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Toyota GT86 2012 Road Test

The GT86 is the most eagerly anticipated sports car since the Mazda MX-5.

With it Toyota is back to building cars for enthusiasts, something it has been very good indeed at in the past.

The GT86 2+2 is a collaboration between Toyota and Subaru (which Toyota partially owns) mixing Subaru’s flat four engine technology with Toyota direct injection and rear drive chassis development.

The result is one of the lowest sportscars you can buy, with seats 7mm closer to the ground than a Porsche Cayman’s and a 459mm centre of gravity. You feel this the first time you get in. It’s like sitting in a go-kart.

'86' refers to both the 86mm bore and 86mm stroke, identical to the bore and stroke of the last 1.8 litre Celica and MR2. But this 12.5:1 compression, chain-cam, 16-valve, flat-four engine pumps out 200PS at 7,000rpm and 205Nm torque from 6,400-6,600rpm, so needs to be revved to give its best. A tachometer shift light indicates optimum upshift points, while soft rev limiter cuts in at 7,400rpm to prevent over-revving.

There are two transmission options. A short throw 6-speed manual and a 6-speed automatic with paddleshifts and what is claimed to be the quickest shifts of any torque converter auto. While performance of the auto is slightly down on the manual, fuel economy is better and CO2 lower, while only two pedals means that some drivers could be quicker on a circuit than those having to clutch as well as brake.

Legislation in some countries is increasingly restricting ‘drive by’ noise so Toyota has found a way to introduce engine noise to the cabin instead. This has a strange metallic edge at high revs, almost as one of the valves has too much clearance. But you get used to it and accept it as normal. It’s a sports car, after all. Part of the fun of hard acceleration is hearing the engine note.

Even never having driven the car before you feel instantly confident. The steering is very precise giving just the tiniest amount of understeer so you can aim at apexes without actually hitting them. Far from being the leery oversteerer you expect it to be from Chis Harris drifting video, the back end is generally tidy. With VSC and traction control off you can get it to kick out a bit, but it certainly doesn’t get you into trouble if you don’t want it to and when you do get the back end out it’s very easy to control.

On the track on road tyres the handling characteristics are obviously exaggerated, but you soon find out how much understeer you will have to deal with at each corner and what to do to get the quickest line through it.

The pedal set is very nicely laid out for heel and toeing, necessary for a 2nd gear corner on the track. And that was the easiest place to get the back out and waste some tyre rubber.

Off the track it’s docile in traffic, but if you want it to sprint you do have to remember to change down a couple of cogs. And while it’s nominally a four seater, it’s no VW Scirocco or RenaulSport Megane 265. There really isn’t much legroom in the back. The best thing to do with that back seat is fold it down, when it lines up with the boot deck to make a completely flat floor. There’s so much space that people could even contemplate going on a month long camping tour in it.

At just 1,238kg, Toyota has kept the GT86 light, yet it’s decently equipped and the price is exceptionally low compared with competitors such as the RenaultSport Megane 265, Audi TTVW Scirocco R and the much dearer Porsche Cayman.

Reckon on some very long queues at Toyota dealers.

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