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While the definition of a sports car is not a precise one, what is fact is that since the very first automobile made its debut, engineers, designers and creators have constantly been looking for ways to make them go faster, round corners better, and look more beautiful than their bread-and-butter brethren tasked with getting their occupants from A to B.
That said, Wikipedia – that holy grail of knowledge – does a pretty good job of labelling this rarest of vehicular breed, the sports car. It’s defined as a small, usually two-seater (or 2+2), two- door vehicle designed for ‘spirited performance and nimble handling.’ It goes on to say that sports cars may be spartan or luxurious, but high maneuverability and minimum weight are requisite. They may be equipped for racing, aerodynamically shaped, having a low center of gravity and steering and suspension designed for precise control at high speeds.
And isn’t that the perfect description of the Toyota 86?
You see, in creating the 86, Toyota set out to engineer a car that captures the purest pleasures of driving, a sports car in the true sense of the word – one that is simple, focused and, above all, fun. As a distillation of the classic sports car qualities of compact size, agile handling, responsiveness and driver feedback, it has more than fulfilled its promise, gaining the acclaim of critics and enthusiasts alike and achieving more than 170,000 worldwide sales since its launch in 2012.
Inspired by Toyota’s fine sports car heritage and models such as the 2000GT and AE86 Corolla, the 86 has equally taken on the role of a torchbearer for Toyota’s mission to build cars that are genuinely more engaging and rewarding to drive. It’s a direction promoted from the top by Toyota President Akio Toyoda, who declared that “if it’s not fun to drive, it’s not a car”.
Adhering to the classic sports car template in being compact, lightweight, having a low centre of gravity and possessing a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration, the 86 is all that and so much more. The powertrain likewise broke new ground, in adopting a high-revving 2.0-litre, naturally aspirated, horizontally opposed “boxer” four-cylinder engine, produced by Subaru and equipped with Toyota’s D-4S direct fuel injection.
And now unbelievably for 2017, Toyota has sharpened the driving focus of the acclaimed 86 even more with improvements that build on the style, performance, handling and accessibility that have made it the cult car of the 21st century.
A subtle evolution has wrought detail changes to the 86’s exterior styling adding maturity and eliciting an even stronger sporting look. Throughout the design programme, Toyota has remained faithful to the concept of combining contemporary lines with visual references to models from its illustrious sports car heritage, not least the 2000GT.
These goals achieve perfect harmony in a subtle but effective reworking of the frontal elements, notably with a wider, low-set grille, a pronounced lower lip to the front bumper with integrated fins and a lowering of the tip of the car’s nose. This refreshed head-on-view amplifies the car’s ground-hugging stance and agile performance.
Aerodynamic detailing extends to a subtle new nose fin and new LED fog lamp surrounds with a triple-strake design that is both aerodynamically efficient and striking in appearance. The headlight units have been restyled to create a stronger horizontal emphasis, with new bi-LED lamps for normal and high beam. The turn indicators have been relocated from the far edges of the front bumper to within the headlamp clusters, arranged as a line of individual orange LEDs beneath an angled series of white daytime running light LEDs. The result is the generation of a stronger horizontal axis across the front of the vehicle, emphasising its width and maturity of design.
86 retains its distinctive coupe silhouette, complete with “pagoda” roof design, low centre of gravity and door apertures that evoke the look of the two-seater 2000GT, successfully applied to a compact 2+2 sports car format. The vehicle retains its 4,240mm overall length, 1,320mm height (with shark fin antenna), 1,775mm width and 2,570mm wheelbase.
In profile view, the areas forward of the front wheels and aft of the rear wheels have been shaped to generate a stronger sense of sporting performance. The wing garnish has a new integrated fin that contributes to controlling body roll, true to Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada’s intention that all styling changes should serve a practical purpose in terms of improving the vehicle’s aerodynamic performance.
A new 17-inch cast alloy wheel design has been produced for 86 (High models), featuring 10 ultra-slim spokes with a contrast bright and gun metal grey machined finish to provide an agile and strongly defined 3D appearance.
New features at the rear of the car follow the pattern of those at the front in generating a lower, stronger look, led by a wider and deeper black moulding and diffuser unit that creates a strong trapezoidal shape and extends low enough to conceal the exhaust silencer.
The new bi-colour (black and body-coloured) wing-type rear spoiler replaces the previous integrated component design, projecting a sportier look as well as contributing to 86’s improved aerodynamics.
The rear LED light clusters have been reworked, generating a stronger horizontal line and using light guides to produce a distinctive lighting signature. They also feature new LED turn indicators.
Under the skin there have been detailed adjustments to the suspension and damping, targeting improvements in handling, stability and ride comfort. Measures have also been taken to increase body rigidity.
One of the most significant developments in the 2017 86 from a driver’s point of view is a new Track mode, giving one the opportunity to enjoy animated performance driving with minimum intervention from the electronic Vehicle Stability Control and traction control systems. The car’s new multi-information display (High spec models) gives real-time access to power and torque curves, G-forces and a stopwatch to chart successive lap times.
The MacPherson strut front suspension benefits from pinpoint adjustments to deliver improved handling, stability and ride comfort and better steering feel.
Focusing on the performance of the coil springs, the spring rates have been optimised and the axis load control system has been engineered to reduce the difference in steering force on the left and right hand sides. The springs are also able to flex as well as compress, helping produce a smooth and easy-to-control steering feel.
The Showa shock absorbers have been revised, too, with the sliding surface of the guide bushing changed to provide better friction characteristics, contributing to the car’s improved handling and stability. Damping force has been reduced to gain an improvement in ride comfort.
Changes in the rear double wishbone suspension target turning performance as well as gains in handling and stability, achieved through optimised coil spring rates and the same changes to the shocks as featured in the front suspension.
