2023 Toyota GR86 GTS Review | Still the budget sports car king?

The original Toyota 86 was a smash hit here in Australia selling more than 22,000 examples. It’s taken them more than a decade to replace it, but here at long last we have the new GR86. But is it still any good? We run you through the details inside and out, take it for a drive, including a little surprise at the end so stay tuned. As ever, like the video, subscribe to the carsales channel, and leave us a comment down below with your thoughts on Toyota’s new sports car. When the first 86 landed Toyota shocked everyone by

offering it from just 29,990 for the base GT. In that context, pricing for the new car looks quite alarming. But taking into account inflation, the increase is around $5,000. Normally, that’s that in terms of pricing, but the GR86 is a little bit more complex. As you probably know the GR86 is basically a Subaru underneath and a lot of Subaru’s active safety gear doesn’t work with a manual gear box. This is why manual Subaru BRZs are around $4,000 cheaper than the automatics. They miss out on quite a lot of features. Manual and auto GR86s though are

the same price and subsequently the manuals are a few thousand dollars more than the Subaru counterparts. Toyota says it’s comfortable with the GR86 pricing and that

the car represents superb value. But in manual, guys, at least, it’s not as good value as a BRZ. Let’s move on. The new GR86 is a more stylish proposition than its predecessor. A little longer, a little lower, a more cohesive effort that’s been designed with aerodynamic efficiency in mind. Visual differences between the GT and GTS models are now very slight. The most obvious being the GTS’ 18-inch wheels with Michelin

Pilot Sport 4 tires and the adaptive front headlights. Under the bonnet is one of the biggest changes for this new GR86. The engine is still a naturally aspirated four cylinder, but it’s increased from 2 to 2.4 liters in size, which means more power and, crucially, more torque. It now produces 174 kilowatts and 250 newton-meters with the option of six-speed manual or automatic. The manual hits 100 km an hour in 6.3 seconds and drinks 9.5 liters per 100 km. The auto is around half a second slower, but around half a liter more economical. GR86s are covered

by Toyota’s five-year unlimited kilometer warranty with an extra two years of coverage on the engine and drive line. Here on the cabin, there’s also been a big lift. More thought to the design, better quality materials, more equipment. I’ll give you a few examples. We’ve got these HVAC controls with the digital readouts in the center and this row of silver switches here for commonly used functions, which both look good and are easy to use. Seating position is nice and low and these supportive seats. Though ideally, I’d like the wheel to come up a fraction higher. We’ve

got a manual handbrake, which is always welcome. And the commonly used touchpoint, so wheel, handbrake, and gear lever are wrapped in leather. Look, there’s nothing necessarily groundbreaking in here, but you can tell some effort has been put in. And as as far as affordable sports car interiors go, I think it’s pretty good. You can even have the lower bits in red like this test car, but for my taste it’s a little bit much. The instruments are now digital and join dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, heated leather accented seats, and a six-speaker stereo on

the equipment list. An example of the extra design touches, the surround of the digital instrument invokes the horizontally opposed pistons of the boxer engine. Infotainment is handled by an eight-inch touchscreen. And while it’s a fairly simple unit, it has all the basics including smartphone mirroring and digital radio. On the safety front, the GR86 does have seven airbags, but as you can see it’s active safety offering is pretty sparse. The GDS at least scoring blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Keen drivers won’t be too put off by the lack of lane keep assist, but

AEB is a handy feature that should be standard. As you can see, backseat room is severely compromised, but it’s not too surprising given the GR86s dimensions, though there are ISOFIX points on both sides for the kiddy seats. Of possibly more use is the fact that this rear seat back can fold down flat with room for a spare set of wheels for track day adventures. Seats up, the boot holds 237 liters. It’s looking promising so far. Better looks, nicer interior, more power, but the most important thing with any sports car is how it drives. The original

Toyota 86 was and is a great car, but it’s funny how thoughts and opinions can change over time. When it was launched, we all raved about it, stoked to have a fun, affordable rear drive sports car and a Japanese one at that available once again. Then as it became more familiar and newer competition arrived, its faults started to become more apparent. Like the fact the engine had no mid-range torque. The gearbox could be stubborn and notchy, especially when it was cold. And those eco tires weren’t really up to performance car duties. To kill the suspense,

the new GR86 fixes all the old car’s faults. Clearly, Subaru and Toyota were well aware of the shortcomings because basically all of them have been successfully addressed by this new model. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the engine. But this 2.4 still isn’t gonna end up in the four-cylinder hall of fame, but not only is there more power and acceleration, it’s also much more usable with no dips or hesitations in the delivery. You no longer have to constantly change gear to keep it singing. But if you do shift, you’ll find that it’s just better,

