IN CONCEPT: The swept back silhouette of a front engine, rear drive fastback coupe is irresistible. The sensuous shape stimulates the visual senses.

Low mass, low center of gravity, just enough high revving power at the threshold of breaking the rear rubber loose, capable of controlled slides into and oversteer charging out of corners, a nimble steering rack, and confident stopping power tick all the right boxes of spirited movement.

IN PRACTICE: When the Toyota 86 GT, fraternal twin of the Subaru BRZ, has to account for itself, the fastback sports touring coupe has been cursed for ticking the right concept boxes.

Now in year 7 since the U.S. debut, with sales having tumbled from a launch acme, the Toyobaru  side, in particular, can’t avoid a power deficiency pooh-poohing.

With one review and a drifting video of the Toyota 86 as Scion FR-S under the belt of sister outlet, ChicagoNow.com “Drive…He Said,” Roadblazing.com now wonders aloud whether the 2019 Toyota 86 GT deserves more love than it gets.

 

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2019 Toyota 86 GT highlights:

– Starting price, including destination = $29,505 base rear-drive, 16V 2.0L flat-4, 6-speed manual transmission.

Embodies styling of 1960’s to late 1970’s front engine, rear drive Japanese sports cars and the dynamics of the AE86 Hachi Roku Corolla GT

– High beltline, wide-flared fenders & rear quarters, low slung hood sensuous fastback coupe silhouette takes on wider latticed trapezoidal lower air dam and more aggressive dark straked faux front corner brake ducts, with “86” logos substituting for former opposed piston emblems. Lighting is full LED, with amber LEDs fill in front & rear directionals.  GT trim models feature a matte black elevated trunk lid spoiler.

– Instrumentation is an exercise in tarted up vanilla basic. The central black on white analog 9000 rpm tachometer with digital speedometer inset looks great. Stepping up to the GT model derives “techie” TFT color trip data displaying engine condition, power graphs, track data displays. Switchgear is crisp simplicity, though GT and up models auto climate dials and toggles are spiffed up with metallic jewel pieces.

– Infotainment makes a 1.0″ size leap but lags by two generations. There is the familiar looking in-dash Pioneer 7.0″ touch LCD head unit, simple to use, with all of one mobile app, A-Ha radio included. That means no Entune 2.0 apps here, although a HDD GPS navigation head-unit is a dealer offered accessory. Despite a 300W power rating the audio struggles to compete with the hoary flat-4 above 4000 rpm.

– The few concessions to dark, coarse grained dash, door, console & wall panels is the strategic use installation of sueded Granlux fabric, on the dash and 86 GT seats, while dontrast stitched soft padded leatherette cushions front knees against center console and door panels.

– In the interest of low mass front sport buckets are devoid of power adjustments. Slipping in and out denotes a definite door lean. Padding manages supportive though not suffocating. Fold and slide access to the back seat for two uncomfortable adults is limited to the passenger side.

– Prospective and perceptive Mazda MX-5 cross-shoppers should note the Toyota 86 has a real trunk. Two weeks’ groceries are no problem. The rear seat back folds for a couple carry-ons. There’s a real in-dash glovebox. Center console storage is deep enough for dual cup holders. Door pockets are included, too. One bad = the keyless start / stop module which consumes wireless device cubby space.

– Despite +5 horsepower, +5 lb-ft increases bumps to the 2.0L 16V DOHC boxer-4 engine, high engine speeds remain the recipe of wringing maximum launch spin. Two levels of console switch activated traction control reduction and a mechanical parking brake are included for drift attempts.

Revised shorter final drive gearing spurs the powerplant to a hard 7500 rpm rev limiter. Short clutch travel is daily driver moderately light, while disengagement remains high up the release. Gear shifter action exhibits positive throws, though close ratios demand attention. Constant reminders of the mission are cabin din, though wind/ road noise and shifter vibration attempt civility.

Higher rate front springs combined with lower rates and thicker anti-roll bars in the rear benefit traction. Rebound damping quells jolts well. The front weight shift understeer plow and acceleration oversteer tendencies are handled by the standard Torsen limited slip. Steering top center possesses a dead spot and some tramlining is evident. But the hefty, rapid moving rack wishing the tires could transmit a bit more. 4-wheel sliding 1-pistion disc brakes = exhibit less than linear pedal reaction, losing grabbing steam at end of travel.

– observed 31 MPG surpasses EPA combined fuel economy estimates by 8%

– SAFETY = 6 Airbags; Standard rear camera w/ predictive grid = -1 Rear camera micro displays inside rear view mirror; Full LED head and tail-lamps.

– INCLUDED = Keyless entry & ignition, cruise control, full express power windows x 2; 7.0″ touch LCD infotainment display, Bluetooth handsfree communications, text messaging, e-mail, automatic climate control.

– MAJOR OPTIONS = (avail.) dealer installed HDD Navigation head unit, 6-speed paddle shift torque converter automatic helical transmission

 

Toyota 86 GT PROS:

  • Sleek fastback silhouette
  • Ultra low center of gravity
  • Boxer engine high red-line
  • Standard Torsen limited slip
  • Fuel economy
  • Super positive short throw manual gearbox
  • Quieter cabin than Mazda MX-5 RF roof closed
  • Excellent front seat bolstering
  • Fold down rear seat trunk expansion

Toyota 86 GT CONS:

  • Lack of low end grunt
  • High engine revved urban ambling
  • Stock exhaust embarrassed by FIAT 500 Abarth
  • Steering on center vagueness
  • Rear seat for who?
  • Rear outward view challenging
  • Infotainment from a previous decade

2019 Toyota 86 GT  = For the time being raw balance staves off calls for more power in this sports gt coupe!

 

ANY COMPETITION: Mazda MX-5 Miata: +1 super low mass, convertible top, cockpit finish; Ford Mustang: +1 turbocharged inline-4 power, pony car heritage;  Chevrolet Camaro: +1 turbo inline-4 power, astounding body control, pony car heritage.

 (Contributing Editor: Susan Frissell)