Toyota 86: to Change or not to change, that is the question.


Toyota 86 (22)

2012 Toyota 86 GTS pedals2012 Toyota 86 GTS interior


Toyota 86 garage (1)

Auto or manual, 86 or 86 GTS

This week’s review is more by way of answering a question than giving a dry old rundown on a particular car. You see, we received literally an email on the subject.

The questioner asked us about Toyota’s 86: “Should I get 86, or 86 GTS. Is it worth the extra money? And, should I get an auto or a manual. I’ve ripped all the hair off one of my brows in a fit of consternation”.

Well Ms K. we’ve left no stone unturned in a quest to furnish you with an opinion worth a dime.

Ms. K. says she wants an auto but hubby wants a manual. Firstly, it’s nice to know we are read by members of the straight fraternity and that they would contact us to ask questions. “I value the opinions of queens because they have great taste”, She adds.

Thanks for that vote of confidence Ms. K.

It is of course quite true that the Gays like a bit of bling, and that we love pretty things. I can see why you would want a little sporty coupe after enduring a family hatch for a few years. Here are the questions and answers.

1: 86 or 86GTS

86GTS every time. The wheels, keyless entry/start, premium sound, leather alcantara seats, satnav and auto climate control are a few of the upgrades for your $6,000 taking us to a hair’s breadth under $40,000. The drive is the same in both models. It’s the rear-wheels driving the coupe that brings such a welcome change to the experience. For many years experts have preferred the front wheels to do the steering and the back wheels doing the pushing. It’s the way things are meant to be.

When Toyota and Subaru put their corporate heads together, they must have drafted in those Japanese drifters as consultants because the 86 is born go sideways. Should you ever be fortunate enough to take her on a track day, you’ll be rewarded in spades with bucket loads of spirit. The rear end steps out after politely tapping the driver on the shoulder to ask permission. It’s beautifully controlled with impeccable manners. Remember, the 86 was tested on the Nürburgring, one of the world’s most famous tracks. It’s the very same one where the Nissan GT-R beat the track time of the Porsche 911.

The frisky back end feels like it’s drifting 80% of the time and leaves a satisfying chirp at every opportunity. It’s easy to drive and gorgeous to look at and is dynamite value. It’s 10k cheaper than a Golf GTi and infinitely better looking. In fact it’s better looking than any other sports car under 50K, so I defy you to find a better vehicle.

You really need to decide if the $6,000 premium is worth it over the base model though. I’d pay it in a heartbeat.

2: Auto or Manual:

I learned to drive in a manual but half of the cars I’ve owned have been Autos. In fact most of the cars I’ve driven have been auto. I’ve made my feelings known on DSG’s which in some cases aren’t quite there yet, but modern full-automatic transmissions are pretty good. The one in the 86 is not just good, it’s sublime. It is a 6speed version of the ISF’s 8 speed and comes compete with a smart set of aluminium paddles glued to the back of the steering wheel. They turn with the wheel which is a bit annoying but the shift is fast and seamless. Once upon a time auto trannies made the engine use much more fuel than the shift-em-yourself gears. The figures are now much closer so that concern has been consigned to the dustbin where they so rightly belong.

A quick look at sales figures reveals some interesting facts too. Autos out-sell manuals by a long way, as is the case for most countries in the developed world. For the 86, 2/3 of the cars ordered have been automatic even though many of those buying have only taken her for a quick trundle around the back blocks. Still, they found that plenty of time to gauge how silky the shifts are. The manual too is very good. The shifts are sharp and precise and the gate is close and short, with a clutch that is a true delight. Its light enough so as not to develop Popeye-like muscles in your legs, with enough feel to give you feedback from the gearbox. You can feel what’s going on through the sole of your foot. One strange thing we noticed an odd “bump” and corresponding feeling through the floor as the gears were shifted downwards through 2nd into 1st. Whether it’s the clutch, who can say, but it was annoying.

You never have to reach for a gear, it’s just exactly where you need it to be. It’s not too tall, not too short and set far enough forward so that no matter where you have the seat set, your hand easily falls in just the right sport. The feel of the engine, gearbox and clutch was tight and solid. There’s a sporty feel that “hot hatches” can’t match. The 86 was purpose built as a sports car not one cobbled together from bits from a spare parts bin, so was good from the beginning. Don’t forget it’s coupled to that sweet little flat four from Subaru. It has the Subaru rasp which sounds good the more it’s revved, and how it loves being given a bootful.

Both are easy to drive but I can see why the silk 6 speed auto is the choice of most.


The bum is still very happy to step out in either auto or manual. The performance figures are almost the same as are the fuel figures. Regardless which trim level you go for, the auto is the better option but even it is slightly better in the top model. That puts the sale price at $42,000 on-road and there simply is not a car at this price that you’ll have this much fun in. It is for this reason that the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ have been runaway successes. There are big waiting times on both and in my opinion worth every second of the weight. You see, your money buys you some you can’t put your finger on, but the passers-by can. They look, young and old, at the sleek lines. They listen intently as the raspy engine propels you forward, and it is then you must surely think to yourself “yes, very nice. Very nice indeed”.

It’s the auto 86 GTS in red every time.


One thought on “Toyota 86: to Change or not to change, that is the question.

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