Are you thinking of driving a two-door coupe that costs less than $35 large? There aren’t too many options out there anymore, where there once were many choices for those that enjoy the confines of a two-person or a 2-plus-2 environment. The Toyota 86 is one of those few.
Toyota’s affiliation with Subaru in producing the 86 coupe – it’s a BRZ in Subie-land – has yielded a rear-wheel-drive coupe that performs exceptionally well, handles like a dream, stops on a dime and costs less than $30,000.
For an annual trip to the NHRA’s biggest race in Indianapolis, the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Toyota equipped us with a 2019 86 GT coupe in Oceanic blue with black suede-like interior. Very business-like, with that very deep and luscious color showing this coupe’s purpose. The 86’s deep snout and front vortex generators allows air inside the engine compartment; its rear end with a small rear wing and nearly hidden dual pipes at the lower diffusers accentuate the purposeful stance of this car.
The Toyota 86 in either base, GT or TRD Special Edition is equipped with the Subaru’s horizontally opposed (boxer) engine, making 205 horsepower 7,000 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 6,400 using both direct and port injection. Redline comes on at 7,400 rpm. This 86 GT coupe is equipped with a short-throw, close-ratio six-speed manual transmission that enhances the sportiness of the vehicle, is easy shiftable and has wonderful gearing for both sporting and over-the-road driving.
The 86’s sport-tuned suspension is through MacPherson struts at the front and double wishbones to the rear; sport-calibrated electric power rack and pinion steering is direct and precise. Ventilated power-assisted disc brakes are immediate and never fade. Toyota fits Michelin 245/45R 17-inch tires on 10-spoke black and polished rims. The entire package works so well, from chassis to engine to transmission to suspension to the lithe 2776 pounds of overall weight.
While in the Indianapolis area, we stay in the woods with friends. This requires driving approximately half a mile on dirt and stone roads to reach or depart our destination so we were delicate with the 86 GT in that regard. But getting to and from the house on Indiana’s winding back roads was a special treat each day, thanks to the sublime running gear and the supportive, hard sport seats.
So enough gushing about that – for now. What about the interior, the comfort, the goodies, you ask? This 2019 Toyota 86 GT was blessed with zero options, other than freight fees, bringing it to market at $29,505. It also lacks the light dip for signals, any driver assists to speak of, but it does have an intrusive rearview camera in the interior mirror.
The only current tech on this 2019 Toyota 86 GT is the keyless entry, one-touch (dipping on entry/exit) windows, pushbutton start, seat heaters, dual climate control and automatic lights. Lacking both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, it’s necessary to plug one’s phone into the provided USB or aux plug at the base of the central stack to get a proper jukebox. Syncing the phone is near immediate and Aha is available through the app quadrant located in the Pioneer central, 7-inch touchscreen.
Call it a tretromobile if you like, but the running gear is what makes this Toyota such a winner. The suede-like sport seats hold both driver and passenger in place readily, while similar materials about the cabin are rich in texture and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Drilled, rubber-tipped pedals keep the driver’s feet firmly planted and Toyota’s traditional cruise control stalk is fitted (and works just fine).
The leather-wrapped steering wheel sports an “86” emblem at its horn area while the left side supports audio operation and the right has vehicle and trip information that can be scrolled through. All controls are easy to access and understandable and, while there is no covered storage (including the hatch area), the Toyota 86 GT is not an easy car to rip off. Privacy glass at the rear certainly helps in that regard.
For all its fun factor, the 2019 Toyota 86 GT is quite economic, easily surpassing its federal fuel economy numbers of 21/28/24-mpg from the 13.2-gallon tank. Premium fuel is required – and used for this nearly 1,000-mile trip – yielding a low reading of 29mpg and showing 36mpg in steady cruise-controlled driving.
The rear seats on this coupe are an after-thought and while comfortable, aren’t easily accessible. The hatch area, as well, is tiny at 6.9 cubic feet, but still managed to hold the 22-inch carry-on suitcase, large backpack and plenty of gifts for our hosts – we always show up with gifts.
We reviewed the Toyota 86 in 2018 when we drove an automatic transmission-equipped example. The manual transmission makes a huge difference in driving pleasure, enunciating the excellent handling of the car and its direct steering. When driving a three-pedal car, it’s easier to pay attention to what you’re doing behind the wheel and that’s one thing about the 86 that keeps it interesting.
The 2019 Toyota 86 GT offers one of the most pure driving experiences with its superb body control, its python-quick reflexes and steering that feels connected to the driver’s hands. There’s sufficient power to complement the insanely wonderful chassis. In other words, this is a complete, driver’s machine. If a buyer is looking for a complementary vehicle and doesn’t need the more readily available large crossover vehicles that have taken hold of the market, try the 86. It’s retro in a wonderful way.
By Anne Proffit