smoother, and nicer to use. Get the auto if you must. It’s not terrible, but does feel pretty lethargic as though gear ratio is quite a bit taller than in the manual. What might surprise you about the GR86 is that it’s actually pretty comfortable as sports cars go. Sadly, there is a mega amount of road noise, but if you can deal with that, there’s nothing stopping you driving long distances in this thing. The softer suspension also helps when you start to drive the GR86 like a proper sports car, as it soaks up bumps rather than being

upset by them. There is much more grip now. In part this is a function of having better tires. They’re now proper Michelin Pilot Sport 4s, but it’s also due to the stiffer platform and better setup. The old 86 would fall into oversteer as you approach the limit. A behavior built into the rear suspension to make it feel more fun at lower speeds. It worked, but it could make the car feel nervous as you up the pace. No such problems with the new car. This isn’t all good news though. For some people, even most people, the

new car’s greater grip, and stability, and poise will all be good things and give greater confidence. But if like me, one of the things you loved most about the old car was the fact that it would move around at virtually any speed, and this more capable newcomer does feel quite a bit more serious. So what we need, it’s a bit of further investigation. I think it’s fair to say that in the right environment the fun factor is absolutely still there. All right, now we’ve got the right environment. Let’s have a play, go into the driving

dynamics in a bit more detail. So first up is the engine. So it’s still not the star of the show, but no longer does it let the team down, although, that’s more of an issue on the road than the track. The old two liter wasn’t too bad on track because you are always right up in the rev range when it actually had some power. Nevertheless, this 2.4 is much stronger. More power, no big mid-range holes so you’ve got flexibility coming outta turns. And this six-speed gear box works really well. Shift’s pretty good, nice and accurate.

It’s easy to heel toe. The ratios are nice and short so there’s a good gear for every corner. There we go. Revs out to 7500 rpm back down to second. I’m not the biggest fan of the way it sounds. It’s got this synthetic engine noise played into the cabin, but it’s okay. But as I said, the engine is not the start of the show, that is the chassis. So as we mentioned previously, some of the shortcomings of the old 86 were obviously, it was great fun, but it could sort of fall into oversteer, which made

it sometimes a bit unpredictable. And it’s just as well, there’s a lot more grunt on offer because there’s actually quite a lot more grip to overcome too. No longer does the car sorta slide whether you want it to or not. You’ve really gotta put in the effort. As you can see, it’s still moving around, but I know it’s coming. It doesn’t sort of just fall into oversteer like the old car. Steering is fantastic in this car, perfectly weighted, maybe not quite as much feel as the previous car, but it’s really, really close. It’s still one

of the better steering systems around. And the perfect response to anyone who says that electric power steering isn’t a match for the old hydraulic stuff. Quick word about the car’s electronics. The first 86 had a dreadful ESP system. Even in that sort of track mode, it was so conservative and you could hear going grunt, grunt coming in really clumsy if you tried to explore the car’s handling. The facelifted car fixed that. The ESP became a lot better. And this car is similar. It really continues that trend. It’s got a track mode here which allows you

to explore the car’s handling. You can really drive it on the limit while having that safety net retained so you don’t overstep the mark. Of course, it’s at its most fun with the electronics off and there’s really no reason to fear that, because even though with this car’s extra grip you’re still not going super fast, and that just allows you to play with the car so much. And that’s the greatest thing about this 86, gives you so much confidence in what it’s gonna do. What truly elevates the GR86 into one of the great driver’s cars

though, is the fact that you can absolutely just choose the way you want to drive it. There’s enough grip and control now that you can drive it neat and tidy and have a lot of fun, and go pretty quickly too. But there’s so much communication and feedback that if you wanna hone around RRP can block, there’s absolutely no problem doing so, It’s so controllable. That makes it a great car to learn in too. If you wanna learn about the automotive steer, there are a few better cars than this one to do it in. It just

makes it so easy. Trust me, if you’re good in 86, go to a hill climb, go to a skid pan, get under the skin of what your car can do because there are few more fun experiences behind the wheel at any price. We might have had to wait more than a decade for a new 86, but it’s been worth it. To its credit, Toyota has identified all the shortcomings of the old car and rectified them, as well as making it a nicer car to be in. Trouble is there’s another car that offers everything that’s great

about the GR86, but it’s not only more exclusive, but it’ll leave you with a few extra thousand dollars in your pocket too. The only difference is it wears a Subaru badge instead of a Toyota one. And that’s why if I wanted a GR86, I’d buy a BRZ. Thanks for watching. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please give it a like, subscribe to the carsales channel, and leave us a comment down below with the cars you’d like to see us review.

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