Published On: 4 Apr 2023Categories: Auto & Vehicles

I drove this little beast for about 2 days. It wasn’t long enough.


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Hairdressers. They get a bad rap and an association with the Mazda MX

5 that is hard to disassociate. And then two door sports cars that are smaller than a Porsche and cost less all become associated with the same meme.

Street cred is where it’s all at and perhaps this iteration of the GR 86 tries too hard with the art work attached to attain such. I mean, it’s cool and all that and I do love the Kanji even if I have no idea what it says – “beware, rooster inside” or something similar probably. But the car doesn’t need it.

It does all the talking it needs to once you are inside and behind the wheel. It’s normally aspirated 2.4l 4 cylinder boxer engine is tuned for power at 174kW over torque at 250Nm although I have to say the torque figure really surprised me. It felt a lot more punchy than the figure suggests and maybe it’s that glorious normal aspiration that does it out of the corners when the power lays itself down through the rear tyres that this time around have actual grip to propel you out with a smile inducing easy to control degree of oversteer.

Want an inside tip on a quick grip test? If the car comes with Michelin Pilot Sport (215/40×18) tyres it would have to be bad to make a balls up of grip. One of the best performance tyres in my humble opinion.

I say easy to control – what this means is that these days the electronics allow you a ‘fun mode’ that gives you slippage to an extent that I suppose you might actually be able to spin the care given enough track, speed and determination but I have an unfortunate Achilles heel of being brought up to respect other people’s property. Especially when I want to remain in the good books to drive another one at some point in my future life.

GR is of course Toyota’s sport line – not the total hardcore stripped out racer mode but certainly much more power and performance than in GR Sport guise – sigh – the nomenclature becomes complicated to keep track of across the many marques that now split out performance categories within their ranges. Be that as it may the GR86 is outright sports based entertainment wrapped up in a car and it is utterly fabulous.

Not as in how you look after a cut and blow, but as in the package on offer at R733, 500 for the 6 speed manual. The GR86 is very much a driver’s car and whilst I could daily it, it might become a bit much for the average less than hardcore enthusiast. The ride is happily hard, but the suspension is forgiving and supple with plenty of feedback for you to figure out what’s happening underneath your backside. Steering is fantastic with more than enough communication to let you know what’s happening on the grip end of things at the front, and whilst the power is not outrageous the weight of the car at 1280kg kerb weight is light enough that you zip around from A to B in rapid fashion.

This is a car that you can jump in, spend a few hours with and then grab by the scruff of the neck and set off with gay abandon. The car will work with you and as you delve deeper into its capabilities the more rewarding the drive becomes. It’s an exciting car on the road.

Inside the car the seat heater switching is retro ’90’s. I don’t know why but it appears to be a Japanese theme these days – state of the art in areas of great import – electronics, suspension, engine management, clever CVT sport boxes but seat heating switches that look ludicrously incongruous. I’m calling it ‘culture’ and moving on – they work and that’s all that matters. I’d dearly love seat cooling because no matter the climate control you are going to sweat in this car thanks to the adrenaline but it’s a small comfort that I can live without given the rest of the car.

Seats are stupid low, stupid comfortably grippy and hence awesome in their correctness for the car. It adds to the go cart, low centre of gravity feel and sense of sports car occasion in the driving experience. Everything in the interior is typically Japanese finish – durable, sensible and with an understated quirkiness that you need to spend some time to spot. For instance, the digital dash with the rev counter front and centre with a digital speed readout in the middle is perfect for the car but it changes when you select track mode from an analogue rev counter to an F1 type stacked bar version. The climate control system is fantastic in execution with rotary dials and switches that come off an F-14.

Infotainment – yes it’s there but mostly pointless on a car like this driver as it should be by people who could care less about screens. But the sound system is pretty good for when you want to add a few beats to up your driving enthusiasm ala X-Box style and there are USB ports for those that need them.

Rear seats can fit a 10 year old and whilst the usual mantra from the rear is “Turn it down! Don’t drive so fast!” in this case the 10 year old was brought out in the 10 year old, and the “I really like this car dad” I think sealed the deal for me.

Brilliant. Not for everyone mind you, but a brilliant car. I loved it – I am afraid that 2 days simply was not enough.


The seat warmer switches…


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