‘Hachi-Roku’ or ‘Eight-Six’, words brought to life and glorified in the form of the Toyota Trueno AE86 and, specifically, in the hands of ‘Drift King’ Keiichi Tsuchiya.
The AE86 of the 1980s matched a lightweight coupe body shell and a high revving, naturally aspirated, 16-valve engine, with rear-wheel drive and a limited-slip differential. The simple recipe has earned the Trueno AE86 a cult-like following and seen it become firmly cemented in car culture the world over.
The AE86 itself was born out of Toyota’s success with the Sports 800 and 2000GT sports cars. In 1963 the Toyota Sports 800 was the first Toyota to feature a front-mounted and horizontally-opposed engine, while the sleek 2000GT coupe of 1967 was the car that established Toyota in the sports car arena.
The all-new Toyota 86 is the latest in Toyota’s sports car bloodline, it’s the spiritual successor and remains true to the lightweight, front-engine, rear-wheel drive formula, while steering clear of modern day driving ‘puffery’; like sat-nav, massaging seats or polyphonic turn signals.
Developed for numerous world markets, in conjunction with the boxer engine diehards at Subaru, the Toyota 86 signals a return to driving fun for the Japanese brand, who’ve had very little to shout about in the way of performance in our local market in recent years. Sure, the 86’s recipe sounds straight-forward, but in a world which has become bloated with ‘stuff’ and obsessed with speed, the 86 is refreshing in that it abhors the former and isn’t too fussed about the later.
Firstly, the Toyota 86 is compact, both in dimensions and weight. Toyota claim it to be the most compact four seat sports car in the world, but frankly, you’d battle to fit a copy of Tsuchiya’s ‘Drift Bible’ DVD between the front and rear seats. Overall weight is 1 239 kilograms, courtesy of attention to weight-saving details like sheet metal on the roof that’s just 0.65 mm thick and an aluminium bonnet.
The styling follows Toyota’s new ‘Under Priority’ design language, characterised by an enlarged lower grille for a more assertive appearance. Toyota have also used High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps and LED lights on the ‘High’ spec models to achieve a ‘Keen Look’ for clear and expressive styling. Incorporated into the styling are aerodynamic efficiencies, like the dented contour on the ‘pagoda’ roof, a smooth underbody and stabilising fins integrated into the rear taillights, all of which smooth airflow, improve downforce and reduce drag to just 0.27 Cd. It’s a design that’s neither too cluttered or numb and doesn’t over promise on the 86’s abilities.
With a bore and stroke of 86 mm, the 2.0-litre, 16-valve, flat-four cylinder engine produces 147 kW at 7 000 r/min and 205 Nm of torque at 6 400 r/min. It’s enough power to get the 1 239 kg car from 0 – 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds and to a top speed of 226 km/h. Yes, hot hatch fans may scoff, but the 86 isn’t for robot-to-robot battles or carrying thousands of Watts worth of sound, it’s for the synergy of man and his machine.
The engine’s flat-four layout allows it to be positioned low to the ground and Toyota engineers designed the oil pan to be as compact as a dry sump. The driver hip-point is 400 mm, the lowest of any Toyota production vehicle, which results in a favourably low centre of gravity of 460 mm. A 53:47 front-to-rear weight bias was engineered for added driving satisfaction, providing the ability to wilfully manipulate the car’s attitude with brake and throttle inputs, despite the car’s moderate levels of power. Similarly, from behind the smallest steering wheel yet fitted to a Toyota (365 mm in diameter), the driver’s instructions are directed to the front wheels via a responsive 13:1 steering ratio.
The 6-speed manual transmission has incredibly short throws between its gates, making it ideal for fast shifts. The pedal box is also positioned dead-ahead and comfortably spread apart, allowing easy heel-toe footwork. It’s a combination that is immediately comfortable, easy and quick to work with. The 6-speed automatic transmission is unlikely to be of interest to many would be 86 owners, but with changes executed in just 0.2 seconds, Toyota are heralding it as the world’s fastest torque-converter. It offers a sequential manual mode, as well as paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, and during the brief number of kilometres I used it on the launch, its snappy shifts, with a little mechanical feedback engineered into the process, were very good.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and double wishbones at the rear. While special attention has been paid to rigidity, with focus on the mounting points and the addition of a front ‘performance rod’ as well as anti-roll bars at both axles, the 86 is set with compliant spring and damping rates, making for a ride that’s more comfortable than the car’s sporty demeanour might suggest.
Paired with similar spec tyres to that of the Toyota Prius, the 86 is designed to allow drivers to get closer to the limits of grip more often. In combination with a ‘sport’ mode setting for the car’s Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system, the 86 can be enjoyed on the limit, at relatively moderate speeds, with an electronic ‘nanny’ to provide a helping hand if required. The result is a car that promises to be more fun, more of the time.
The Toyota 86 is available in three variants, all powered by the same 2.0-litre engine. The ‘Standard’ spec is only available with the 6-speed manual transmission and offers 16-inch alloy wheels, 15-inch brake discs all round, halogen headlights, air conditioning, analog speedometer and cloth seats, to name a few. The ‘High’ spec variant is available in either 6-speed manual or automatic and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, 16-inch front brake discs, HID headlights and LED taillights, dual-zone climate control, analog plus digital speedometer, heated seats in leather/Alcantara combination trim and more. Both models are equipped with the same audio system featuring 6-speakers, AUX and USB input connectivity.
The Toyota 86 is a back to basics sports car, but with all the benefits of modern engineering. In a world where we’ve become so obsessed with ‘more’, being presented with a well executed example of a little ‘less’ is becoming more appealing.
|Price (incl. VAT)|
|Toyota 86 Standard M/T||R298 500|
|Toyota 86 High M/T||R329 400|
|Toyota 86 High A/T||R346 500|
Prices include a 3-year/100 000km warranty, 4-year/60 000km service plan and 24-hour roadside assistance.