negated the awkward teenager in you. But I’m blabbing.

The 86/BRZ group project for Toyota and Subaru designers and engineers has entered its second chapter with an all-new iteration, and Toyota is so proud of the result that it bestowed its hallowed “GR” prefix to the 86. GR, of course, stands for Gazoo Racing, which essentially encapsulates the motorsports spirit and efforts of the brand – spearheaded by no less than its “Master Driver” Morizo (aka Akio Toyoda, the boss man himself) .

Last weekend, Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation (TMP) afforded a small group of media practitioners not just a glimpse of, but actual seat time on, this all-new iteration of the GR86.

Priced at P2.328 million for the six-speed manual, and P2.499 million for the six-speed automatic, there’s quite a bit of a price bump from the outgoing version (the manual used to be priced at P2.086 million, while the automatic went for P2.186 million). Bear in mind though: This the GR86 does not merely get new toys or aesthetic upgrades here and there. It’s a totally different beast altogether. At first blush, that much is obvious: The GR86 is a reimagination of the 86.

Though I must admit I kind of miss the keyhole-like shape of the headlamp and taillamp assemblies which make the 86 immediately recognizable, the more sedate-looking front and rear of the GR86 aren’t bad at all. The headlights, daytime running lamps and foglamps all feature LEDs – same with the illumination at the rear.

TMP Vice-President for Product Planning Nico Bravante, who most graciously sat in the front passenger seat while allowing me the pressure, I mean pleasure, of driving the GR86 on the speed-limited internal roads of Clark in Angeles, Pampanga, talked about what’s new in the all-new.

“First, it rides on a much-bigger platform,” he said. “The engine now has 2.4 liters of displacement, compared to the 2.0 liters of the previous model.” While we’re at it, the previous 86 had 200ps and 205Nm; the GR86 now gives you 237ps and 250Nm – a great gain in both power and torque. The wheelbase has also increased marginally from 2,570 millimeters to 2,575mm, and overall length from 4,240mm to 4,265mm. While the width stays the same at 1,775mm, the GR86 stands 10mm shorter at 1,310mm versus the 1,320mm versus its older sibling.

Mr. Bravante added that the goal for Toyota in the new GR86 is a much sportier stance, something that is definitely apparent owing to how low slung and longer the car is. It also has a longer bonnet now, under which resides the aforementioned 2.4-liter boxer engine, which still does its breathing the normal way sans turbo. The new model reportedly gets to 100kph from a standstill much more quickly (6.3 seconds, if you’re wondering), 1.1 seconds better than its forerunner.

On the both sides of the vehicle are pronounced vents for the front wheel arches which, explained the TMP executive, aids in aerodynamics and managing the temperature of the brakes during dynamic driving. The higher-spec automatic transmission variant gets 18-inch alloys shod in 215/40 Michelin Pilot Sport as standard.

The ducktail spoiler is integrated to the body, and a high-mount third brake lamp completes the picture of the GR86’s hindquarters as substantial and dynamic — particularly with a good-looking diffuser in black that’s accentuated by a large tail pipe on both sides.

Inside, the GR86 is pretty much the same 2+2 coupe. If you’re looking to seat more than “small fry” in the rear, perish that thought. I still like to think of this car as having two trunks rather than seating four. To be fair though, we did manage to squeeze in two adults back there, who had to Indian-sit the entire time I was driving and talking to Mr. Bravante. I didn’t hear a peep of complaint, so I guess that was a good sign.

The front two seats are where the action is, of course, and I’m happy to report that they are adequately bolstered for dynamic driving. The instrument cluster has been thoroughly modernized through a seven-inch thin-film-transistor multi-information display plus other digital meters that aren’t crass or gimmicky. On the center console is an eight-inch touchscreen display upon which the infotainment system is predicated. Rejoice some more because it now supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and the car will play your content through six speakers. There are also two USB ports for your convenience, as well as a 12-volt socket.

For safety, Toyota’s entry-level sports car gets the GR86 Active Safety Suite, which includes a pre-collision system, automatic high beam, lane departure alert, and dynamic radar cruise control. On top of these are an adaptive front lighting system, blind spot monitoring, SRS airbags, anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control, hill-start assist control, and limited slip differential, among other niceties. There’s a reversing camera as well and back sonar, just so you can park more easily.

“When engineers and designers were conceptualizing this new generation, they wanted to keep the sportiness and performance, but they also considered the daily-driving aspect of the vehicle such as in the comfort and amenities it provides to passengers,” reported Mr. Bravante.

Surely, I can see the results of this effort showing up in the GR86. While NVH levels have improved, at least based on our short drive time, you need to manage your expectations because, again, this is a sports car.

And obviously, you should have the most fun with the GR86 on the track, or at least in the open road. For now I’ll reserve a full-on review hoping that we can get another, longer date with the GR86 and its wellspring of performance promises.