Can you remember the last time you just picked up your keys, got into your car and drove somewhere with no destination in mind? Before I put together this story, I honestly couldn’t and it kind of scared me a little bit. I’ve grown up with cars, they have been and remain a huge part of my life. To a certain degree, they define who I am.
Working day in, day out in the automotive industry can actually have a negative affect on your passion and enthusiasm for all things automotive. Constantly facing into days of press releases heralding the arrival of the next best thing or checking out concept renders of cars that don’t even exist yet.
What’s wrong with taking the time to enjoy what we already have?
Maybe it’s just a western world thing. but we all seem to be in a race to our graves. We demand information faster and faster, but for what reason?
Sometimes I just find myself looking back at past events and kicking myself for not taking the time to stop and really enjoy those moments.
I feel like I’ve already lived several lifetimes worth of experiences, but I’ve never really taken anything from them.
One day last month I decided that I had enough.
I shut down my office, turned off the push notifications on my phone and walked out the front door of my house armed with two of the things that bring me the most enjoyment in life – my camera and the keys to a brand new Toyota GT86.
I actually took temporary ownership of the car a few days previous, but it seemed everything that week was conspiring against me to ensure I didn’t get to immerse myself in the GT86 experience. I think it was this conspiracy that forced my hand.
It was a Friday morning, cold but dry, when I opened the door and slid into the soft but supportive seats. Key in my pocket, push button start and the two litre boxer engine whirred twice before gently rumbling to life with a cold idle of around 1,000RPM.
I gingerly made my way across the city, aware of the low engine temperature, to pick up a friend whom I know to be the sort to appreciate those random days in life. Where do we go? Who cares, let’s turn right and see where it takes us.
With everyone in the world seemingly in a rush to get to work in the city, it left the outbound routes deserted.
Clutch, blip, downshift, go.
It wasn’t long before we had passed through a couple of scenic fishing villages situated along the southern coast of Ireland. Although the road surfaces were often poor, the GT86 always felt composed.
A lot has been said of the new Toyota, most of which has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, I can’t recall so much hype about a single car in recent years. So it was with great disappointment on my return journey when I collected the car that I realised it wasn’t quite what it was being hailed as. It was noisy inside, the radio was pathetic, the ride was too solid and the lack of torque was quite apparent on the motorway sections. As a by-product of this, it really needed to be stirred to get it to shift. Even when it did get up on song, that diesel Audi rep-mobile was still planted inches from my rear bumper. I was devastated.
But on this particular Friday morning I learned something. This isn’t a car to commute in.
This is a car that needs to be driven.
Okay, that last part may have been quite obvious to some but for me it was a wake up call. Here was a car that was designed to do something I had forgotten about – taking the long way home.
Back on our journey and we continued our destination-less jaunt.
I think we spent the best part of ten hours in here that day, covering a meagre distance of 100 geographic miles in that time frame. This should give you an idea of the type of driving – find spectacular section of route and drive repeatedly in both directions.
I had read beforehand that other journalists complained of the lack of power on offer, and that perhaps it should have come with a turbocharger as standard. When you see the success the aftermarket community is enjoying with boosting the 4U-GSE/FA20, they probably have a good point but for Irish roads – that is mostly rough, twisty and narrow – the power and its delivery was absolutely perfect. More than enough to put a massive smile on your face but not too much to send you backwards through a ditch.
When was the last time you stopped to take in a view like this especially when you were meant to be elsewhere doing something mundane?
One of the great things about driving in Ireland is that you can go from the coast to the mountains easily within an hour. You just need to decide what you’re in the mood for and aim towards it.
The different terrains bring an entirely different driving experience too.
The roads tighten up and whilst you can’t carry as much speed, the technical nature of the route really lets you examine how the car handles itself when under strain.
Arrive into a tight corner a little too hot and the nose will gently push on, before the rear progressively comes out. Keep your right foot buried and come out the other side with a huge smile on your face. I’ve never has as much fun in a car. I felt alive.
The beauty of the whole package is that you don’t need to travel at license losing speeds to enjoy the ride. In a world where Big Brother is always watching, this is a good thing.
