Even the best products have slight imperfections. Take the movie Gandhi, for instance. It was a real blockbuster, had a cast of thousands, a massive budget, took three years to make and won various Oscars.
It ran for more than three hours. So, you would think they could find five minutes, somewhere, for a high speed car chase. But, no, no, that was too much to ask – ruining the movie for all right thinking people.
Toyota’s 86 is strikingly similar. It is a brilliant execution of the original sports car theme and, in many respects, an ultimate drivers’ toy. In its latest form, the 86 retains its most endearing attraction, that of being front engined and rear wheel driven.
Being 4 240mm long, 1 775mm wide and 1 320mm high, it is compact, with a low centre of gravity.
The latest model boasts new LED headlights with integrated indicators, a lower-set nose with revised front bumper, a new wing-type rear spoiler and new rear light clusters with LED lamps.
The whole 2+2 sports coupe package sits on gun metal grey, ten-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels in 215/45 R17 rubberware. It is beautiful. 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. In the same vein, the car’s control system boasts a new Track mode, which minimizes the effects of the various electronic nannies that stop contemporary cars from sliding when driven through corners.
Inside, the new 86 boasts an all-black interior finish that, adding to two proper bucket front seats, adds largely to its sports car feel. The rear seats are like the Zulu king – they add to the overall expenditure, but serve no practical purpose.
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 small, thick-rimmed steering wheel is a delight to hold, with its sculpted, metal-effect spokes making one feel like a racer, even when the car is standing still.
The instrument display has a triple-dial arrangement that includes a colour TFT multi-information read-out, providing real-time data that can be called up and adjusted, using the control switches on the steering wheel.
Apart from fuel economy, journey details, coolant temperatures and cruising distance, the display can present performance driving-focused details like a G-force monitor, power and torque curves, a stopwatch and lap times.
Engine-wise, the 86 retains Subaru’s naturally aspirated 1 998cc 16-valve DOHC horizontally opposed boxer engine, benefitting from Toyota’s D-4S direct fuel injection technology.
In this form, it develops 147kW of power at 7 000rpm and 205Nm of torque between 6 400 and 6 600rpm. The power goes to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual. All of which makes the 86 a joy to drive.
Take it over 5 000rpm and you are rewarded with a healthy forward surge plus a distinctly sporty exhaust sound. Placed on the road, especially going into corners, it feels just right – responding to every steering input accurately.
It handles neutrally with a lot of grip, and will only go into oversteer mode when one fiddles with the Track mode electronics. We were not going to get too brave with an expensive car on public roads.
So, we take the word of our colleagues who sampled the 86 on a race circuit during its launch – it can be drifted spectacularly.
But, unless you are rich enough to have this vehicle strictly as a weekend track toy, you will be unlikely to punish it very often.
Now the imperfection. We all know that this boxer engine – with turbo – made the Subaru WRX STI a seriously potent package – and it must have weighed at least 40% more than the 86. We think, at the heavy asking price of R449 600, the 86 should have a turbo, which would make it as scary fast as its looks would have you believe.
This is like that girl in high school who let you undo her bra strap and then stopped you – you wonder, for the rest of your life, what might have been.
That said, we still love the 86 for being a real drivers’ car. The 86 comes with a three-year/ 100 000km warranty, plus a four- year/ 60 000km service plan.