Much improved. Sleeker. More power/torque. Sharper handling. Easier to drive. Affordable. Cons—
Tight back seat. Low entry/exit. Firm ride. Not really a long-distance car.Bottom Line—
Impressive entry level sports car.
The 2022 Toyota GR86
shows that at least Japanese automakers haven’t given up on affordable, fun-to-drive sports cars for the young and young-at-heart who may have owned a 1960s British MG, Triumph or Austin Healey.
Toyota developed the GR86 with Subaru, which sells the very similar BRZ. One major improvement both versions have for 2022 is an improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder “boxer” (opposed cylinder) engine that develops 228 horsepower and 184 pound/feet of torque—up appreciably from 205 horsepower and 156 pound/feet of torque. The added torque comes in at a much lower r.p.m. and makes the GR86 more responsive and easier to drive in almost all circumstances.
This second-generation front-engine, rear-drive two-door hatchback coupe has sleeker styling and sits low. It thus calls for extra agility to enter or leave. There is decent room up front, but the tight rear seat is best for children, pets or items tossed in the back.
The nicely shaped trunk is reasonably large for a car with a 105.4-inch wheelbase and can swallow, say, several golf bags. The single section seat back can be folded forward to appreciably enlarge the cargo area. One problem, though, is that getting objects from the folded seat back calls for squeezing past the front seats because the hatch opening is too far back for one to reach them from the rear. Still, the back seat is handy and better than none at all.
The engine propels the GR86 from 0-60 m.p.h. in about 6 seconds while working with an efficient six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, which was the transmission in my test GR86 Premium model. Many sports car buffs are likely to opt for the manual, but the automatic, which has paddle shifters, makes the car easier to live with in congested areas and doesn’t slow acceleration much.
There are “Normal,” “Sport” and “Snow” driving modes, controlled by a console switch. Normal mode gives the best balance between economy, quietness and performance, while Sport allows sportier driving on roads with lots of curves. Note that the manual transmission can’t be shifted into first gear in Snow mode.
Estimated fuel economy with the automatic is 21 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on highways. The manual’s numbers are 20 and 27. The fuel tank can swallow 13.2 gallons, and Toyota recommends premium fuel.
My test GR86 had dual exhaust outlets with chrome tips artfully integrated into the rear bumper area. The duckbill rear spoiler enhances the styling and is reminiscent of the spoiler put on early 1970s Porsches.
The GR86’s improved suspension was developed with the help of Toyota’s Gazoo racing division. (Hence the “GR” letters.)
The 2022 Premium model has stiffer construction, 18-inch alloy wheels and a Torsen Limited slip differential.
My test car’s steering was quick and firm, and handling was so responsive that it felt suited to a race track, while providing quick moves during daily driving. _The brake pedal had a firm action and can be easily modulated.
However, the upgraded suspension causes the ride to be firm and allows sharp bumps and other such pavement imperfections to be felt. The GR86 thus isn’t a smooth-riding long-distance car, although its razor-sharp handling makes it lots of fun to drive. I’d guess that it feels like most might expect a genuine sports car to feel.
A GR86 with the automatic has some features not offered on the manual transmission version, although that version still has a fair amount of equipment. My test Premium version’s price label said it stickers at $31,800, but options and and delivery charges brought the bottom-line price to $33,507. Toyota says the base GR86 costs $27,900 with the manual and $29,400 with the automatic.
The GR86 Premium has a nicely designed interior, highlighted by its manually adjustable heated Ultrasuade and leather front seats. The cabin has a fair amount of hard plastic, but is attractive with stitching on the seats and door panels, although there aren’t many storage areas. Also, the dual cupholders are awkwardly positioned behind the console near the driver’s elbow and thus call for an awkward reach.
Interior features include a pushbutton starter, digital speedometer encircled by a large tachometer put squarely in front of the driver, dual-zone automatic climate controls, 8-speaker sound system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility and a good number of easily reached manual dashboard controls, besides aluminum pedals. The 8-inch touchscreen is fairly easy to use, although its graphics are outdated.
Unlike lower-priced models, the Premium version is loaded with all available GR86 safety features. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, rear-parking sonar with reverse auto braking, seven air bags and heated power outside mirrors.
With its improvements, the 2022 GR86 shows you need not buy something like a Porsche to have lots of driving fun. After all, that’s what a sports car primarily is all about.