Toyota GR86 - long-term review - Report No:3 2023 | Top Gear
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Tuesday 26th September
Long-term review

Toyota GR86 - long-term review

£29,995 / £30,960 / £295pcm
Published: 16 Aug 2023

Fed up with the wet British summer? This is the car to buy

I’ve heard (from my elders) that one of the signals you’re Officially Getting Old reveals itself when it’s been chucking it down overnight. You wake up in the morning, draw back the curtains, and instead of grumbling “FFS, it’s raining. That’ll ruin my exciting devil-may-care plans today”, you exclaim “Oooh, it’s raining. That’ll be good for the garden".

If you’re not reading this in Britain, then I’m not sure how I can express to you how often it rains here. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Christmas Day or the August Bank Holiday. It’s. Always. Raining. Most of the truisms about Britain aren’t true at all: we don’t all go round to Buckingham Palace for afternoon tea and some of us aren’t equipped with horrendous troll teeth and scurvy from birth. But we are always slightly damp. And stood perma-scowling at the clouds.

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However, I’m pleased to report there is a life-hack to remain young at heart and pleased – no, delighted – it’s tipping it down. You could daily drive a Toyota GR86.

I’m fairly confident that of the 70-odd million people currently pretty upset with the washout summer being drizzled over the British Isles, I’m the most pleased about it. Cricket fans are cross and holidaymakers are fuming. But I’m beside myself with glee. Wake up in the morning, draw back the curtains, and giggle “Yay, it’s raining. The little Toyota will feel like it’s got seven hundred brake horsepower".

When it’s wet, the uncannily friendly balance of the little Toyota is on a plate to enjoy. Empty roundabouts and quiet T-junctions become playgrounds. The speeds are always low, the jeopardy minimal, and the GR86 is an absolute riot in the wet. A nigh-on perfect gateway into the world of rear-wheel drive. And this gets to the heart of what’s so clever about the GR versus the old GT86. 

It’s Max Verstappen distilled into tyre form. Incredibly consistent, a genius in the rain, and never seems to get worn out.

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With that car, Toyota sought to deliberately limit its grip by fitting Prius eco tyres which helped the miserable torque output unstick the back end. Ingenious. But the wooden tyres also hobbled the front-end, spoiling braking and turn-in. Standard-fit for UK-bound GR86s is the freakish rubber witchcraft that is Michelin’s Pilot Sport 4S. It’s Max Verstappen distilled into tyre form. Incredibly consistent, a genius in the rain, and never seems to get worn out. Very lovely.

Constant downpours have exposed a strange quirk in this particular 86, mind you: the wiper stalk has been wired up incorrectly. See the collar on the stalk there – the twisty bit that allows you to set the frequency of the intermittent wipe? Well, despite the graphic getting thicker towards the top, and every other car in the world using that to denote ‘more wipes’, the Toyota’s is on upside down.

You twist it to the ‘low’ setting for fast wiping, or up into the high setting for ‘occasional wipe’. Odd. And confusing.

But thank goodness it gave me something to gripe about. The car is a joy, a tonic, a breath of fresh air in a sodden summer. And the weather? Well, I’m British. Moaning about what falls from the sky pretty much goes without saying. But when I’m in this car, I’m not complaining.

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