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Everything you need to know about buying a used Toyota 86 (or Subaru BRZ)

22 June 2022 - 10:46
The 86 came to SA in 2012 and was well received.
The 86 came to SA in 2012 and was well received.
Image: Supplied

Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) sub-brand is getting a whole lot of love for its recent efforts.

But let’s remember Toyota is no fledgling in the craft of performance cars. Throughout its history the manufacturer has had notable hits — from the stunning 2000 GT to the hallowed Supra moniker. The brand traces its lineage in this genre to the Sports 800 of 1962.

In 2012 it rekindled a presence in the light, rear-wheel drive coupé market with the 86, drawing on the spirit of the AE86 Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno models from the 1980s.   

The 86 has a near perfect driving position.
The 86 has a near perfect driving position.
Image: Supplied

Simple recipe 

Maximum fun at minimum cost was the mandate from the outset, with chief design engineer Tetsuya Tada remarking the 86 would be an antidote to “boring” modern sports cars. The team purposefully steered away from turbocharging, big tyres and four-wheel drive, seeking true driving purity.    

Co-developed with Subaru, the 86 boasted an all-new platform, aerodynamic bodyshell, horizontally-opposed engine and rear-wheel drive, aided by a Torsen limited-slip differential. Ardent fans may or already know the number 86 tied with specifications, as according to the manufacturer, the exhaust opening measured 86mm and the boxer engine’s square bore and stroke setup of 86mm by 86mm was said to be the same as the Celica and MR2.    

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, normally-aspirated engine produced 147kW and 205Nm, wearing the internal code of 4U-GSE It could be had with a six-speed manual or automatic. Tipping the scales at 1,239kg and with a 53:47 weight distribution, the 86 promised relatively sprightly performance, but more crucially, agile handling.    

Local introduction   

At launch in July 2012, the Standard model started from R298,500. The more generously-equipped High cost R329,400 and the High automatic went for R346,500.    

Standard models rolled on 16-inch wheels, featured faux suede upholstery and manual air-conditioning. The High upped the ante with 17-inch alloys, high-intensity discharge headlamps, headlamp washers, cruise control, climate control, a digital speedometer readout and Alcantara-on-leather upholstery. Both vehicles used the same audio system, with six speakers, auxiliary and USB ports. Both were fitted with seven airbags as standard.    

In May 2013 Subaru launched the BRZ on our shores, with a substantially greater price tag than the 86 High. It cost R389,900 and the manufacturer attempted to justify the increase by punting the enhanced specification of their car. It boasted a throatier exhaust, rear spoiler and a touchscreen infotainment system, as well as a full maintenance plan (five-year/105,000km) versus the four-year/60,000km service plan of the Toyota.    

But the BRZ was brought over in limited quantities before being deleted from Subaru’s local line-up entirely. Its pricing was highly ambitious, considering the 86 could be had for much less.    

Former motoring journalist Jesse Adams set a world record for the longest continuous drift in an 86. He managed to go sideways for 168km, over 5 hours and 46 minutes, in a marathon at Gerotek test facility in Tshwane.
Former motoring journalist Jesse Adams set a world record for the longest continuous drift in an 86. He managed to go sideways for 168km, over 5 hours and 46 minutes, in a marathon at Gerotek test facility in Tshwane.
Image: Supplied

How it was received  

Everyone loves a good sports car, and critics welcomed the arrival of the model, at odds with Toyota’s reputation for sensible but staid commuter cars.    

The vehicle’s nimble handling was a point of praise, with steering described as quick and a terrier-like ability to scamper. Reports noted the chassis as balanced, while seasoned hands found inducing controllable sideways action was very much within the realm of possibility.

In fact, former motoring journalist Jesse Adams set a world record for the longest continuous drift in an 86. He managed to go sideways for 168km, over 5 hours and 46 minutes, in a marathon at Gerotek test facility in Tshwane.

Its boxer engine acoustics were also relished by testers, as was the character of the six-speed manual transmission. There were reservations, however, about the motor’s performance at power-sapping higher altitudes. Indeed, the 86 was no hero in traffic light dices — outgunned by boosted B-segment hot hatchbacks. But the Toyota offered a layer of engagement, simplicity and thrill factor that those front-wheel drive counterparts could not emulate. And that is what captured the affections of enthusiasts.    

The 86's Subaru BRZ twin was also brought to SA in small volumes.
The 86's Subaru BRZ twin was also brought to SA in small volumes.
Image: Supplied

Aftermarket appeal   

Undoubtedly, Toyota had considered the tuning fraternity in development of the 86. Its core ingredients offered the ideal canvas for many a customising aficionado. If the fairly modest power output had become a sore point, local operation RGM Motorsport offered supercharging packages for the model.    

