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Toyota’s GR86 Premium – GAZOOT SUIT

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Toyota’s GR86 Premium – GAZOOT SUIT

Toyota’s GR86 Premium


As an old(er) guy, I’m comfortably past that period in the aging process known as the midlife crisis…mine began as I turned 30 – and ran to roughly 60. And rather than muddying the marital waters with a girlfriend (as if…) I muddied them with motorcycles, until the Loving Wife offered this: Dump the bike and buy a Porsche. The result of that brief (and pointed) negotiation was a pre-owned 911, which was very much a Porsche, but not much of a motorcycle substitute. The used 911 was replaced in ’21 by a new Miata, and while that is closer to the open-air vibe offered by the bike, it’s not much when the two of us – me and THE WIFE – want to run an errand. The sweet spot may be the 2+2 accommodation provided by Toyota’s GR86 (‘GR’ is GAZOO RACING), a right-sized treat at an accessible – under $35K – price point. 

At its launch in 2013 (in partnership with Subaru and its BRZ) what we now know as the GR86 was a revelation; the build rate for affordable sports cars was – at that point – Mazda’s Miata and, if fading memory serves, only the Miata. The British and Italians had abandoned the category, and while the hot hatch remained, the 4-door hatch really isn’t a substitute for the connection between you, the road and the elements created by a sports car or sports/GT. You, of course, don’t simply sit in a proper sports car; you strap it on.  

The GR86, now in its second iteration, is about as elemental as a 2+2 coupe will get. Sitting on a wheelbase of 101.4 inches, stretching 168 inches and weighing just under 2,900 pounds, the Toyota coupe is tiny compared with anything other than that Miata. And from my 70+ perspective (and two back surgeries) its 52 inch height is low, although somewhat ameliorated by a wide door opening. Ostensibly that width is to enable access to the +2 seating, but to actually sit back there you need to be under 10 – while the driver and front seat passenger should be well under 5’10”. And no food back there; kiddos, it won’t fit! But it is handy for ‘stuff’ that, in a Miata, would be relegated to the trunk. The small trunk.

On your drive, in the lot or on the road, there’s a lot to like about the GR86’s visual presence. Since the first iteration the 2+2 has had a stylish vibe, but with the gentle mods given this 2nd-gen that presence is amplified, and – at least visually – it doesn’t scream for an aftermarket wheel and tire installation. And this: In our test car’s Trueno Blue the GR86 looks far more upmarket than its $35K window sticker suggests. 

Within that mid-$30s price point are 18-inch alloy wheels, a Torsen limited slip differential and a $1500 Performance Package, giving you Sachs dampers and Brembo brakes. 

All this goodness is propelled by Toyota’s 2.4 liter normally aspirated flat four, which is Subaru’s significant contribution to the product. Normally aspirated, and producing 228 horsepower at a hair-raising (if, of course, you still have hair…) 7,000 rpm, this boot-scootin’ boogie gets you from 0-60 – according to Car and Driver – in just 5.5 seconds. And while it remains a tad agricultural in its aural symphony (Hee Haw?), it’s more refined than the 2.0 liter boxer it replaces. Of course, a turbo and 300 horses would be nice, but not really necessary. If you want to go to jail behind the wheel of a GR86 you can go to jail.

If I were on the Toyota/Subaru product team, I’d beef up the wheel/tire combo (everyone with $2,500 after purchasing the GR86/BR-Z does), and budget another $500 for the interior. The digital dash looks as if it was spec’d by Radio Shack, and the plastics – in both look and feel – are decidedly Economy class. They obviously spent money on the seating (Ultrasuede, with leather bolsters), but a base Corolla supplies a better visual.

In an automotive landscape populated – for the most part – by trucks, SUVs and crossovers, the sports car is often overlooked, even by those singles, couples and empty-nesters that are the perfect prospects for its purchase. If you still have a commute (and still need a car), there are few better things to awaken the senses than a good drive in a responsive automobile. The GR86’s steering is spot-on, the brakes are immediate, and its reflexes are quicker than a Robin Williams ad lib. 

If you’ve not had to spend $50K (and up) for that sense of urgency, you’re that much further ahead in what I laughingly call financial planning. 

For your personalized plate, see if ‘401K’ is still available – or GAZOO U.

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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