Sometimes a car just feels right. That was the case with a four-day drive in Toyota’s 2019 86 GT, a splendid Ablaze red example of sports coupe goodness in most every way. With NHRA’s California Hot Rod Reunion (CHRR) scheduled at the Famoso dragstrip northeast of Bakersfield, an alternative vehicle was necessary for the climb through the Los Angeles National Forest.
Toyota obliged with this lovely red coupe, one that felt familiar from the moment we met. The 2019 Toyota 86 GT is the middle model of three: a standard 86, this one and a TRD Special Edition. All three have a 2-liter boxer (horizontally opposed) four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. This machine puts out 205 horsepower at 7,000 rpm together with 156 lb-ft of torque between 6,400-6,600 rpm. Redline occurs at a heady 7,500 rpm.
This happy engine is available with either a six-speed manual transmission or a paddle-shiftable six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with sequential shift mode and dynamic rev management. The latter transmission is fit to the car driven that had less than 800 miles on the odometer at pick-up. While this driver always prefers three pedals, this Toyota gearbox was way fun and definitely easier on the body in rabid Los Angeles traffic.
With sport-tuned fully independent suspension encompassing MacPherson struts accompanied by tower bars and multi-links with reinforced mounting brackets, this chassis is firm but not jarring on unrefined roads around the Southland. There are solid front and rear stabilizer bars. The well-calibrated electric rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering has a delightful 2.48 turns lock to lock; fully ventilated disc brakes all around handily stop this 2776-pound car. Toyota fits Bridgestone Turanza P215/45R gumballs on twinned five-spoke 17-inch matte and polished alloy rims. They’re just right for this car.
Galavanting on back roads in this front-wheel-drive coupe, which has four-star front crash ratings for both driver and passenger and five-star rollover ratings, is absolutely delightful. It sticks to the road yet lacks the kind of sports car firmness that is a turnoff for those that don’t buy a car for track days. The comfort of its firm, manually-adjusted leather seats with their sueded inserts can’t be overstated. This is a sports coupe; it feels and acts like one.
Thanks to this Toyota, I have developed a great affection for Bluetooth wireless technology that allows Apple CarPlay system to work without wires. The Pioneer sound is delightful and the 7-inch touchscreen display does show whatever option the driver or passenger chooses for infotainment; the rearview camera on this car is in the rearview mirror. The Toyota 86 GT’s leather-wrapped steering wheel allows the driver to access nearly all functions. The left side works audio, while the right handles info including average mpg, mph, water/oil temps and battery functions.
Some of the niceties modern drivers have come to expect are absent here. Toyota wants the driver to be involved with all functions of this car, so forget about auto turn signals that are prevalent just about everywhere else. The windows of this 86 GT coupe have one-touch operation, cruise control has its own stalk, there are drilled pedals and sills and the driver’s information is functional and proper. While there is no temp gauge, that info is available through the steering wheel function; a blue light indicates low temps.
There is a single 12-volt in an uncovered central storage that has removable cup holders (there are holders in both doors). Soft plastics abound on the dashboard of this high-cowled coupe and the matte accents about the cabin continue to remind the owner that this is a sports coupe. There are dual heating, air conditioning, ventilation controls that can be synced as desired. This Toyota does have proximity entry and keyless start/stop.
The 2019 Toyota G86 GT has been rated at 24/32/27 mpg from its 13.2-gallon tank. As this vehicle is quite new, the two tank loads averaged close to 31mph and close to 33 mpg during our nearly 400 miles together. We used premium fuel as suggested. Considering the high revs and happy driving during that period, one can expect higher than average mpg unless the right foot remains planted without lift.
The trunk space is a meager 6.9 cubic feet and there’s a small spare and tools beneath the floor; there is no rear-seat fold, but the rear seatback can be removed for extra cargo space. Still, the trunk allowed for all the gear one needs for a photojournalist’s working overnighter. It holds big bags with two camera bodies and five lenses, one carry-on bag and other detritus. Although the weather was delightfully cool in the morning of our trip the two-position seat-heaters were unnecessary.
I can’t say enough about the powerful looks of the 86 GT, which started life as the Scion FR-S (and Subaru BRZ). Toyota has emboldened the coupe with rear diffusers, front vortex generators, a smart matte black winglet at the trunk opening, excellently-aimed LED lighting for all operations, “86” fender badges, dual chrome-tipped exhaust that sounds delightful and, although it’s not visible to the naked eye, aerodynamic underbody panels. Windows dip upon opening and seal when closed.
A box inside the tachometer gives pertinent info like the fuel gauge, a digital speedometer and let’s the driver know which gear is being used. There are three drive modes: normal, sport and track. Since we weren’t allowed on the Famoso dragstrip, the Toyota 86 GT stayed mostly in normal or sport, either one good for everyday use for both freeway and street use. Track mode was fun on the back roads and leaves the car in gear for quite a bit. At least it doesn’t revert to Drive quickly.
This car has very little infotainment but plenty of entertainment for a willing driver. There were no options on this vehicle so, with $920 freight it maxed out at $30,225. For a driver who wants to feel connected to the road, this 2019 Toyota 86 GT is a worthy warrior. I just wish we’d been able to enjoy it for more than four days.
Words and Photos By Anne Proffit