Toyota 86. Fresh recruit. The Management Fleet

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Well it’s happened. I’ve fallen so hard for the little Toyota 86 that I’ve gone and splashed around $26,000 of my own hard-earned money on one. Madness? Perhaps. But there is no way that I can call myself a petrolhead and not have some real world experience of a car that is attempting to tilt the axis of what a sports car should deliver.

After a quick family fleet juggle, the wife’s Ford Flex was stuck on the market and sold instantly (an utter shock) while my Golf GTI was shifted over to school run duties, paving the way for the 86 to enter the fresh empty spot on the driveway. After a couple of phone calls, emails and two months patiently waiting, the day arrived. The hand over process was a bit frustrating and disjointed, but three weeks later, we already have over 1000km on the clock and the modification bug is already biting.

It had been but 18hrs before the call from Jon Simmonds at MSW (Motorsport Wheels) came in offering a stunning stainless steel Miltek exhaust system to make the boxer motor sing that little bit more. Not only does the 86 now sound superb, the apertures in the rear diffuser are now busting with a pair of shiney tips.

The Toyota 86 is a properly dinky machine compared to the humdrum vehicles parked beside it in the evo car park. Yet it’s a very tight and nicely proportioned car. It has some of the most comfortable and supportive seats I’ve experienced in a while and I love some of the simple touches. The shape of the headrests for instance have been designed with a helmet-wearing driver in mind.

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Having hopped out of a 2012 Volkswagen Golf GTI I can’t honestly tell you the quality is quite the same, but the Toyota is nicely bolted together, with soft touch plastics and leather in all the primary touch areas. Ergonomically it’s utterly superb, with the steering wheel, gear stick and pedals in exactly the right places, allowing you to get on with the actual driving.

The one aspect I was worried about was the 2.0-litre, Subaru-designed boxer engine with a not so mighty 197bhp to power the rear wheels. I’ve been enduring the pain of a run-in process, which means the 86 has not felt as capable or zippy as I initially wanted. Mind you, as the 1000km have been knocked off, that peaky delivery is becoming endearing. You have to work at this car and working is what I’m more than happy to do.

This isn’t to say the engine is gutless, but driving the 86 means you have to think about the process, work for the performance and ensure you’re in the right gear at the right time. Be prepared to keep the revs high to really get going. There’s no rolling onto the gas in fourth or fifth and expecting a nice wave of torque. If you do, you’ll find yourself frustrated at the lack of any meaningful pull. Use that lovely gearshift though, stir the cogs and the car begins to show what it’s truly all about.

You can’t just hook it in, stomp on the accelerator and expect the reserves of torque to be there to give you big lairy drifts. Get it wrong and you’ll find yourself rushing to find the cogs. Get it right though, use that admittedly small power band in the top 3000rpms, and the car really comes to you.

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Every evening as I pack up after yet another long day, I look forward to my preferred hack home. The 86 is light on its feet, fantastically accurate and beautifully balanced. The front end is something special and with the delicate steering the rear end wants to play like a yapping dog. I find myself carving beautiful lines, feeling the intensity of the drive and then noticing I’m being over taken by a taxi. Who cares though? I’m having a ball and the 86 is delivering exactly what I wanted. Fun.

It’s certainly not a power oversteer kinda car. Without that reserve of horsepower, tail-out activities require the clever use of weight. Get the car moving around, use the weight transfer and balance it all on the superb throttle pedal and you’ll soon be happily sideways. However, the 86 is a car that you need to study, and without that patience needed to understand it, you’ll be parking up, hopping out and looking back at it confused.

The next few months will tell a story of a car that has, in my mind, nailed a niche that needed filling. It has rejigged my belief in modern cars. Yes it’s slow, and yes it’s built to a cost. But is there a car on sale that excites me more and thrills me this much on a mundane daily commute? Nope.

Toyota 86
Engine: 1998cc / BOXER 4 Cylinder / Natural Aspiration
Power: 197bhp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 151lb ft @6400-6600
Transmission: Six-speed manual / rear-wheel drive
Front suspension: MacPherson strut / coil springs
Rear suspension: Double wishbone
Brakes: Ventilated discs / ABS
Wheels: 16in front and rear
Tyres: 205/55 R16 front and rear
Weight (kerb) 1254kg
Power-to-weight: 157bhp/ton
0-100kph: 7.6sec
Top speed: 226kph
Basic price: $25,860

Categories: Fast Fleet


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