The Toyota 86, formerly known as the Scion FRS, has never tried to be a car for the masses. Appropriately named to pay homage to the AE86 Toyota Corolla Levine and Trueno from Japan, the 86 today is a true 2+2 sports car fantasy. Its 2.0L 4-cylinder boxer engine directs over 200 hp to a lightning quick and wonderfully precise 6-speed stick shifter. A true rear-wheel-drive chassis with a Torsen limited-slip differential makes this little car unique in a market of front-drive hot hatches. The Toyota 86 is quick on its feet, nimble, toss-able, ready to step out of line in an easy to control slide, making you feel like a regular Michael Schumacher behind the wheel. There’s even a handy feature in Toyota’s electronic Vehicle Stability Control system as part of Track Mode that allows the driver extra wheel slip before taking over to coax you back on course. Luckily, there’s also a Full-Off mode which allows you complete control to slide around corners, and hopefully not into any Saguaro cactus.
With a mountain of changes in 2017, the updates for 2018 are few but significant. A new GT trim level with leather joins the group along with a top tier model called the 86 Black. Don’t worry, both still come available with the manual transmission. On the inside, the cabin has never looked better, and wraps around the driver and passenger like a custom fitted glove. Contoured sport seats and faux-suede upholstery holds you in a death grip around tight corners and the tachometer is strategically located front and center, demanding attention be paid to that bouncing needle and the portion of the rpm range colored red. As a helpful feature, each 2018 Toyota 86 comes with rear seats that fold down to expand the capacity of the small trunk. While folded down, the 86 can carry plenty of grocery’s, a few golf bags, or more importantly, a jack and extra set of wheels and tires for track days.
A freshened up face carried over from 2017 continues to look great. The long, low hood and crouched stance of the 86 recalls the legendary Toyota 2000 GT of 1967. In factory form, you won’t find any design elements that feel too gaudy or aftermarket. Lines are tight and tidy and proportions give a muscular, yet simplistic impression. As good as the design may be, the beauty of the Toyota 86 is its ample aftermarket support that can supply any owner with any vented and scooped hood, giant rear wing or wide-body kit their heart desires. Customize away!
As I said in the beginning, the new Toyota 86 isn’t for everyone. Interior space is limited and its low ride height with little suspension travel, narrow tires and short wheel base can make for a jarring ride experience unless the road is perfectly paved. The engine is lively and a little intrusive, and finding someone who can operate a manual shifter is only getting harder and harder these days. In addition, many faster and more powerful cars can be found for just a little more money like the Golf GTI or Civic Type R. Still, the Toyota 86 will fill you up if you crave a driving experience that’s visceral and reflexive. If you want a car that dives for the corners, almost anticipating your driving inputs before you’ve even made them, begging you to push harder and play a little longer. If you want a car that makes you smile big toothy smiles because it’s just down-right fun to drive, than the Toyota 86 might just be a test drive away from becoming the car for you.
By: Brandon Randall
Price as tested: $29,280.00