The GT86 was always going to be a magnet for tuners and tweakers. And Toyota actively encourages it. Even before its launch, Toyota showed Japanese tuner companies the GT86 blueprints so they could get cracking on an ecosystem of bolt-ons. Most carmakers would like to hog the aftermarket to themselves, but Tetsuya Tada, the car's chief engineer, convinced his bosses it was in Toyota's interest to let outsiders in, because it would ramp up the general buzz and sell more cars. That said, Toyota isn't stepping away from the action: its Toyota Racing Development (TRD) arm is launching a series of hop-up bits too.
Beginning in March, the TRD parts will sell as a trim level on new cars, and if that goes well, they'll later be offered for cars already on the road. To be honest, the difference the package makes over the standard car is subtle, so in the interest of not talking cobblers, I was glad I was driving the two of them back-to-back.
The pack consists of a four-exit exhaust for a noticeably fruitier noise and a barely noticeable 3-4bhp. Bigger wheels carry 225/40R18 tyres, of stickier compound.
For comparison, standard are 215/45R17 - actually Prius tyres, made for durability and low rolling resistance, not grip. A carbon-fibre strut brace stiffens the shell. An aero kit is effective but not too brash.
Out on a track, the TRD car has a neutral-to-oversteer steady-state cornering balance, as does the standard car. But there's a whole lot more grip. And it runs out less gradually, less transparently. Which is perhaps less fun. Mind you, the car I drove had optional adjustable dampers and stiffer front anti-roll bar. Still, the extra precision is nice. You're far less likely to get it sideways unless you've gone in fast. Which I didn't at first, because this car also had £8k's worth of mega-brakes. But I'm not sure the balance of lateral grip to power is as delicate as on the standard car (Tada is working on a lower-ratio rear diff, which would help). The playability is eroded, and with it the thing that makes the base car so unique.
1998cc, 4cyl, RWD, 201bhp, 151lb ft, 36.2mpg, 181g/km CO2, 0–62mph in 7.6secs, 140mph, 1275kg
Measurably excellent, but it feels more like other modern sports cars. It’s moving away from the goals of the base machine