2017 Toyota 86 ‘Round the Block Review
Intro: The death of Scion brand gave Toyota the opportunity to align their affordable sports car with the company’s heritage and highlight changes it has undergone that make it better at fulfilling its niche mission.
Likes: The 86 name pays homage to the rear wheel drive, 5th-gen Corolla AE86, which became a popular drift machine in the 90s and early 21st century. And sure enough, this Toyota has one of the most biddable, fun chassis of any car you can get under $30,000. It is reactive, interactive and a basically just a big ball of fun to fling around. Multiple stability control modes mean you can have a hoot in it whatever your skill level. With everything turned off it is neutral and balanced and slides with abandon—and at low enough speeds to perhaps even keep one from loosing their license. I drove it home after a day at the track in a car with almost three times its 205hp, and still found it a complete hoot. The 86’s steering is very accurate and even communicates some road texture and grip levels. Revised seats hold one in better, and upgrades to interior materials make it feel more like a premium product. The low center of gravity, well controlled body motions, decent ride and good amount of trunk and cockpit storage make it daily drivable. The manual transmission is also excellent, with well-defined shift gating, a satisfying action, good pedal placement and well-judged clutch weighting.
Dislikes: The engine, despite revisions that liberate those extra ponies, is still harsh at higher revolutions, which is where you need to spend your time if you are to properly exploit the 86’s brilliant chassis or even make decently rapid forward progress. Torque is light at 156lb-ft, and only arrives at 4,600 RPM. A shorter final drive makes the Toyota feel sprightlier than the Scion did, but in our turbocharged age—and Colorado’s thin air, where the torque is more like 129lb-ft—this 2,800lb machine doesn’t feel as fast as its low 6-second 0-60mph performance say it really is. The infotainment interface is antiquated and doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto. While these aren’t important to me, it seems an odd choice with the target demo being savvy enthusiasts who fall into the Millennial age group.
Summary: That this focused a Toyota sports car exists at all in our crossover-crazy age is a cause for celebration. Its honed dynamics are a true joy, and the revisions for the 86 make it handle even better and hide some of the engine’s inadequacies. For someone looking for a rewarding, robust daily driver that will also teach proper driving technique and be good at autocross and even track days, it is highly recommended. Its only real rival is the Mazda ND-series MX-5 Miata, which is lighter and quicker but less practical.
EPA ratings: 21/28mpg; 24mpg combined
Price as tested: $27,120
Here is what Toyota says about it.(4 / 5)
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