A Vortech blower took figures to 220kW and 315Nm. The package, which included an intercooler and Techniflow exhaust system, cost R85,000 when it was released in 2013, carrying a six-month/20,000km warranty on components. In a September 2018 release the company had said more than 50 customers opted for the package.    

A 2017 upgrade saw revised styling.
A 2017 upgrade saw revised styling.
Image: Supplied

Life cycle updates 

For 2014 Toyota rolled out suspension tweaks, with revised mounts, as well as lower-friction oil, oil seals and guide bushings, with retuned shock absorbers.

Additional features were introduced: a moulded boot mat, new touchscreen audio system, Bluetooth, daytime running lights and a boot lid spoiler. A shark fin antenna replaced the old bee sting aerial across the range. The interior saw improved textures, including a new instrument panel surround.   

Just 86 units of a Limited Edition version were brought into the country, offered in Pearl White or 86 Red. But the upgrades were purely aesthetic, sporting front and side skirts, a massive rear wing and Limited Edition badges. The interior gained red accents on the steering wheel, gear lever, hand brake and door panels, with black-on-red Alcantara-leather seats. By this point, prices ranged between R329,700 for the Standard and R376,100 for the Limited Edition.    

In April 2017 more significant changes were made. The face of the 86 was restyled, with new LED headlamps, a lower set nose and revised bumper, updated 17-inch alloys and redesigned rear light clusters. The suspension was further adjusted, a new Track driving mode was added, while measures were taken to improve rigidity, such as the fitment of thicker chassis cross-members, plus additional weld points. Inside, it featured a smaller diameter steering wheel, a new 4.2-inch driver information display and enhanced materials. Pricing had risen to R449,600 (Standard) to R519,400 (High automatic).   

In August 2018 the model received yet another refresh. This time, the Standard model was axed. There was one, fully-loaded specification priced at R575,700. It was also renamed: now the GT86, on par with its counterparts in overseas markets. The 2018 GT86 packed Brembo brakes, Sachs dampers and a dazzling Bright Blue colour option.    

In 2018, the 86 gained Brembo brakes and Sachs dampers.
In 2018, the 86 gained Brembo brakes and Sachs dampers.
Image: Supplied

Seen on the classifieds   

There were just 16 listings of the 86 to be seen when we logged onto a popular car classifieds website. The least expensive to be had from a legitimate dealership was a 2012 Standard with 112,000km for R209,900. Trade value is R158,700 and retail is R177,200.     For R214,995  we saw a High version with 75,000km in the used section of a dealership linked to a well-known Chinese carmaker. It seemed like a good deal because an example of the same year, with 84,000km, was listed at R269,900 elsewhere. Trade is R166,900 and  retail is R185,900.    

At a Johannesburg Toyota dealership, we found a 2014 High automatic with 72,000km  listed at R299,000. R350,000 could get you into a 2016 High with 50,000km on the odometer. Trade is R275,880 while retail is R324,280.    

On the extreme end, there was a 2012 High listed for R899,900 – modified with a wide-body kit, racing wing, carbon fibre roof, lightweight wheels, a nitrous system and a 2-JZ motor.

Trade and retail values were provided courtesy of TransUnion.    

Normally-aspirated motor was zingy – but outgunned by turbocharged hot hatches.
Normally-aspirated motor was zingy – but outgunned by turbocharged hot hatches.
Image: Supplied

What to look out for  

We reached out to Scooby Worx, a Johannesburg-based, RMI-approved Subaru specialist, with experience in maintaining and tuning the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ. For inquiries or a free inspection call them on 011-979-4422. 

The workshop provided these notes:    

  • Look for a full service history or at least proof of oil changes.  
  • High quality engine oil to be used: 5W40 full synthetic.  
  • OEM Toyota or Subaru oil filter has a relief valve for safety, in case the filter gets blocked. 
  • Oil change every 10,000km with normal driving will prolong engine life. Oil service every 6,500km if driven hard. Bearing and oil feed issues common when oil change neglected. 
  • Listen for any ticking noises or rough engine sounds, hold at idle or 2,000rpm, recall for cylinder head parts on early models 2012/2013 can be confirmed with VIN.  
  • Listen for fuel pump noises.
  • Recall on later 2018 models. 
  • Listen for noise from the clutch release bearings when at idle. 
  • Check for oil leaks, common on timing chain and tappet covers. 
  • Get oil pressure test done at service intervals or fit oil pressure monitor.  
  • Stronger engine internals required for reliable boosted applications, along with all supporting upgrades to turbocharge reliably. Budget to spend R100k to R150,000 to gain a reliable power match versus a stock 2013 WRX, with the turbocharged variant of the FA20DIT engine.

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