I’ve spent the best part of the last eighteen months commuting rather than driving, and the worst part is I never even noticed. I had become so desensitized to the privilege of driving that I forgot about how much joy it can bring. Predominant motorway driving and a daily driver with more torque than it needs all played a part in this desensitization – set destination, aim, cruise control, arrive, return home.
The GT86 however has reignited something inside me that I thought was gone forever. Toyota and Subaru have gone and created an affordable sports car in a world where driver experience is usually last on manufacturer’s priority list. Instead of a considerate CO2 number, they’ve given us BHP & LSD. Instead of lane assist and parking sensors, they’ve handed us a balanced FR chassis and shown us the road. It has awoken that thirst inside for the type of excitement that only driving can deliver. We truly drive, only when we have nowhere to go.
Sure it’s far from perfect but as my ol’ friends the Rolling Stones would say …
You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need.
I replaced my Porsche 911 for BMW 530dA and Mini Cooper S. I needed something to commute and something to have a little fun. I have a little regret on the decision I had to make.
I think you've found a good balance there, something I'm aiming for over the next year or two. I have my 320D & hoping to pick up a fun side-project. Best of both worlds!
Finally had time to give this a read Paddy, seems like you've enjoyed yourself thoroughly! Time to get back to the open road more often my friend ;)
I remember last Saturday, after reading this, got into my basic Ford Fiesta and drove into the mountains up in Brecon. On a weekday it would have been an hour long drive to work. Can honestly say it reminded me about the fun in driving, find a road and just drive it like you said. Really enjoyable. Would have been better in a GT86 though!
Great article. I get very little time to go out for a drive/ride these days and it's a shame.
I spent some time in Dublin and enjoyed going for a brisk drive over the Wicklow Mountains in my rented 1.4l Ford Focus. Like you say, the roads were incredibly bumpy in places.
I'm interested in trying one of those GT86s.
Thats one of my favourite GT86 reviews, top class photography too. As someone lucky enough to have my grubby mits on one of these i can't agree more. Just for so people know here in Ireland a 370z costs nearly $80000, the GT costs $50000. Cars ain't cheap in this part of the world :(
greenstate knifey_spoonie He's dead right - at today's exchange rate the GT86 stands at USD$53,909 in Ireland ...
PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie I believe car prices are worst in my country... It's sold at RM243k in Malaysia which equates to USD79.6k..
NicholasChoo PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie You guys have it good. In Singapore, which is Malaysia's neighbor, the 86 is selling at S$185,988, exchanged to be at least USD150,000.
NicholasChoo PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie We don't even have the GT here in Brazil... Here an 2012 Impreza WRX costs about R$250,000 (USD125,000) and a FD3S costs basicaly the same (we have VERY few JDM here).
PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie In Norway, it STARTS at around 50 000 GBP........... One of the richest countries in the world.
PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie $70.000 here in indonesia due the goverment tax..it code ft86 not gt86 i dont know the different
willyra PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie Germany: 29.900€ ~38.000$. Quite reasonable in fact ...
maxproof willyra greenstate knifey_spoonie Just goes to show, there's always someone else worse off. Although our Malaysian & Brazilian friends are definitely getting the shorter end of the stick. Anyone from Denmark reading? From what I remember, they're pretty hard done by too.
maxproof willyra PaddyMcGrathSH greenstate knifey_spoonie
$33,500 here in the Land Down Under (Australia) and with our dollar being close to parity with the US, I feel sorry for you lads unable to jump into this car...
awesome write up paddy!! loved it! makes me wanna go for a little drive to no where!
and these shots deserve to be in the brochure.
haha i made it even better...sorta!
I love the philosophical nature of this article, and nice reference to 1984 Paddy! :P It kind of creeped me out to be honest, though.
Great article! It's sad how easily we can get sucked into our usual commute and forget to spend time just driving. I've found myself grabbing the keys to my Mercedes E class more often than my MR2 in recent months, and that's just no good at all. I can't wait to ditch the Merc and pick up a BRZ next spring!
