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Toyota’s GR86 10th Anniversary – ORANGE CRUSH

Car Reviews

Toyota’s GR86 10th Anniversary – ORANGE CRUSH

Toyota’s GR86 10th Anniversary


It’s been – get this! – 10 years since Toyota gave enthusiasts – via its since-discontinued Scion division – the FR-S, a design and subsequent build done in partnership with Subaru. And if you think that decade went by in roughly a nano-second, join the club. Obama would have been in the first year of his second term, Donald Trump was still (presumably) firing on all cylinders, and a guy with a few bucks could still buy a share or two of Tesla. To Toyota’s credit, despite sporty coupes having incredibly short shelf lives, what began as a Scion and would later be sold as a Toyota has gotten a second gen and, by extension, a second life. And, I’ll happily note, it’s essentially a good life. 

As you’d probably know, the Scion and what is now Toyota’s GR86 was/is designed and built in partnership with Subaru. And while who-did-what has been the subject of endless debate, this we know: The flat four is provided by Subaru, and I’ll bet the willingness to stay in this particular game is driven by Toyota. 

Sports car derivatives built upon more prosaic drivetrains are as old as the industry itself. As we’ve noted, Porsche’s initial foray into producing cars under its own moniker was largely inspired by what its design team had done with VW, and much later Volkswagen’s own Scirocco was built upon the front-wheel drive mechanicals of the new Golf. The GR86 takes the Subaru flat four (now displacing 2.4 liters) and mates it to a rear-wheel drive platform clothed in what could be described as a passive-aggressive envelope; that envelope will seat you, your partner and two very small kids. Think of it as a $30K solution for someone not wanting to spend those same monies on a used 911. 

The new, 2nd-generation GR86 hit the showroom last year, and benefited – in my view – from  expressive bodywork, what looks to be an improved stance and incrementally more power (nearly 11% – from 205 to 228!) and torque. That 184 lb-ft of torque now arrives at a more accessible 3,700 rpm vs. the previous 6,600 rpm. You’ll enjoy those lower revs, as will the guy or gal sitting next to you. 

The on-the-clock improvement is an almost full second drop to 60 (from 7 seconds to 6.1) with the 6-speed manual, and a 1.4 second improvement in the available automatic. Previously it took 8 seconds (which I think a Prius can do, if a Prius was to ever reach 60), while it now takes just 6.6 seconds. Our test GR86 was equipped with the auto, and in an inevitable sign of our aging population, I thought it was fun…while arthritic knees aren’t. 

Beneath that more expressive sheetmetal – and to everyone’s credit, the redesign is not a step backward – is a stiffer structure, which not only benefits the architecture but makes the platform more precise. My wife Tina likens it to a go-kart, which she intends to be a criticism and I regard as high praise. This new one has no awkward moments when entering a turn, making the turn or exiting the corner; it is but one smooth, eminently predictable transition, aided by direct steering and on-a-dime braking. 

In commemorating the 10th anniversary, Toyota’s product team dressed the GR86 in a unique palette, an orange some creative type dubbed Solar Shift. Beyond that, the coupe’s C-pillar gets a black graphic, a duckbill spoiler is integrated into the trunk lid, and forged matte black 18-inch wheels – wrapped in Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4 rubber – come credibly close to filling the wheel wells. This GR86 actually sits almost right, while the 1st-gen FR-S and later 86 sat too high; I would have wanted to dial Tire Rack for more aggressive rubber and lowered suspension even before taking delivery.  

Inside, the buckets hold you firmly in place, but still allow reasonable access and exit. This is a personal environment, but sight lines are generally good, and not only is there a provision for kids and stuff in the rear, but there’s more personal space for the front seat passenger than Mazda gives you in the Miata. Whereas that Miata is more typically viewed as a second or third car, you could make a case for the GR86 serving as the one car for a couple or young family; when you need a RAV4 rent a RAV4. 

That one-car philosophy is punctured only by the hellacious noise made by the Anniversary’s cat-back exhaust and, I’m guessing here, the harmonics created by the 2.4 liter powerplant. It was two years ago that we were beaten up in a two hour road trip to Palm Desert, CA with the last iteration of the 86, and in considering a three hour drive to San Diego with this one I considered it for a minute, while my wife didn’t consider it for a second; the GR86 is entirely too raucous – a Rushin’ Drone – for what are now our admittedly more mature sensibilities. While recognizing that the GR86 is spec’d as a sports car, our ’14 Crosstrek could be driven over long distances, and I’m not sure why the GR86 is so compromised. It should make a great package for a long weekend of driving, but that won’t work with a cat-back exhaust and tractor-like vibes. 

At the end of the day I’d probably take the $35K Toyota wants for the 10th anniversary and budget $30K for the base GR86, and another $5K for suspension upgrades and better tires. Or spend that same money on a gently used RC 350 F SPORT. You know, something I could grow old in – beyond San Diego.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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