Car Review

The 2018 Toyota GT86 is fun, feisty & pricey

Although still not fast in a straight line, the new Toyota GT86 will take your breath away through corners, writes Thomas Falkiner

09 December 2018 - 00:00 By Thomas Falkiner
2018 Toyota GT86.
2018 Toyota GT86.
Image: Supplied

Wait a minute, Falkiner, the Toyota 86 came out years ago. Why are you testing it again?

Firstly because I can and secondly because Toyota recently gave its enduring rear-wheel-drive sports car something of an overhaul both in terms of appearance and actual under-the-skin engineering. It's the same but slightly different - a bit like the name. It's no longer the 86 but the GT86. Got it? Good.

So does this mean that it finally has more power?

Nope, it doesn't come with more power - not even one single extra kilowatt. The high-revving, naturally aspirated boxer engine located low beneath that bonnet still kicks out a modest (by modern standards) 147kW. Torque is an equally miserly 205Nm, which means that you will be out-dragged by most diesel-powered family SUVs.

Torque is an equally miserly 205Nm, which means that you will be out-dragged by most diesel-powered family SUVs

A bit embarrassing, really. Especially when there are kids and a Labrador on the back seat. But no matter because through corners you will be able to leapfrog them - and other actual sports cars - into the next tomorrow.

How so?

Well, despite its lack of accelerative urge, the GT86 has always been exceedingly good at one thing - handling. Seriously, you could step out of a Porsche Cayman and into one of these things and not feel cheated thanks to its jewel of a chassis and remarkably low centre of gravity (lower than a Nissan GT-R - a nice little barroom tidbit for you all).

Well now Toyota has made the GT86 even better thanks to the inclusion of new Sachs performance dampers that not only make the car a bit sharper on the edge but also seem to improve overall ride quality.

Fast Facts: 2018 Toyota GT86

• ENGINE: 1998cc four-cylinder boxer
• POWER: 147kW at 7,000rpm
• TORQUE: 205Nm from 6,400 – 6,600rpm
• TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual
• 0-100km/h: 7.6 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED: 226km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 12,2l/100km (achieved)
• CO2: 181g/km (claimed)
• PRICE: R575,700 

Yep, this sportster is no longer quite as crashy over lumpy tarmac as I remember it being before. Ride quality, however, will be the last thing on your mind as this Toyota is such a blast through the curvy bits. With its low kerb weight, negligible body roll and quick, feelsome steering it allows you to fire through corners at a mean lick of pace and with complete confidence.

And, boy, is it fun - so much fun in fact that I often found myself taking the long way home just for the hell of it. Neuter the traction control and the GT86 will still - provided you're up in the power band - deliver that easy-to-control drift for which it has long been known.

Any other tweaks I should be aware of?

Look behind those new 10-spoke alloy wheels and you'll notice that the GT86 now comes equipped with Brembo brakes as standard: kind of surprising as it was never exactly lacking in the retardation department. Anyway, the larger rotors and more effective calipers now give you the kind of last-second braking confidence you'd expect from a racing car.

It's impressive stuff. Inside you'll find a new touchscreen infotainment system that offers Apple CarPlay, satellite navigation plus full Bluetooth audio streaming. There's also a new TFT display inside the instrument cluster that displays everything from fuel consumption and oil temperature to g-forces and lap times - great for track days.

I see, ahem, that the GT86 now costs nearly R600k?! Is it really worth it?

I noticed this little caveat too. Even as a longtime fan I have to admit that Toyota's back-to-basics sports car is no longer the affordable entity it used to be (a few years ago they cost around R370k).

A Golf GTI is cheaper and faster. Much faster. Especially in a straight line. It's also better finished with a cabin that exudes way more class and refinement. Thing is though, the Golf GTI can't quite match the lithe and pointy and endlessly engaging manner in which the GT86 dispatches with changes in direction.

While the Golf has grown up and lost a lot of its playfulness the GT86 remains fun and feisty. It hasn't been glossed over by a digital veneer and as such rewards like few modern cars can - especially at this price point. Which is why, to me anyway, it remains a compelling, analogue buy.