Toyota GT 86 review

* All-new coupe driven * On sale June 2012 * Price from around 25,000...

01 December 2011

Toyota GT 86 review

What is it? A two-door coupe co-developed by Toyota and Subaru which will go on sale in the UK next summer. The Subaru version is called BRZ.

Avoiding the modern trend for front-wheel drive coupes powered by turbocharged engines on the grounds that this makes cars boring, Toyota and Subaru have opted instead for a traditional front-engined, rear-wheel-drive solution, powered by a new 2.0-litre flat-four engine.

The GT 86 (pronounced eight six) develops 197bhp, which is enough to blast it to a top speed of 145mph, with the first 60mph completed in around 7 seconds.

Whats it like to drive? For once inspirational is not too strong a word. The GT 86 is not about how fast you go its on-paper performance is merely average but rather how you go fast.

Compared with the sometimes aurally dull turbocharged cars that pepper this class, the off-beat thrum of the flat-four engine provides a welcome change for the better.

However, the engine performs a supporting role to a chassis of a quality thats rare at any price. It provides a level of driver interaction unknown in its class, courtesy of beautifully linear steering and a poise and balance thatll get you back in the habit of driving not because you have to, but because you want to.

Whats it like inside? Cars will come to the UK in one spec only. A disappointing automatic gearbox (a six-speed manual comes as standard) will be the only option. Toyota has not yet finalised the specification, but says it will be fully loaded, with equipment including leather seats and satellite-navigation.

Sadly, no number of goodies will stop you spotting that the GT 86s interior is sparse.

The low slung driving position is fundamentally sound, despite a steering wheel that's fractionally offset towards the middle of the car, but if youre looking for an interior with the sense of occasion of an Audi TT, youve definitely come to the wrong place.

Storage space is minimal, while the back seats should be regarded as additional luggage space, rather than habitation fit for a human being.

Should I buy one? If you are in the market for a 25,000 coupe and love driving, get your name down now, for it seems likely that at least in the early days demand for the GT 86 will far outstrip supply.

If, however, you're more interested in style than substance, its probably not for you: the engine is quite noisy and the ride on British roads is likely to be uncompromising.

What is beyond doubt is that, when it arrives next summer, it will send a huge blast of fresh air through this class. The last time an affordable Japanese sports car felt this right, Mazda called it the MX-5.

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What Car? says

Andrew Frankel