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Long-term review

Toyota GR86 - long-term review

£29,995 / £30,960 / £295pcm
Published: 22 Jan 2024
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Goodbye '86: we asked Toyota GR Supra and GR86 owners why they bought one

Geeks know that ‘GR’, Toyota’s go-faster division, stands for ‘Gazoo Racing’. I think it should’ve been called ‘Mojo’, because that’s what the GR Supra, GR Yaris and GR86 have really existed to do: turn Toyota from Uber-making dishwasher-in-chief to a car brand that a new generation of car nuts will fantasise over.

Toyota GR86 - long-term review

According to the likes of us at TG it’s largely job done, but what about if you’re an owner? If you’ve spent money buying, maintaining and modifying your very own? To find out, I arranged a little get-together with some GR fanatics at Harlow Japanese Autos, Britain’s premier Japanese car specialist. Our own Mark Riccioni has a loyalty card. It’s stuffed with the most mouth-watering selection of rare Skylines, Evos, GT-Rs, RX-7s (and a few Ferraris). Does the ’86 deserve to stand alongside them as a future Japanese performance legend?

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Andreas, proud owner of a Celica, tastefully modded GR Supra and hankerer for a reborn MR2 blindsides me with his opening gambit. “Personally, I wouldn’t buy a GR86 because of the looks. We all reckon from the back it looks too much like a Vauxhall Insignia.”

Toyota GR86 - long-term review

I’m crestfallen, but can’t disagree there’s a resemblance. “I get the appeal. It's low-powered, and as ‘purist’ as it’s possible for a modern car to be. I don't think it's necessarily even a young person's thing. I just think the Supra and the GR86 fill different gaps in the market. And it sucks you guys only drove the Supra as standard. They really suffer from heat soak and the factory map isn’t that great. With some mods on they’re so much better.” 

All the owners agree the GR86 is good straight out of the box whereas the Supra needs to be tweaked. Joe and Mel have covered 40,000 miles in their white example, on European jaunts and track days. “Never commuting – only fun miles,” says Joe. “I like to say it's the jack of all trades and the master of none. It's not the most engaging car in the world. It's got a pretty numb steering rack. It's not the fastest thing ever. It is not the best handling, it's not the most practical, but I would probably rate it somewhere between 7 or 8 out of 10 at everything.”

So why the Supra again, and not the ’86? I’m desperate for my underdog to earn some approval. “When you see what they're priced at it's amazing that right now, when people are complaining about M3s being a hundred grand, there's a genuinely engaging car that you can buy for £30k,” Joe concedes. “I think this is doing a massive service to the car world, but I look at the Supra and see an Aston Vantage rival, but about half the price.

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"So yeah, I would potentially own one of these on the side. I think it's a great car. But then I would look at my buying decision and say, 'well, why am I getting a GR86? Well I want something that's engaging, something that's sporty', then I'd probably go down the route of an M-X5 because that would give me more of that. And that's my philosophy of the Supra is I don't think there's anything on the market for that value that does all of those things that well.”

Poor ’86! Is it just me? Is everyone else seduced by more power and creature comforts? Luckily I’m also joined by enthusiast Duncan, who’s got the best of both worlds. A tuned 500bhp Supra, and a stock GR86. “I love it because you can drive it hard and it's still fun," he says. "The Supra is very quickly into triple figures whereas the GR86 can be pushed really hard and be under 70mph. You can see the kiddie seat in mine. We've got a five-year-old who can just about fit in there. There's not loads of room but it’s borderline practical. Loads of fun. You're not going to lose your license. My wife loves it, but I’m constantly pinching it.”

Toyota GR86 - long-term review

Ownership complaints are few across the board. Neither Supra has gone wrong, and the BMW interior is roundly adored. Duncan’s '86 shed its numberplate lights weirdly, but has otherwise been “bulletproof”. However, all our GR owners agree the dealers need to be better educated in this specialist line of cars. “They haven’t got a clue with either car,” grumbles Duncan. “They told me neither needed running in, until I pointed out where it said so… in the owner’s manual. They were appliance salesmen.”

That was the old Toyota. You can’t form a driver-machine relationship with an appliance. I’ve never bonded with a Top Gear Garage car like this one. I miss it. With its realistic budget, driving ability and personal pet peeves, there may never be another car more perfectly designed for me. GR, it’s been a joy.

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