While the definition of a sports car is not a precise one, what is fact is that since the very first automobile made its debut, engineers, designers and creators have constantly been looking for ways to make them go faster, round corners better, and look more beautiful than their bread-and-butter brethren tasked with getting their occupants from A to B.
That said, Wikipedia – that holy grail of knowledge – does a good job of labelling this rarest of vehicular breed, the sports car. It is defined as a small, usually two-seater (or 2+2), two-door vehicle designed for ‘spirited performance and nimble handling.’ It goes on to say that, sports cars may be spartan or luxurious, but high manoeuvrability and minimum weight are requisite. They may be equipped for racing, aerodynamically shaped, having a low centre of gravity and steering and suspension designed for precise control at high speeds. Isn’t that the perfect description of the Toyota 86?
In creating the 86, Toyota set out to engineer a car that captures the purest pleasures of driving, a sports car in the true sense of the word – one that is simple, focused and, above all, fun. As a distillation of the classic sports car qualities of compact size, agile handling, responsiveness and driver feedback, it has more than fulfilled its promise, gaining the acclaim of critics and enthusiasts alike and achieving more than 170,000 worldwide sales since its launch in 2012.
Inspired by Toyota’s fine sports car heritage and models such as the 2000GT and AE86 Corolla, the 86 has equally taken on the role of a torchbearer for Toyota’s mission to build cars that are genuinely more engaging and rewarding to drive. For 2017, Toyota has sharpened the driving focus of the acclaimed 86 even more with improvements that build on the style, performance, handling and accessibility that have made it the cult car of the century.
In design terms, the new car is not a radical departure from the original, but rather matures its established styling, reinforcing the car’s low and wide sporting stance. The redesigned frontal elements, such as a wider, low-set grille, a pronounced lower lip to the front bumper with integrated fins and a lowering of the tip of the car’s nose.
Aerodynamic detailing extends to a subtle new nose fin and new LED fog lamp surrounds with a triple-strake design. The headlight units have been restyled, with new bi-LED lamps for normal and high beam. The turn indicators have been relocated from the far edges of the front bumper to within the headlamp clusters, arranged as a line of individual orange LEDs beneath an angled series of white daytime running light LEDs.
In profile view, the areas forward of the front wheels and back of the rear wheels have restyled. The wing garnish has a new integrated fin that contributes to controlling body roll. The 2017 86 retains its distinctive coupe silhouette, complete with “pagoda” roof design, low centre of gravity and door apertures that evoke the look of the two-seater 2000GT, successfully applied to a compact 2+2 sports car format.
A new 17-inch cast alloy wheel design has been produced for 2017 86, feature 10 ultra-slim spokes with a contrast bright and gunmetal grey-machined finish to provide an agile and strongly defined 3D appearance. New features at the rear of the car follow the pattern of those at the front in generating a lower, stronger look, led by a wider and deeper black moulding and diffuser unit that creates a strong trapezoidal shape and extends low enough to conceal the exhaust silencer.
The new bi-colour (black and body-coloured) wing-type rear spoiler replaces the previous integrated component design, projecting a sportier look as well as contributing to 2017 86’s improved aerodynamics. The rear LED light clusters have been reworked, generating a stronger horizontal line and using light guides to produce a distinctive lighting signature. They also feature new LED turn indicators.
The 2017 86’s powertrain is unchanged, retaining its unique format of a high-revving, naturally aspirated 2.0-litre, horizontally opposed “boxer” engine driving the rear wheels. Toyota added its D-4S direct fuel injection technology to the Subaru-sourced engine, securing increased throttle response, power and torque over a wide range of engine speeds. Driving the rear wheels through a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, the 1,998cc (2-litre) 16-valve DOHC unit produces a maximum 147kW (198 hp) and 205 Nm of torque. 0 to 100km/h acceleration can be achieved in 7.6 seconds with manual transmission, 8.2 seconds for the automatic. Despite this spirited performance, fuel consumption is laudable, with the 86 records an average of 7.8 litres per 100 km (7.1 for the Automatic transmission equipped model).
Under the skin there have been detailed adjustments to the suspension and damping, targeting improvements in handling, stability and ride comfort. Measures have also been taken to increase body rigidity.
Changes made to the 2017 86’s interior serve to emphasise the car’s genuine sporting quality while raising the functionality and the visual and tactile quality of the interior. The focus remains the business of driving, but in an environment that is even more appealing to the eye and touch.
Particular attention has been paid to the size and shape of the steering wheel to provide the best grip and action for the driver. The cross-section of the rim has been precision calculated so that when the driver holds the wheel, their arms are naturally angled slightly inwards, promoting a sportier feel.
More emphasis has been added to the look of the wheel with sculpted, metal-effect spokes and a prominent, silvered 86 logo on the centre boss. The new wheel also incorporates switches to adjust the new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-function display and audio system. A new carbon-fibre mesh pattern trim has been added to the door switch panels and the ventilation control panel on the centre console.
The driver’s instrument display has been revised with a new triple-dial arrangement that includes a new 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information read-out, providing real-time data, which can be called up with ease using the new control switches on the steering wheel. As well as familiar information such as fuel economy, journey details, coolant temperatures and cruising distance, the display can also present more performance driving-focused details, including a G-force monitor, power and torque curves, a stopwatch and lap times in sequence.
When the Toyota first launched the 86 in 2012, it was praised it for its lightweight body, back-to-basics rear-wheel-drive handling, and characterful Boxer engine. However, five years later the 86 faces its ultimate challenge from rivals which offer equally rewarding dynamics with a lower list price and improved running costs. The game has moved on, indeed, but in 2017 Toyota applied a light mid-life facelift to keep things fresh. The changes are surely going to make the 86 a worthy adversary to its rivals from Europe and Japan. Visit Toyota Kenya, located along Uhuru Highway, for more information about the 2017 86.
Quote: In creating the 86, Toyota set out to engineer a car that captures the purest pleasures of driving, a sports car in the true sense of the word – one that is simple, focused and, above all, fun.
What we like
- Great handling
- Accurate steering
- Comfortable front seats
What we dislike
- Cheap interior plastics
- Engine feels underpowered
- Limited boot space