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Driving

What is it like to drive?

Tyres. Normally we wouldn’t start here, but there’s an interesting nugget to ponder. With the old GT86, Toyota made a big hoo-hah about its decision to fit the same sort of Michelin Primacy rubber you get on a Prius hybrid – in an effort to reduce overall grip and keep this skinny-tyred 200bhp coupe playful. Sure enough, the car would slide under power, but the flaw in this plot was the eco-tyres made heavy braking a bit sketchy and didn’t do the turn-in any favours, particularly in the wet. Owners who modified their GT86s more often than not began by selecting a grippier sort of 18-inch tyre. 

For the GR86, Toyota’s followed suit straight from the factory. In some countries you can have a 17-inch rim coated in a lo-friction tyre, but for the UK it’s handsome multispoke 18s only, shod with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s. Immediately the GR86 has a less gawky stance than its predecessor, but we worried it might also have too much grip to unstick. 

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Needn’t have worried. The balance is spot on. You still get those momentary hip-wiggles on the road that inform you the chassis is approaching its limits, and if you can find a track that’ll allow some immaturity, this is one of the most idiot-proof drift cars ever conceived. The Track setting allows a huge safety net of sliding before your guardian angel helps gather up the flailing, and the progression from steady-state grip to kicking the back end out is gloriously benign. You can just tell the engineers have spent time and tyres honing this (mis)behaviour. It’s more playful than the old GT86 thanks to the power and torque hike, but no more po-faced. Job done. 

Just watch out for the cruise control stalk. The dated item hangs off the wheel in the 4 o’clock position, and if you let the steering wheel slip back through your hands mid-skid, it boshes your fingers. Ouch.

What if I’m paying for my own tyres?

Still plenty to enjoy. The control weights match up nicely (crucial in anything purporting to be a true drivers’ car) and though the steering isn’t alive with feel particularly at lower speeds and the gearshift isn’t as mechanically crisp as a Honda Civic Type R’s, it’s less notchy than the 50,000 mile Porsche Cayman that’ll also be tempting you at this sort of money. 

Ultimately, the 2.4-litre flat-four engine isn’t the most charismatic powerplant. At steady revs there’s still something of the lawnmower about it, and you get none of the pop-bang-histrionics the hot hatch crowd will fire in your wake. But the extra torque makes motorway overtakes in sixth a possibility instead of a fantasy, and Toyota’s decision to pipe in some rorty sound via the speakers this time (instead of the symposer pipe the GT86 used authentically) won’t offend your ears. 

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What else is good?

This is a refreshingly uncomplicated car. There’s no Sport mode for throttle response or Individual setting to harness all your favourite parameters. You can’t adjust the suspension for the commute or Copse corner. It’s a one-setting passive damping set-up, and on first impression across some of Spain’s more British-feeling back roads, it’s a well-judged compromise. Very abrupt over speed bumps and level crossings, but tolerable everywhere else, and still with a degree of roll when you get cracking to help judge how much grip there’s left underneath you. 

Overall, this is a car that lives to entertain. Will it wind you up? Well you might like a tick more steering wheel reach adjustment, it’s a bit of a boomy cruiser and fundamentally, it just isn’t that fast.

Providing those aren’t dealbreakers – and if you get what Toyota’s up to with this car, they won’t be – then you’ll find the GR a less-is-more tonic. 

Highlights from the range

the fastest

Toyota GR86 2.4 D-4S 2dr
  • 0-626.3s
  • CO2
  • BHP235
  • MPG
  • Price£28,520

the cheapest

Toyota GR86 2.4 D-4S 2dr
  • 0-626.3s
  • CO2
  • BHP235
  • MPG
  • Price£28,520

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