Prettier, torquier and keener handling than a GT86, but no bigger, heavier or more complicated. Toyota’s built a modern classic
So-so interior materials and screens, engine’s gruff charisma is an acquired taste. Sold out faster than Glasto tickets
What is it?
Petrol powered sports-car wise, this is possibly the last dance. Meet the follow-up to the GT86, now with knowhow from Toyota’s motorsport-conquering Gazoo Racing division – hence the name tweak. The GR86 is still a front-engined, 2+2-seater coupe with a Subaru-derived flat-four boxer engine driving the rear wheels, designed to tempt younger buyers (and the young at heart) away from lobbing £30,000 on a hot hatchback or a lifestyle crossover and instead put their faith back in an entry-level sports car.
So what’s going to tempt me?
The GR86 takes the GT86’s philosophy and basically makes each and every component a letter bit better. The engine swells from 2.0 to 2.4 litres thanks to rebored cylinders, in an effort to fill the deep torque canyon that GT86 drivers fall headfirst into as they climb through the industrious engine’s mid-range. Toyota’s worked to make the gearshift slicker (a six-speed automatic is an option, but if you're medically able to drive a manual the argument over which transmission to opt for pretty much ends there).
What else has been tweaked?
Mounts for the steering system are beefier. In fact, the entire chassis has been subject to a reinforcement programme that ups overall rigidity by a hefty 60 per cent – though the engineers have also slaved to ensure weight is saved elsewhere so the GR86 avoids piling on the flab that’d offset its modest 231bhp and 184lb ft.
That’s up from 197bhp and 154lb ft in the GT86, giving the new GR vital stats like 0-62mph in 6.3 seconds and a 145mph top speed. Empathically not a car about raw pace, this. The GR Yaris would absolutely whup it if you timed both down a straight, or a whole racetrack. Toyota’s not been dissuaded from its crusade to build a car that puts ‘woah that’s fun’ cornering above ‘wow that’s fast’ acceleration. And you’ll have to work hard for your speed: rev the motor, row the gearbox, and hold onto your hard-won momentum through bends. Sound like your kind of entertainment? You’ll like this car very much indeed.
Can I actually buy one?
Tricky question. The UK’s entire two-year allocation of GR86s was snapped up by British buyers in just 90 minutes once digital orders opened in late April 2022. It’s worth putting your name down in case of a cancelled order or on the off-chance Toyota can conjure a few more from somewhere else in the supply chain, but even so it’s going to be a short-lived product.
Safety legislation that requires a fundamental front-end redesign will kibosh GR86 sales in 2024, so it’ll only live on Toyota’s pricelists for a couple of years – a fraction of the GT86’s decade-long run. Something tells us people will end up paying over the odds for a slice of the action. But to get a piece of one of the twilight sports car stars, it might well be worthwhile.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The GR86 is one of 2022’s very best cars. The antidote to overpowered, overweight, overcomplicated so-called sports cars, it’s like a sanitised, weatherproof Caterham. Able to deliver real-world giggles at an affordable price, but improved in key areas over the GT86 – the torque, the looks, the on-the-limit handling.
It’s almost sadistic that such an attainable hero should only be allowed to live for a couple of short years in the UK, but if you’re getting one – wherever you live – you’re buying a car that’ll become a classic in its own lifetime, and one of the very best machines Toyota has ever built.