The 370Z will outperform it, the porsche boxster will smash it in the corners, the Hyundai genesis will kill it like bil in a straight line.
Subaru should have put the STI engine in it, but it may take away sales from the sti.
rbliberty08The 370Z sounds like a truck, the Boxster costs 3x as much, and the Genesis is an unrefined piece of $#!t. Next, please!
Have you driven any of those vehicles? I haven't, but on paper, those vehicles are better track vehicles. One of the brz rival is the Mazda miata, On paper the miata winas..... in real world driving, I am sure the miata will win
rbliberty08 Where I live, a 370Z is not only more expensive to purchase but it's also twice as expensive to tax each year. There is nothing that comes close to the GT86 / BRZ here as far as new cars go, and trust me I have checked!
PaddyMcGrathSH rbliberty08 As someone who traded in my '08 miata 2.0 for the GT86,, i can tell u, the GT86 outperforms the miata in every aspect. Way better handling, more power and better build quality by such a great leap they dont even compare.
As u say, the 370z may outperform it in power (and weight, chubbiness and so on), Boxster MAY smash it in the corners (and on the payment every month) and the genesis may have more power. But name me one that can outperform it, in power, handling and price, and i MIGHT be interested in trading u my GT86.
PaddyMcGrathSH lol...Thanks a lot Paddy, but I would sell the BRZ for a Genesis.....Or get a pre-owned 370Z.....
The BRZ deservedly is a great sports car in its class, The brz is the corolla GTS of the 80's
Amazing write up. Couldn't agree more, that's exactly what the GT86 is to drive like! Sadly only could experience on well built german roads, still great what you did there!
rbliberty08 It could benefit from more power, yes, but only in the same respect as a 360 spider might benefit from more power. Or the focus 1.4L. Or any other car on the planet. But having more power would also put it in a wholly different price bracket, and would destroy what makes it such a great drivers car. And trust me, the engineers didnt decide on 200bhp with a dice throw. The car is setup to use the power it has PERFECTLY. Putting Prius tires on it is not a £ choice, but an engineers choice, to make the back end more lively, so u dont NEED more power to make it fun to drive. That said, with those prius tires, it still goes about 30% faster up the off ramps from the highway, that my '08 Miata did, and is still way more poised and communicative than the Miata ever was.
rbliberty08 Interesting to hear that. I drive a 97' Miata and it's so far been one of the most communicating and rewarding cars i've ever driven (and i've driven Porsches, old and new Benzes, etc). The '06/'08 NC Miata is a totally different kind of car. I had one for 3 days and didn't enjoy it at all compared to my old one. I'm very much looking forward to fest driving the 86 next week. Does it feel analogue enough?? Everytime i step into a modern car i feel completely disconnected from the mechanics. Electronic gas pedal .. the steering. It mostly doesn't feel right. Would you say it's different to that? I very much hope so ...
maxproof I think you'll probably be amazed how raw the car is for a brand new production car. Be sure to let us know what you think!
Uncertain if I'm more affected by the images or the words.
So true, my friend.
In fact, each exemplifies the impact of the other.
Awesome post :) thanks
Saw the reaction to this post on Instagram, and waited till I hot home from work to give it a read and I'm glad I did. As an owner of one of these (FR-S), you nailed it! Beautiful writing and pictures! And to top it off, I have some old Top Gear playing on the TV in the background and Ronnie Wood just took the stage as I read the quote at the end....I'm a big Stones fan to boot! Thank you!
What an awesome article and cool pics. i definatly have to get out more and just drive sun out, windows down, music cranked sounds perfect to me!!!! (nz summer btw)
AMEN I think the same things my in first gen rx7. When i am by myself on a curvy road it is amazing. it is easy to get frustrated commuting every day with low hp. But a lightweight rwd and a great road is awesome.
Working for toyota im lucky enough to have one of these whenever the feelings for said moments arise :D
ive been on my computer studying for the past 5 hours for a college comp test, stopped for a little, read this article, and now im gonna skip the test and go take my 95 eclipse around the lake. thank you.