Sexier styling, smarter interior design and even better handling make the 2017 Toyota 86 GTS one tantilising sports car
When the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ twins burst on to the scene in 2012, they took the market by storm with their Boxer engine rear drive layout, almost perfect balance and relatively affordable price tag.
There were drawbacks – many argued that they weren’t powerful enough, and when we tested the Toyota 86 GTS back in 2015, we thought that the use of Prius eco tyres made the handling unpredictable in the wet, the lack of steering wheel controls frustrating and the engine noise through the speakers was gimmicky.
The handling (in the dry) was fun, though.
Toyota has given the 86 range a mild facelift for 2017, with new bumpers, wheels, more 4kW and 9Nm more for manual versions, a new steering wheel with audio controls (amen) and revised shock absorber and spring rates.
There are still two models in the 2017 Toyota 86 range: the base GT and the GTS as tested here. All models are powered by a 2.0 litre petrol boxer engine, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
As aforementioned, manual models are slightly more powerful, developing 152kW @ 7000rpm and 212Nm @ 6400-6800rpm versus the automatic’s 147kW @ 7000rpm and 205Nm @ 6400-6600rpm. Prices start at $30,790 for the GT manual and climb to $38,790 for the 2017 Toyota 86 GTS automatic as tested here.
So, where to start with the new changes. Well, the 2017 Toyota 86 is a sports car, so we should probably start with the handling. In one word, it can be best described as excellent. It feels more balanced and less tail happy than the old model, and the steering feel is just sublime. It’s a little on the heavy side, but it’s just so communicative. So much so, it feels like it can almost tell you what sort of stone they used to make the asphalt.
The rest of the setup is just as good, 57/43 weight distribution front and rear and the suspension set up allows the car to hunker down through corners, while the (electronically) vocal Boxer four pulls the car out.
There are a number of driving modes too: with Sport, Track and Winter, each altering the car’s drive systems accordingly. We only had the opportunity to test the car’s Sport mode, which lengthens the car’s gear shifts allowing the Boxer four to rev more freely and the car to accelerate more quickly.
This drive mode certainly does what it says on the button – makes things sportier – but we only recommend using it while swapping gears manually with the steering wheel mounted paddles. Leave the gearbox in automatic and Sport and you’ll find that shifts can be too long and can become quite harsh.
So what about the rest of the package? Well, the wheels and body kit give the 2017 Toyota 86 GTS a hell of a lot more visual bite, and allows for more differentiation between the GTS and the base GT, something that was lacking in the previous models.
A reversing camera is standard, however parking sensors are still nowhere to be seen, a little disappointing on a car that is over $40k once you pay on road costs.
Inside, there’s a new retro-inspired steering wheel with controls for the audio and Bluetooth handsfree systems, a hugely welcome addition over the 2016 version, which had a button-free tiller and forced the driver to take their hands off the wheel to use the cheap looking and fiddly head unit.
Another key change is the new instrument cluster, which incorporates a colour digital display that projects lap time information and g-forces. Perfect if you plan on using your 86 as a weekend track weapon.
The annoying head unit remains in the 2017 Toyota 86 GTS, but the new steering wheel takes the sting out of interactions.
The 2017 Toyota 86 GTS cabin has also been swathed with a new synthetic-alcantara, it might sound trivial on paper, but the facelift really gives the GTS’ cockpit a true premium feel.
Finer handling, a bit of a nip tuck and a better interior make the 2017 Toyota 86 GTS better than ever. We’d have one.