2017 Toyota 86Posted on November 21st, 2016
Sport coupe gets retuned for improved performance
By Nina Russin
The 86 is one of several former Scion models moving under the Toyota umbrella for 2017. This year the 86, formerly Scion FR-S, gets retuned for more aggressive performance, with more power and suspension upgrades to improve high-speed handling.
Inspiration for the original FR-S came from Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company founder and a life-long driving enthusiast. Toyoda, whose made it his personal mission to infuse the company with his passion for performance, wanted to create a vehicle celebrating the spirit of the Corolla Levin, also called AE86. The sporty two-seater was favored among early drift racing competitors including the legendary Keiichi Tsuchiya.
While the 86 isn’t a car for everyone, it is, for the right buyer, one of the best values on the planet. Co-developed with Subaru (the Subaru version is the BRZ), the Toyota 86 is a beautifully balanced true sports car priced well below $30,000. Final MSRP for the test car with the six-speed manual transmission is $27,120.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
Over the past week, I had the opportunity to drive the retuned Toyota 86 around Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley as well as sections of the Gila River Indian Community to the south. Although the 86 is available with an automatic transmission, driving enthusiasts will want to buy the stick. Only the manual version gets five additional horsepower and five pound-feet of torque over the 2016 model. It’s also about forty pounds lighter than the automatic transmission model, for a better power-to-weight ratio.
While 205-horsepower might not look like a lot on paper, it moves the lightweight sport coupe off the line like a rocket. A revised rear axle gear ratio gives the 2017 model even better launch.
Direct injection and a 12.5:1 compression ratio deliver rapid throttle response. Best of all, the car runs on 87 Octane gasoline, helping to contain ownership costs.
A short-throw shift lever is easy to use, with plenty of range between the gears to function well in thick traffic. Because the car has no B-pillar, visibility to either side is excellent.
A retuned four-wheel independent suspension is stiffer for better steering response at high speeds. Arizona lacks the uneven road surfaces of the Upper Midwest, but the suspension felt quite comfortable driving on a variety of roads, including some rural thoroughfares south of town.
Performance from the electric power steering system is virtually indistinguishable from a conventional hydraulic setup, with quick response and none of the numb feeling that can plague these systems. A small diameter steering wheel is true to the coupe’s sporty mission.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the coupe in firm, linear fashion. Seventeen-inch alloy rims and summer performance tires give the 86 a fat footprint.
As mentioned up top, the 86 is not a car for everyone. Because of its low stance, access and egress is more difficult than for a traditional passenger car. There is a lot of tire and exhaust noise, especially at higher speeds. But for the intended audience, none of these detract from the overall package.
The second-row seat is primarily a nod to insurance companies, but it does add some interior storage space that competitors such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata lack. Because of that, the Toyota 86 can function reasonably well as a primary car.
Although it’s sold as a two-plus-two, the 86 is really a two-person vehicle. Rear seats might hold a small child, but adults will have a difficult time climbing in back. I found six-way driver’s seat adjustments easy to use. There is plenty of lower lumbar support for trips lasting several hours.
Although it’s designed for the track, the 86 incorporates all the amenities drivers want for everyday use, including a Pioneer audio system with touchscreen display, Bluetooth interface, iPod connectivity and remote keyless entry. Redundant audio controls on the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel minimize driver distraction.
Buyers also have the confidence of Toyota’s reputation for safety and durability. Standard safety features include front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, daytime running lamps, tire pressure monitoring and hill start assist. A track mode enables owners to disengage the stability control for racing.
Although it hasn’t yet received an overall vehicle crash test rating, NHTSA gave the Toyota 86 five stars for rollover protection: pretty important for drivers who like to live life on the edge.
All in all, the new Toyota 86 is an appealing package: stylish and peppy, with the versatility for everyday living and enough power for the podium at weekend club races.
Like: For 2017, the Toyota 86 gets more power under the hood and a retuned suspension that will be more to the liking of its intended audience. Hands down, it is one of the best buys in the sports car market.
Dislikes: Limited trunk space, road noise, difficult access and egress.
Base price: $26,255
As tested: $27,120
Horsepower: 205 Hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 156 lbs.-ft. @ 6400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 21/28 mpg city/highway