Toyota's missing link - the new 86 sports car
After years of being practical, the Japanese carmaker rekindles its love affair with the sports car, reports Simon Pluckrose...
Toyota has a long pedigree of sports cars, such as the MR2, Celica and Supra. These are cars that many of us, particularly men of a certain age, aspired to own when we were younger.
Yet, in recent years that youthful zest has been missing as Toyota concentrated on reliable, affordable, practical cars. All very worthy, but not very aspirational.
That, though, is about to change with the launch of the new Toyota 86, the firm’s first sports car in a decade. The 86, which takes its inspiration from three previous Toyota models - the 2000 GT, Sports 800 and it’s namesake the AE86 - is a front engine, rear wheel drive four-seater, competing against the likes of the Porsche Cayman, Nissan RCZ and Audi TT. Although, with a starting price of Dhs95,000, it’s a fair bit cheaper.
The car was launched last week in the presence of Toyota Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada at the F1 Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where Driven got the chance to get behind the wheel.
Simon Frith, the managing director of Al Futtaim Motors, the distributor of Toyota in the UAE, said the brand has had a “long love affair” with the sports car, fondly remembering that the MR2 was the first car he ever owned.
He said Toyota is trying to rekindle that affair with the 86, which he describes as a “back-to-basics” sportscar.
“It’s a car for people who love driving,” he said, “who love cars.” His view is backed up by the stats. The 2.0l, naturally aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine produces 200bhp and maximum torque of 205Nm, giving the 86 a top speed of 230kph.
Weighing in at just 1,200kg, this means the 86 has a very healthy power-to-weight ratio compared to its rivals. However, the proof is always in the driving, and after a spectacular launch using pumping music, lasers and huge screens, I got the chance to get behind the wheel.
The 86 does not disappoint.
All the promises of it being a “driver’s car” were kept. The power is the tiniest bit sluggish at low revs but then picks up and the response is instant. With an extremely low centre of gravity, light weight and abundance of power, the 86 is very well balanced and handles immaculately in the corners.
The engine also gives a pleasing growl as you put your foot down. Inside, though, is where the “back-to-basics” philosophy hits home. There is no sat nav, no flash infotainment system and no central console laden with buttons. The driver’s seat adjusts using a bar under the seat and the parking brake is yanked up by hand - yes, the 86 is refreshingly devoid of electronics.
The materials are inexpensive but smart and the design is snug, giving you a sense it has been built around you rather than you are the interloper who needs to fit in.
On the outside, the looks are sleek with a low roof and hood and a low stance, while raised front fenders add to the sportiness.
Overall, the simplicity of the 86 is a welcome break from the onward march of technology that seems to be taking the fun out of driving. However, it will be interesting to see how the opulent UAE market takes to the lack of finery.
>> Engine: 2.0l
>> Horse power: 200bhp
>> Top speed: 230kph
>> Fuel consumption: 6.9l/100km
>> Transmission: Six-speed automatic or manual
>> Price: From Dhs95,000
For more details, visit www.toyota.ae