We live in an era where small, driver-focused sport coupes are dying by the dozen. Quickly replaced with crossovers, big SUV’s and cutting edge EV options. Toyota is very much a part of these latest trends. Yet, they haven’t forgotten the little AE86, Levine, MR2’s and Celica’s that helped define the brand as a powerhouse for fun, approachable performance. That’s not even mentioning the absurdly powerful Supra. The 2022 GR86, a love letter to these great sport car specimens of the past, is not going anywhere. On the contrary in fact. Toyota has performed a major refresh for 2022. Helping this completely unique sports car not just remain good, but become great!
For starters, the flat-four boxer engine has been bored out to a displacement of 2.4 liters, up from 2.0 in the previous generation. A big improvement, accounting for a 28 hp increase. That may not seem like a substantial gain, but in a small car, with a short wheel-base, and a curb weight that’s under 2,900 lbs, every single horsepower is felt. Just as important as the number, is where it’s accessed on the power curve. In the previous 86, 156 lb-ft of torque was unleashed way up at 5,400 rpms. In the 2022 AE86, with all that extra displacement, we get a big jump to 184 lb-ft of torque. Every bit of it uncorked at a much more accessible 3,700 rpms.
The net effect is a car that feels strong and rev happy. With a lively chassis, excellent short-throw manual gearbox and robust acceleration at a much earlier point in the rev range. A 0-60 sprint in 5.4 seconds and the quarter-mile in a very impressive 14 seconds flat, further demonstrates the improvements. Extra reinforcements have been added to tighten up the chassis. To compensate for the extra weight, Toyota kept the old aluminum hood, but added aluminum to the roof and fenders as well.
Toyota redesigned the looks of the 2022 AE86 just enough too easily differentiate it from the previous model. The changes make a bold, positive impact to be sure. LED lights at all four corners are tucked into handsomely styled headlights and taillights. Front bumper inserts and large fender vents are both great looking and completely functional. A striking design for sure. With a sleek profile, sexy curves and a low stance. Not too polarizing or extreme. Like a softened up Lotus Evora. Just the right amounts of everything.
The interior retains a dark color scheme, with supportive seats, set low, and an edited down, simple to use dash. Practicing your squats will help you get in and out of the AE86. Perfect your full-on contortionist act if you’re feeling brave enough to access the back seat. Which is more of a loose suggestion than a practical place to ride around in. A tight suspension and low ride-height will guarantee that most road imperfections will be experienced intimately. Road noise is pretty intrusive at highway speeds as well.
To be fair, these are perfectly expected findings in a car like the AE86. It’s not setting out to be soft, supple and whisper quiet. For that, you have plenty of other cars to choose from. What it is setting out to achieve. What it was designed and engineered to do, it does extremely well. It’s that perfectly tunable chassis, begging for all sorts of aftermarket enhancements. It’s the short-track attacking autocross machine. Tight, toss-able and more powerful than ever. A guaranteed good time, whether you’re attending a local track-event, or just running some errands around town. Buckle up and get ready to smile.
Price as tested: $33,250.00