A Spot-On Automotive Delight
Talk about an identity crisis! This car has only been around for 10–years. Yet after starting out as the Scion FR-S, it had a name change to Toyota 86 and now it’s the GR86! Still, through all the name games, its mission has remained the same: providing big thrills for small bucks. So, let’s see if the new Toyota GR86 keeps the good times coming.
When it comes to small, lightweight, fun-to-drive, affordable sport coupes; your choices today are extremely limited. And when the Scion FR-S arrived for 2013, it was clearly a breath of fresh air into the automotive space. Now known as the 2022 Toyota GR 86, this collaboration with Subaru and their BRZ, begins a second generation. This tidy little coupe took on the 86 badge here when Toyota dissolved the Scion brand in 2016. GR is new, and Toyota fans will recognize it from the Supra, which Gazoo Racing was instrumental in developing.
What changes from last generation? Well, just about everything: better looks, improved handling, upgraded tech, and our favorite, more power. But, is it more fun? To find out, we hit the high-speed turns of Roebling Road Raceway. We love a stripped-down minimalist ride as much as the next track-day enthusiast, but this track can chew up and spit out low horsepower cars. So, if you’re not able to put some serious power down, maintaining momentum through the corners, is the best way to shorten up Roebling’s long straight.
This chassis already boasted a low center of gravity and near perfect weight distribution, but the GR team put new cross members up front, made things sturdier in the rear, and added more high-strength steel to the mix.
We’ve all been wanting more horsepower since the first FR-S arrived, and a bigger engine is the easiest way to make that happen. So, the Subaru-based 4-cylinder pancake goes from 2 to 2.4-liters for the GR86. Number gains are relatively small; from the manual’s max of 205 to 228-horsepower, and 156 to 184 lb-ft. of torque. But, far more important is that peak torque arrives much sooner, which makes a notable difference when coming out of corners.
The look is not all that different than before, but additional aero add-ons and the taller black matrix grille give it a more purposeful look. 17-inch alloy wheels are standard; Premium gets 18s. In back there’s chrome-tipped dual exhaust; and the license plate moves down to the bumper, giving it a more polished look.
Keeping weight down was a priority, so front fenders and roof are now aluminum and, for better or worse, things like the fuel door are made of plastic.
With the 6-speed automatic transmission in our test car, weight is 2,851-lbs.; just 34-lbs. over last year. A 6-speed manual is standard. The suspension has been updated with stiffer springs; while the electric power steering gets both a more rigid mount and firmer bushings.
Even with the automatic, it all translates into a lot of track fun. Would more power and stickier tires lower lap times? Probably. Would that make it any more fun? We doubt it. This GR86 is a real hoot to drive at it limits.
Toyota claims the extra power and meatier midrange is enough to shave more than a second off the 0-60 time, and we found that to be the case. Our sprint to 60 took just 6.3-seconds, which is almost a second and a half quicker than we got in an automatic-equipped BRZ a few years ago.
Power does not drop off nearly as much as before when the automatic is finding the next gear, and the whole ¼-mile experience is much more enjoyable. There’s even a nice little pop from the exhaust that we don’t remember hearing. Our ¼-mile time of 14.6-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour is more than acceptable; and you no longer need to have the “yeah but you should see how it handles” response at the ready when people ask how fast it is.
Inside, there’s the same driver-centric sport coupe feel of before, along with a similar 3-spoke steering wheel; but the console blends into the dash much more smoothly now.
The now-standard 8-inch touchscreen much better integrated, and the entire space feels a little more polished.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 21-City, 31-Highway, and 25-Combined. Pricing remains the best thing the GR86 has going for it: $28,725 to start and $31,325 if you add the Premium package.
It’s great to see that rides like the 2022 Toyota GR86, and the Subaru BRZ, still exist. Cars designed with purists in mind to celebrate the joy of driving, yet are also attainable by a wide fan base. So, no matter what name it goes by, this co-op coupe is a spot-on automotive delight!
Engine: 2.4L 4-cylinder
Torque: 184 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.6 seconds at 97 mph
EPA: 21 City / 31 Highway / 25 Combined