Toyota GR86: An old-school featherweight boxer

Toyota GR86: An old-school featherweight boxer


Toyota is revamping its GR (Gazoo Racing) sports lineup by re-uniting its small 4-cylinder sports coupe with a Boxer engine. A true journey back in time, to a time when affordable luxury cars flourished.

Fortunately Toyota exists. A good student in terms of average CO2 emissions, thanks to its predominance in hybrids and its progress in electrical equipment, the manufacturer is one of the typical experts who can not only maintain, but also develop the real part of cars. warm sports.

Although these models are now condemned in the European market because of the discouraging penalties, when Renault has just finished the production of its RS brand and the latest Mégane, and when all the premium manufacturers are in the process of electrification by force. accompanying their most powerful models, Toyota strikes a big blow in the sports field.

Toyota offers a series of sports models under the GR or Gazoo Racing label. © Antoine Larigaudrie

The heart of this abomination, which is obviously aimed at the non-European market, is called GR, GR for Gazoo Racing. Like Mercedes with AMG, Toyota has brought together all its models, engineering research and motorsport (including the endurance team that runs the 24 Hours of Le Mans) under the banner of its sports coach, which is now fully integrated into group. Therefore, he was able to develop in a few years a small series of games, quite warm, which have gained a great reputation.

It started with the GT Supra, built in collaboration with BMW, it continued with the small Yaris GR that hit the world’s automotive media, it will also soon lead to the arrival of the Corolla high-performance model, impressive … And also stick the GR label as a sporty finish on the most modern models in the range, especially some SUVs.

The main thing: a light sports car, a legendary engine

Only one link was missing, a small group of fun games in the middle, and instead of cheap to collect penalties. And Toyota quickly looked at the case of its GT86, launched 10 years ago. Despite the risk of seeing this type of model destroyed on the European market, Toyota finally decided to release the evolution, named GR86 for the occasion, and bring it to Europe. Very little change as the original model was praised for its original qualities: lightness, strength, perfect balance and neat design. At that time, we only regretted the limited power, with only 200 horsepower.

The GR86 takes the card of lightness, power, but gains in power compared to the GT86: under the hood, we go from 200 to 234 horses.
The GR86 takes the card of lightness, power, but gains in power compared to the GT86: under the hood, we go from 200 to 234 horses. © Antoine Larigaudrie

So GR86 corrects this lack. Now with 234 horsepower, the sports sedan finally has a trunk that justifies its presence in the lineup. Under the hood, still the favorite engine of the Toyota/Subaru galaxy: a naturally aspirated Boxer with a displacement of 2.4 liters.

Full of torque and flexibility, it fits perfectly within the low architecture of the machine, its design “flat” and a pair of counter cylinders (like 2 boxers returning the blow with a loop, hence the name …) allowing it to be placed. under the engine bay, to maintain a better center of gravity, reduce vibrations and ensure a perfect 50/50 weight balance. With a light weight of more than 1.2 tons, in other words the GR86 goes fast, very fast, and shoots from 0 to 100 km / h in just 6.5 seconds.

Under the hood of the GR86 is an airy Boxer with a displacement of 2.4 liters and an output of 234 horsepower.
Under the hood of the GR86 is an airy Boxer with a displacement of 2.4 liters and an output of 234 horsepower. © Antoine Larigaudrie

Old school gameplay

Between the GT86 and the GR86, it’s also night and day in terms of character. The engine now climbs higher and faster at revs, with the noise and growl of a sewing machine, just like the famous Subaru Impreza WRX, world rally champions with this engine…

But there, there is no turbo, we even have a feeling of direct contact with the machine, so reactive is the engine, pleasant steering, accurate running gear and… high performance gearbox. Yes, because the GR86 retains a good old mechanical gearbox, not as perfect as in Mazda or Honda, but with pleasant handling and very good response.

The road behavior of the Toyota GR86 makes a pleasant sense of sport.
The road behavior of the Toyota GR86 makes a pleasant sense of sport. © Antoine Larigaudrie

With the machine being a pure propulsion, as we are close to each mechanical tool, we also immerse in the world of tactile sensations and sounds that make us feel every change of speed, every change of course, every stop or rise in the state. .. A real school car, very rich in emotions, reminiscent, in a different form, of the Mazda MX-5.

Only the adjustment of the suspension seems to have changed a little for this type of machine, to tolerate a significant roll. But for the rest, its design makes it an eater of curves and small roads, and for those who like it, it is a born slide, with a rear axle that slides well enough and very healthy reactions. Furthermore, it is possible to disassemble ESP partially or completely to benefit from it.

Come back to humility

If the liveliness of the train can confuse those who are used to SUVs and large sedans, it will surprise the uninitiated with a pleasant car. Including inside. Very plain indeed, without any fuss, a very simple finish enhanced only by a few touches of alcantara and very thin but very nice bucket seats. Digital instruments are also very simple, a speedometer, a tachometer, a few devices such as a stopwatch, mechanical currents and a “G” force meter to measure the speed of the machine, but that’s about it.

There is no setting for different driving modes, even the infotainment screen seems to take us back to the 2000s, as it is so familiar. And finally all the interests are there, focusing again on the interests of the driver on the dynamic characteristics of this coupe.

With a light weight of more than 1.2 tons, in other words the GR86 goes fast, very fast, and shoots from 0 to 100 km / h in just 6.5 seconds.
With a light weight of more than 1.2 tons, in other words the GR86 goes fast, very fast, and shoots from 0 to 100 km / h in just 6.5 seconds. © Antoine Larigaudrie

Other than that, we’re well-squeezed into the cabin but will probably feel a little cramped in the long run. Especially in the absence of practical storage, only the glove box and a small storage space behind the armrest will be able to accommodate a few things.

About the back seats… It’s not fun for all that, even covering and pleasant, but you still have to fit there, no more than 1.70 meters and your legs should not be too wide to fit under the seats before. . But they have the merit of being there, such as the trunk apart from being ridiculous with a capacity of 280 liters. It’s not big, but it’s enough.

Black point: ergonomic details and the penalty of disappointment

A few more embarrassing bugs can be annoying, such as a very inaccurate automatic indicator switch, terrible front seat belt supports and a weak connection to mobile phones. The GR86 does not have an internal navigation system. So you’ll have to successfully connect your phone, otherwise… You’ll have to trust your instincts or a good road map.

Inside the Toyota GR86 cabin.
Inside the Toyota GR86 cabin. © Antoine Larigaudrie

But from the design to the character, we really feel that the GR engineers wanted to create a Toyota that is sufficiently sporty, well organized, with high sensitivity and simplicity, that can be used every day. All with a simpler, less tortuous design than that of the GT86. We will only regret the good old-fashioned logo on the sides, taking the design of the Boxer engine.

But at what cost?

And from a price point of view, Toyota also hits hard, with an attack price of 33,900 euros. With these characteristics, the engine that is finally ready to start and the balance between the prices, the GR86 is somewhat without equal in the current range of cars. But he will still have to swallow a penalty of 16,500 euros which will undoubtedly make him a rare bird.

Toyota GR86 prices range from 33,900 to 35,700 (with automatic transmission).
Toyota GR86 prices range from 33,900 to 35,700 (with automatic transmission). © Antoine Larigaudrie

Nissan, for example, has stopped importing its new and highly anticipated 400Z to Europe for these reasons. So Toyota has no mercy, and even if the GR86 certainly does not look like a bestseller, it has the characteristics of existing ones and will satisfy lovers of simple and old car pleasures. A very rare item.
Our test model: Toyota GR86 from 33,900 to 35,700 (automatic transmission)