A small, affordable 2+2 coupe with naturally aspirated engine, manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive was already unexpected in 2012 when Toyota launched the stunning GT86 under our wet eyes. So ten years later, in this field of ruins that has become the reasonable sports market, champagne! Especially since the news GR86 is nothing but a GT86, only better.
Prettier: despite identical proportions (4.26m long, 1.78m wide and 1.31m high, on an unchanged wheelbase of 2.57m), it has lost the slender side of its predecessor. Nothing spectacular, but lines that are both more structured and more harmonious, which will make an excellent compromise between kawaii of a Mazda MX-5 and the muscle of a Nissan Z in the parking lot of a JDM rasso.
More vigorous: the 4-cylinder flat still does without supercharging but it now cubes 2.4 l, enough to display 234 hp (+34 hp) and above all 250 Nm, available from 3700 rpm, i.e. almost 3000 rpm lower than the 205 Nm of the old 2 l. It jumps to the lumbar and cervical as soon as you put your foot on the floor. We are no longer hungry for covers, while finally enjoying real flexibility on a daily basis. Toyota has also digitally expanded the soundtrack, perhaps a little too much: the GT86 frankly lacked voice but did not abuse Auto-Tune as much. Well staged, the 6-speed manual transmission remains a delight with its small short-travel lever, whose guidance Toyota has refined (not yet up to an MX-5 or a Civic Type R). However, we would not have spat on an automatic heel-toe function (the GR Yaris and the news Supra mech box have it), even if the purists deactivate it once and for all in a menu. According to a stubborn legend that has been circulating since the birth of the GT86, there is also a mysterious car gearbox version with converter (€1800)…
Finally, the GR86 is sharper. It has gained in rigidity everywhere without gaining more than thirty kg (1264 kg). We find this perfect direction and this mischievous rear axle, even if Michelin Pilot Sport 4 replaced as original equipment the Prius Primacy on which the GT86 relied to facilitate sliding. Rest assured, the GR86 has not lost its sense of humor. It is more precise but no less playful when you really tickle it, even if you settle for the intermediate “Track” position of the ESP. As soon as it turns, the osmosis is total. The kind of car at the wheel of which, on a small hilly Andalusian road as it should be, you suddenly feel at your place in the universe.
Admittedly, the noise level is a bit high when you have your head in the grand touring category, and this interior would seem to be 15 years old without the digital instrumentation and the 8-inch central screen (without GPS: you will have to connect your smartphone to it for the navigation). This austere atmosphere is forgotten during the first laps while the trunk worthy of the name and the two rear seats, even symbolic, make the GR86 a more versatile car than an MX-5, a Alpine… or its big sister the Supra. This one can obviously oppose it with much higher performance and refinement, except that it has never given us the same smile in practice.
We come to the only real defect of the GR86, which is not of its making: a penalty of 16,950 € in our beautiful country, half of its list price (remember that in its great magnanimity, Bercy has capped the penalty at 50% of the price). So here we are at over €50,000 all-inclusive, which becomes hard to justify if we stick to performance and presentation. But the GR86 skillfully perpetuates a dying automotive archetype and, even so crucified, it’s thrilling enough to drive to remain a must-have proposition. Provided you manage to get your hands on a copy: the European quotas promise to be starving, and the ephemeral import.