An increase in the diameter of the rear anti-roll bar contributes to better turning performance, together with a change in the distribution of longitudinal body roll.
The rigidity of 86’s body is key to its rewarding handling and drivability, an area addressed by careful use of different high-tensile steels to achieve strength, torsional stiffness and light weight within the body shell. The bonnet is made from sheet aluminium and the wings from thinner sheet steel, helping minimise the coupe’s weight.
Small but telling measures have been taken to improve body rigidity and vehicle durability further in the 2017 86, including a thicker mounting bracket for the front suspension towers, a thicker reinforcement in the transmission crossmember and additional reinforcements in the rear wheel arches with additional weld points. The centre and front of the rear panel have also been made significantly thicker.
True to the concept that 86 should deliver the purest driving enjoyment, Toyota has adjusted the Vehicle Stability Control system to add a new Track mode in which the driver is given an even greater range of handling, braking and turning control for genuine and highly enjoyable sports driving.
The Track setting is activated using a switch on the centre console, illuminating an indicator lamp in the driver’s multi-information display. This turns the VSC and the car’s traction control (TRC) to a minimum level, removing a layer of electronic intervention so the driver can apply their own car control skills for a more engaging experience at the wheel.
Adding Track mode gives the driver a choice of four VSC and TRC settings. In normal driving both systems operate, while TRC can be switched off to help when pulling away on rough surfaces. The Track mode expands the permissible range of lateral acceleration and movement before the system intervenes, allowing the driver to explore the limits of the car’s dynamics without sacrificing stability.
The introduction of the Track mode is part of a detailed re-evaluation of the role electronic control systems can play in enhancing 86’s handling performance. Making direct use of data gathered from the car’s participation in motorsport events, such as the Nürburgring 24 Hours, fine adjustments have been made to systems including the ABS and traction control – changes that Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada thinks can help drivers fully exploit their skills and unlock the car’s full potential.
86 retains the benefits of the “aero-sandwiching” concept, in which the pressure of air flow over, beneath and along the sides of the car serves to keep it vertically and horizontally stable, without generating unnecessary downforce and without increasing its 0.27 coefficient of drag. The contours of the “pagoda” roof play an important role in this, a treatment that is mirrored in the surfacing of the car’s underbody.
Chief Engineer Tada required that any exterior design changes should have a positive effect on the vehicle’s handling and stability, down to the finest detail. In the front bumper a new blocking surface has been added below the front grille, with two distinctive “teeth,” and the lower edge of the bumper has been angled to 45 degrees to help generate a better airflow. Similarly the lower edge of the rear diffuser has also been set at a 45-degree angle.
The new wing-type rear spoiler has a positive impact on both aerodynamic performance and stability. It extends the full width of the rear of the car and is fitted with end plates which work with the vertical mounts to help create a wraparound airflow. The flow of air over and under the wing generates a downforce effect to help keep the car stable at speed.
86’s powertrain is unchanged, retaining its unique format of a high-revving, naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed “boxer” engine driving the rear wheels. Toyota added its D-4S direct fuel injection technology to the Subaru-sourced engine, securing increased throttle response, power and torque over a wide range of engine speeds.
Driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, the 1,998cc 16-valve DOHC unit produces a maximum 147kW at 7,000rpm and 205Nm of torque between 6,400 and 6,600rpm. 0 to 100km/h acceleration can be achieved in 7.6 seconds with manual transmission, 8.2 seconds for the automatic.
Despite this spirited performance, fuel consumption is laudable, with the 86 recording an average of 7.8 litres per 100km (7.1 for the Automatic transmission equipped model) – it’s worth mentioning that the consumption curve is also very flat regardless of driving style.
Changes made to the 86’s cabin serve to emphasise the car’s genuine sporting quality while raising the functionality and the visual and tactile quality of the interior. The focus remains the business of driving, but in an environment that is even more appealing to the eye and touch.
Particular attention has been paid to the size and shape of the steering wheel to provide the best grip and action for the driver. Retaining the sporty three-spoke design, Toyota has reduced the diameter by 3mm to 362mm, making it the smallest it has yet featured on a Toyota production car. The wheel’s weight has also been reduced by 10 per cent. The cross-section of the rim has been precision calculated so that when the driver holds the wheel, their arms are naturally angled slightly inwards, promoting a sportier feel.
More emphasis has been added to the look of the wheel with sculpted, metal-effect spokes and a prominent, silvered 86 logo on the centre boss. The new wheel also incorporates switches to adjust the new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-function display and audio system.
The driver’s instrument display has been revised (High models) with a new triple-dial arrangement that includes a new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information read-out, providing real-time data that can be called up and adjusted with ease using the new control switches on the steering wheel.
As well as familiar information such as fuel economy, journey details, coolant temperatures and cruising distance, the display can also present more performance driving-focused details, including a G-force monitor, power and torque curves, a stopwatch and lap times in sequence.
The multi-information display presents the 86 logo each time the car is started and also provides driver alerts, including door ajar and low coolant warnings.
The tachometer has been reoriented so that 7,000rpm – the engine speed at which peak power is delivered – now sits at the top of the dial.
The revised 86 has a new, unified “all black” interior finish that not only adds to the sports car feel of the interior, but also reduces reflection of outside light so there is less distraction and a clear view for the driver. A new carbon-fibre mesh pattern trim has been added to the door switch panels and the ventilation control panel on the centre console. A complimentary suede-like material with ’86’ embossing is applied to the dashboard facia, matching the new upholstery (on the 86 High models) that combines leather with perforated Alcantara, available in all-black. The standard grade model’s cloth upholstery has also been upgraded, providing better body-holding performance.
SA range comprises three models – 86 Std, 86 High and 86 High auto.