The new Toyota GR86 sports car won’t be a sensation. That’s what its predecessor, the GT86, was back in 2012 – critically, at least, if not commercially. The GT86 came out of nowhere and reset something in performance motordom. It wasn’t just about “Toyota getting its mojo back”, and setting up to make great driver’s car again.
Suddenly we were all jabbering on about accessibility and fun mattering more than outright power and 0-60mph times. Why “less is more” when it comes to grip, and why wringing the neck of a naturally aspirated engine that revs beyond 7000- has to be better than surfing a wave of torque in a some DSG-equipped turbocharged, front-driven coupe, and going very quickly without really knowing why.
Well, it still is, folks. All we know now, based on how lukewarm the UK sales fortunes of the GT86 were, is how reluctant so many are to believe it.
The GT86 was our Britain’s Best Driver’s Car champion of 2012. Back then there wasn’t an affordable version of that title to win; we hadn’t come up with the idea yet. The Toyota scooped our main ‘BBDC’ ‘Handling Day’ gong, beating a Porsche Cayman R, a Mercedes-AMG C63 Black Series and a Aston Martin Vanquish. We loved it.
That test was one of the last we conducted at Bedford Autodrome. I remember vividly being sat alongside longtime friend, colleague and drift instructor Mauro Calo as he egged me on to back the little Toyota into every successive 2nd and 3rd gear corner on the pint-sized East Circuit. The GT86 just loved being chucked almost mindlessly into tight corners on a trailing throttle, sliding gamely to attitudes you’d then ride out with power for all the boxer engine’s torque was worth. We spent lap after lap wetting ourselves, but I don’t think we spun once. That’s how good the car’s natural poise and chassis balance, and the yaw damping of a chassis with such low-set major masses, were.
Well, the new GR86 is even better. It’s a car that clearly needs some championing; so here’s to it.