Future classic: Toyota GR86

| 6 Mar 2023
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

Airborne over the ‘ski-jump’ on Millbrook’s Hill Route, the original GT86 flew through Autocar’s 2012 road test with five stars and made for one of the few posters I ever put on the wall.

The ‘86’ in the name was a nod to the AE86 Corolla that, during its 1984-’87 production run, became an everyday symbol of Toyota and later a cult icon drifting through the pages of the manga series Initial D.

Whatever the influence of the ‘Panda Trueno’ to the GT86’s developers, the 2012 car created a modern-classic legend.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

Aesthetically, the Toyota GR86 offers a refreshing upgrade to the 2012 GT86’s simple shape

In a world of increasing performance and ever-tightening regulations, it shone as a beacon of hope for the purist who yearned to read not about horsepower and 0-60 times but about response, feel and balance.

Ten years – and around 7500 UK sales – after the GT’s release, a new GR86 slides into a world even more contrary to its spirit and promises to address the two major problem areas of the old one: interior build quality and torque.

Some sense of the cheap-and-cheerful remains, but it now more optimistically recalls the plastic-dominated but control-laden interiors of the Japanese super-sports cars of yesteryear.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

The Subaru flat-four under the bonnet is now up to 2.4 litres, from 2 litres in the GT86

Digital dials range around a central tacho/speedometer with horizontal readouts for battery voltage, water and oil temperatures.

Echoes of legends past resonate throughout, and the red-illuminated climate controls above ‘aluminium’ toggle switches bring the Nissan GTR to mind. But this is mere dressing, of course.

The seats are by far the most expensive part of the interior – as in many enthusiasts’ own builds – and the driving position is superb.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86
Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

Clockwise from top: interior build quality has improved; the Toyota GR86 is part of a dying breed of sports cars still available with a manual transmission; digital dials are crisp

The Subaru flat-four, now up to 2.4 litres, leaps the Toyota forward from as low as 3000rpm. It doesn’t warble or roar with the attitude of an Impreza, but it is free-spinning and fantastically responsive.

An initially soft throttle pedal finds harmony with a rather snatchy clutch once you’re deeper into the performance, and it’s the same with the ride, which is much firmer than the GT86’s.

This has been described as a more serious car, but the overriding characteristic is still fun.

Classic & Sports Car – Future classic: Toyota GR86

The Toyota’s communicative steering and responsive engine let you explore its sublime chassis

It is positively charged with excitement in such volumes that every twist in the road becomes an irresistible flick of the short-throw gearlever and a flex of the finely weighted steering.

Flowing forwards all together, it is a dynamic marvel at a time when so many new cars feel weighed down by compromise.

And yet the GR86 is doomed to a similar fate. Due to new safety regulations coming into effect in 2024 – the required sensors, cameras and so on simply won’t fit – this affordable purist’s sports car is already very much sold-out and becoming a classic in its own lifetime.

Images: Max Edleston


  • Engine 2387cc flat-four; 231bhp @ 7000rpm; 184lb ft @ 3700rpm
  • Transmission six-speed manual, RWD
  • 0-60mph 6.3 secs
  • Top speed 140mph
  • Mpg 32.1
  • Price £29,995

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