New Car >> A Closer Look At The Toyota 86

I'm very happy with the response the 86 Preview post has been getting over the last 24 hours. A lot of you seem to like it, while some not so much. But that is fine, such an anticipated model, in particular one that has such a big job to do, will always generate mixed feelings. It's obvious the "86" name has something to do with it, but while the original AE86 Corolla was a very special car, I think we have to understand that Toyota isn't trying to pass this new model off as a replacement. What they are trying to do here is tap into all those little things that made the hachiroku earn its legendary status and offer it up in a modern package. 

During the presentation yesterday, they told us that engineers attended grassroots drift and grip track days across the country in an attempt to understand what true enthusiasts and purists want. This is why the car is a four seater, you can carry four people when using it as a daily driver, but when you need to hit the track you can fold the rear seats flat so that the trunk can swallow up four spare wheels/tires, a jack and a few other bits of equipment. This alone makes me stand up and take my hat off to the development team, the engineers, Akio Toyoda and Toyota as a whole.

Finally a car company that has the balls to deliver what we, the enthusiasts, want. But that is only scratching the surface. The 86 goes far beyond that. From the comments, it seems that a lot of you can't digest or understand why they have gone with Subaru's EJ20. An extremely low center of gravity was to be the defining factor of the whole project, and admittedly no other engine configuration can match a boxer on this. Let's not forget the 1965 Sport 800 was powered by a flat-2 boxer, so the 86 truly does go right back to Toyota's affordable sports car roots. 

Design wise I can only say it's been a fair compromise between the aggressive styling of the concepts we have seen over the last few years and what a manufacturer can get away with on a final production street car.

The headlights are a defining factor of the 86, already a recognizable detail of the car.

The driving lights and indicators are positioned on the corner of the bumper, a nice touch especially when seen head on. I think tuners will have a ball with the 86, there will be so many aero variations and upgrades to transform the look of what even Toyota are saying is a base for the owner to build upon.

Yes yes it sits high and the offset on the stock 17-inch wheels could be far more aggressive, but everyone out there knows that suspension and wheels will be the first parts people will upgrade. 

In fact Toyota held a presentation of the car for members of the Nippon Auto Parts Aftermarket Committee (NAPAC) a few weeks ago, probably releasing technical drawings, measurements and so on to allow tuners and parts manufacturers to get a head start in the development of the first few upgrades. With the 86 going on sale in Japan in March/April I bet some "pre-production" cars have already been given to the biggest tuners out there so that a few show cars can be prepared in time for the 2012 Tokyo Auto Salon in January.

I quite liked the 86 in white.

Some of the cars had what may be a dealer option trunk spoiler. The profile looks cleaner without it however but that's up to personal choice.

The interior is nice and simple, like the rest of the car. Some of the cars had these nice red accents that brighten up the black plastics, which if a little on the hard side, do have a quality and resistant feel to them. Best thing of all for me however was how damn well I fit inside. At 6'2" the driving position of most Japanese cars is always way to high for me but I sank right into the 86's supportive seat, an instant thumbs up!

The instruments are simple and easy to read with the rest of the information being contained in the orange LCD displays.

All switchgear in the center console is intuitively laid out. 

If you want to have fun in the 86 you want to turn traction and stability control off via the buttons behind the gear selector. 

Yep, boxers aren't pretty to look at that's for sure. It might be a tight fit but I think a turbocharged EJ20 or EJ25 can slip in there…

This 100PS per liter EJ20 sucks air through an electronic throttle, which does introduce a bit of an artificial feel and lack of immediate response, but something you quickly learn to forget about.

Looks pretty menacing in black too.

I think close to 100 people participated in the drive event yesterday. I don't think anyone came away not liking the 86, everyone I talked to seemed to really appreciate what Toyota have done.

Despite its 197 HP the 86 doesn't excite for its straight-line performance…

…it's out through the corners that it comes alive. It delivers the kind of fun that you can't have in more powerful machinery. I know it sounds strange to say something like this but while you scare yourself silly in cars with tons of power you can concentrate on ringing the absolute maximum out of the 86…

…paying special attention to how the car behaves to your inputs and feeling for the feedback that comes in through the controls.

Sure if you are a professional driver you would be able to do the same with an 600 HP race car around the Nordschleife…but the reality is not many of us possess those kind of skills.

And there lies the little niche that the 86 will fall into. Much like the Mazda Roadster/Miata/MX-5 it entices the driver to perfect his technique, the car assisting him or her as a precision tool.

Tuning will help push the boundaries of the 86 as skills grow. I think the only thing that remains to be seen will be the price the car will sell for in various markets. If it's affordable enough its success is guaranteed. Now we have tons of tuner examples to look forward to, as well as special limited editions, drift cars, one make race series and of course the Subaru version of the car in Super GT from next year.

This is the beginning of something great.

Toyota Japan

-Dino Dalle Carbonare