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New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

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Qgeberha – It’s been a while since we’ve had so much fun driving a car.

And that’s exactly the point Toyota had in mind when they launched the new GR86 with the aptly pay-off line of an “analogue car for the digital age” that sticks to the “Waku Doki” fun-to-drive brief.

With a lower centre of gravity then its GT86 predecessor, tweaked Subaru-sourced horizontally opposed boxer engine powering the rear wheels and enhanced dynamics, the GR86 takes all the Toyota Gazoo Racing bits and bobs into a stylish and well balanced sports-car aimed at unadulterated driving pleasure.

It’s also Toyota’s third global GR model alongside the GR Supra and GR Yaris.

Its short overhangs, wide and low stance, individually accentuated front and rear wings and functional aerodynamic features such as front air dam, air vents combined with aero fins and further aerodynamic enhancements under the car, accentuate the GR86’s pedigree.

The overall height of the Toyota GR86 has been lowered by 10mm to 1 310mm and 5mm have been added to the wheelbase to total 2 575mm, lowering the centre of gravity by 1.6mm. Lowering the driver’s hip point by 5mm also adds to the impressive handling dynamics.

It stands on 18-inch rims inspired by a Japanese sword motif, covered with low profile rubber.

The engine capacity has been increased from 2.0 to 2.4-litres, keeping the high 12.5:1 compression ratio but now producing 174kW up from 147kW and 250Nm up from 205Nm. It’s mated to a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission with paddles, when you switch it to manual.

It will get to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds (6.8 seconds for the auto) and will top out at 226km/h or 216km/h for the automatic.

New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

But it’s not the top speed that matters in the 86, it’s the handling characteristics of a low slung sports-car that had drifting in mind when it was first introduced.

That’s thanks to a reworked chassis that’s increased in strength but lighter with reinforcements of new front diagonal cross-members providing a 60% increase of front body lateral rigidity and a 50% increase of body rigidity.

By using strong and lightweight materials in key areas, aluminium roof panels, bonnet and front wings, new front seats, silencer and prop shaft designs it weighs almost as much as its predecessor, and now has a 53:47 front/rear weight balance.

It retains the rear Torsen limited-slip differential that’s fitted with heat dissipation fins, while the front independent MacPherson strut and rear double wishbone set-up has been considerably tweaked, as have the shock absorber damping and coil spring characteristics, and the anti-roll bar is now connected directly to the subframe.

All of this translates to one of the few truly driver-focused cars we have access to as we found out during the launch in the Eastern Cape that included track time on the Aldo Scribante circuit.

The engine is super happy to be revved to the red line and the redesigned gear lever combined with an easy clutch moves effortlessly through the gate.

New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

It took a lap or two to get used to the driving dynamics, especially in track mode but once you get comfortable, it’s pedal to the metal.

Heading into corners at full bore, gearing down quickly and exiting almost on the rev limiter the GR86 is in its element. And when the rear slides out a quick steering correction keeps it slightly sideways, without it ever feeling that it wants to over correct and kill you.

It’s a perfect balance between weight, power and steering and unlike similar rear-wheel drive cars with much more horsepower, the 86 is agile enough and forgiving without you feeling constantly on edge even in white knuckle hairpins.

We also did a series of drag races to showcase the increased clutch capacity, gear strength and calibrated clutch operation to handle the increased torque.

Dropping the clutch produces slight wheel spin as you head off the line, but it quickly hooks before a swift change into second gear and the finish line.

Comparing the various traction control settings on a dry skidpan driving in a figure eight saw much smoke and spinning wheels and with all the aids on, the car will still squeal but quickly put you back in your place before the back comes round.

Intermediate gives you more freedom to throw it around and with everything off, it’s Tokyo Drift meets Gqeberha.

Driving the automatic version towards Jeffreys Bay gave us the first real opportunity to have a closer look at the interior and cockpit.

Function controls are designed and located for intuitive recognition and operation with switches and easy to use dials for the air conditioning.

The sports seats covered in Ultrasuede and leather have supportive pads in all the right places so whether you’re screaming around a corner or pottering along a coastal road, it’s a comfortable place to be.

New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

The centre armrest with cup holders, two USB ports and an AUX socket has a split-opening lid that can be used as an armrest when you’re not gripping the wheel in anger, and doing the GT thing on holiday.

The eight-inch touch-screen infotainment system is tilted towards the driver and the driver’s instrument binnacle is a digital multi-information display with a single-dial tachometer with central speed read-out. The contents can be selected and scrolled through, depending on your preferences.

In track mode the display shows a central bar with the rpm readout, selected gear, speed and oil and water temperatures designed with the help of Gazoo Racing’s professional drivers.

Pushing the accelerator produces a pleasant exhaust growl that’s augmented by an active sound control system into the cabin through a dedicated speaker in the centre of the instrument panel that is adjusted according to the mode selected.

The auto box is silky smooth and in sport mode it holds the revs as you accelerate in and out of bends, with the suspension and chassis combining well over some seriously bumpy mountain passes.

The manual version is even more engaging as you switch gears and anything above 5 500rpm when you’re driving hard seems to be its happy place.

New Toyota GR86 launch review: it’s not the speed that matters

Changing between third and fourth gear it growls and bobs and weaves its way along the road with very good steering feedback, so that you know exactly what is going on when you negotiate the bends.

The Toyota GR86 is truly a fantastic drive which shows what can be done when pro racers deliver their input. It's quick, well-balanced, forgiving and as I said previously, an absolute blast without having to constantly adjust because the tipping point feels only moments away.

It comes with a six-service/90 000km service plan and a three-year/100 000km warranty. Service and warranty plan extensions can also be purchased from any of the 220 Toyota dealers.

Toyota GR86 Pricing (November 2022)

GR86 6MT: R698 100

GR86 6AT: R733 700

IOL Motoring

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