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By Mark Jones

Road Test Editor

WATCH: Toyota GR86 an analogue adrenaline rush in a digital age

Toyota's engineers show how much fun they can create when not building bread-and-butter Corollas.

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There once was a joke that went along the lines of ‘if you wanted to commit the perfect crime in South Africa, all you would need to do was ensure you were driving a white Toyota Corolla’. Absolutely nobody would notice because they would not be paying attention to you.

Things have changed a bit since then. The company which brought you the getaway Corolla, the bread-and-butter family Camry, and today’s Uber Quest, now brings you red-hot performance models which are far removed from bread and butter with the likes of the GR Supra, the GR Yaris and now the GR86.

The 86 has always been all about purest type driving in the form of a stiff, lightweight body, a high-revving naturally aspirated engine driving down to the rear wheels with a limited slip diff for grip, and not too many traction aids to prevent you from having as much fun as possible doing hot laps at your local track.

Toyota GR86
GR treatment has transformed the 86.

The GR banner

For 2023, thanks to it now being developed under the GR banner, the GR86 sees a boost in power from a larger displacement powerplant; enhanced dynamics, thanks to increased body rigidity; lighter weight and a lower centre of gravity for an all-round better offering than before.

The claimed straight line 0 to 100km/h times are down by more than a second to 6.4 seconds for the manual and 6.8 seconds for the auto.

The top speed is claimed to be 226 km/h and 216 km/h respectively. But you must be dilly if you think owning a GR86 is about how fast this car gets away from the traffic lights, it is about having twisty corner-type fun.

Punch the start button and drive out on the road and you can immediately feel the extra urge of the new 2.4-litre boxer that now produces 174 kW of power at 7 000 rpm, and 250 Nm of torque at 3 700 rpm, which is a whole lot sooner than the previous 205 Nm delivered way up at 6 600 rpm.

The extra power and torque were most welcome when we did our track sessions, but the torque being delivered earlier makes the GR86 a fun car on the road too, without having to run it to the limiter in each gear to get the best out of it.

ALSO READ: GR summit reached: Toyota Exec rules-out more Gazoo Racing models

Talking track

The body rigidity is up 50%, the centre of gravity a touch lower and there is a slight shift of the weight to the rear. It now offers that near-perfect 53:47 front/rear weight balance making it the lightest four-seater sports car on the market, with the lowest centre of gravity.

This translates into a road car that is firm but composed, and somewhat vocal in terms of tyre noise; not so much in terms of exhaust noise, even though it is augmented by an active sound control system which transmits the sound of the engine to the cabin through a speaker in the centre of the instrument panel.

On the track, these street-based complaints of mine are bludgeoned into submission by the technical improvements.

ALSO READ: GR Yaris will forever change the way you look at Toyota

The six-speed manual GR86 has two basic drive modes, Track or Vehicle Stability Control Off. The six-speed auto gets four drive modes in Normal, Sport, Snow and Track.

In either derivative, switch the nannies off and you have a car which requires finesse and driver ability to extract the fastest lap time out of it.

Toyota GR86
A view from the driver’s seat of the Toyota GR86.

GR86 allows you to push the limits

You will have a mountain of fun finding your limits. Unless you put it in the wall, then maybe not so much. It might not make 300 kW, but it does require a healthy level of respect when you are pushing on.

You might have noticed I have mentioned the auto derivative a few times. This is new, and for the first time is being offered on an 86.

Does it kill the fun factor? No. It is a decent compromise if you are going to commute with your GR86 and do the odd track day.

If you are the kind of owner who sleeps in a race suit and helmet, and never goes beyond the racetrack, then the manual version is for you.

When we get one on test, The Citizen Motoring will bring you the other information, about the infotainment and driver assist systems.

For now, just know the impressive Toyota GR86 is the most analogue fun you can have on four wheels in a motoring world that is becoming dominated by digitally sterile cars.

GR86 pricing

GR86 – R698 100

GR86 AT – R773 700

Price includes a three-year/100 000 km warranty and four-service/60 000 km service plan.

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