The 2022 Toyota GR86 2+2 sports coupe returns for a second generation in partnership with Subaru and its flat-4 rear-wheel-drive twin, the BRZ. It’s an effortless car to drive on the track, but it’s outmatched on the street in every other way save for performance. The same holds true for its closest rivals, the Subaru BRZ and the Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Following the redesigned 2022 Subaru BRZ revealed late last year, the Toyota GR86 returns with more power, functional air intakes, a lighter weight despite a longer wheelbase and length, and a stiffer suspension. Toyota adds a Gazoo Racing (GR) badge to honor its sports car lineage and mark it as track ready.
You’ll have to look closely to spot the differences with the last-generation 86. The proportions remain the same for the low-slung two-door with a wide and low nose that wears a mesh grille and vertical air intakes shaped to manage the flow around the front wheels. The 86 comes clad in aluminum fenders and roof panels to trim the weight of its bigger engine and extra equipment. Still, the chunky rear haunches give it some heft and some visual appeal. It’s good looking, although it’s far from adventurous.
Tossable handling lifts the 86 into a higher sports-car echelon. It’s not the quickest sports car we’ve driven, but it’s entertaining though and it’s nearly unflappable on a track. This year, Toyota has upgraded the engine in the 86 from a 205-hp flat-4 to a 2.4-liter flat-4 with 228 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Peak torque arrives at 3,700 rpm, versus a sky-high 6,700 rpm in the previous edition. The rear-wheel drive only 86 slings itself to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds with the manual shifter whose snick-snick action is great for the track, or 6.6 seconds with the automatic that’s better suited to day-to-day driving. The engine sounds coarse at full throttle, but at cruising speeds it settles down to a less feral growl.
The powertrain isn’t the star here: handling is. With vented disc brakes at all four corners, a strut and multi-link rear suspension, and a choice of 17-inch wheels on base cars or 18-inchers on Premium models, the 86 has authentic sports-car poise. At just 2,811 lb, the base 86 slips through esses and screams down straightaways with predictable composure. Flick it into a tight corner and it slides into catchable oversteer, without a hint of viciousness or unpredictability. The limits get a little higher and the slides more lurid with Premium editions, but in either case the 86’s communicative steering keeps the vibe upbeat, not threatening. It’s one of the most intuitive sports cars we’ve driven.
The 86 doesn’t 86 gas mileage entirely. With an estimated EPA rating of 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined with the automatic. It’s 19/26/21 mpg with the manual. Neither set of numbers factor in track time, and for the record, the Miata manages 30 mpg combined. No crash-test scores are available, since the NHTSA and the IIHS haven’t crash-tested it yet. Prior versions haven’t been tested fully, either. Only the automatic-transmission 86 comes with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and adaptive cruise control.
Inside the 86 has a plainly laid-out dash with a big touchscreen at the center and a digital gauge cluster. Round knobs ringed in metallic trim run the climate controls, and toggles beneath them sort out drive modes and traction settings. Round air vents and round banks of secondary controls on the steering wheel round out a cabin that’s understated to minimize distraction, not to redirect it.
Slip into the 86 like a driving shoe, and leave the extras at home. The 2022 86 coupe checks in at just 167.9 inches long, with a 101.4-inch wheelbase. It’s 1.2 inches longer than before and an inch taller, but it’s still effectively a two-seater with a small trunk. In front, manually adjusted bucket seats come covered in grippy cloth or a blend of leather and alcantara, and are surrounded by ample head and leg room. They’re ideal for autocross-style drives, though the tilt steering column doesn’t telescope; some tall drivers will have to adapt their usual position, especially if they’re wearing a helmet.
Toyota says the 86 can seat four, but the two in back should be small and compliant. It’s better used in extension mode for the tiny 6.3-cubic-foot trunk; fold down the rear seatback and, Toyota says, the 86 can tote a replacement set of wheels and tires for track days. The 86 comes with a matte-surface touchscreen and plenty of hard plastic trim, but it doesn’t feel thrifty.
Toyota sells the base 86 starting at $27,900 with a 7.0-inch digital gauge display, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, six-speaker audio, LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, and a Torsen limited-slip rear differential. The automatic transmission Premium for $29,825, gets two more speakers, a rear spoiler, leather and Alcantara upholstery, and 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 treads. Premium models with a manual transmission come in at $30,900 before accessories.
The 86 packs in plenty of virtue and value. The 2022 86 has a big infotainment touchscreen and offers good value for a very specific set of buyers, but the warranty’s just average, and manual-shift cars don’t get important safety equipment. You’re buying it for the handling, otherwise you really should be looking at a crossover. All prices include a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty, 2 years/25,000 miles of scheduled service, and a day of track driving and a year of National Auto Sport Association membership.
The 2022 Toyota 86 is a rare beast; one that we’re grateful and privileged that the relationship with Subaru made happen. Blending in Subaru bits has only helped to improve the 86’s driving experience. Razor-ready track performance is the forte of every 86 including newfound power, predictable teeth-gritting handling, and technology nannies that actually let you have some fun. In the end, the Subaru Toyota marriage is the best of both brands and we are all the wonderful beneficiaries.
Image Source: Miro Vrlik Photography / Shutterstock