Sometimes just being evolutionary is better than being revolutionary. We’ve seen this thought recent history – the iPod was revolutionary, but music migrating to phones was evolutionary. Pineapple on pizza was revolutionary, but BBQ chicken or even penne as a topping was more evolutionary. Football was revolutionary, but the forward pass was evolutionary. When the first Toyota 86 showed up almost a decade ago, it was somewhat revolutionary. It was a low-slung, affordable, naturally aspirated, toss-able car that we really only ever saw in the Mazda MX-5/Miata before that. But, for 2022 Toyota has helped the 86 evolve instead of doing anything crazy.
Now known as the Toyota GR86, the twin of the Subaru BRZ, has developed into a more refined, but still fun little pocket rocket. Power comes from a larger and more powerful 2.4-liter port-and direct-injected DOHC flat-4 cylinder engine, which is up 0.4-liters from the engine it replaces. Although we would still like to see what this motor could do with a turbo strapped to it, it now makes a respectable 228-horsepower at 7,000 exciting rpm and an adequate 184 pound-feet of torque at 3,700 rpm. In the previous iteration, the automatic gave up a few ponies to the manual, but in its new guise, both transmissions get the same power so there is no penalty aside from a little bit of extra weight if you opt for the auto. Both trannies are of the six-speed variety. The six-speed manual is a wonderfully enchanting dance partner for all sorts of twists and turns, while the auto does an admirable job of trying to match the stick-shift’s fun factor.
That power is then routed to only the rear wheels, which combined with the Toyota GR86’s excellent weight distribution (56/44% front/rear) makes for an exciting machine to pilot around any track or country back road. And while 228-horsepower doesn’t sound like a lot, keep in mind that the GR86 only weighs a mere 2,817 pounds in manual trim and 2,871 pounds with the automatic. A sub-3,000 pound weight in a day and age when cars are getting more and more bloated thanks to increasing crash regulations, is nothing short of unbelievable.
Unlike Porsche’s PDK transmission that borders on telepathic, the six-speed auto in the Toyota GR86 is a bit lazier by comparison, and it shows up in the acceleration department. 0-60 mph in the manual comes up in just 5.8 seconds, while the auto takes nearly a full second longer, performing the same task in 6.6 seconds. That gap stays fairly similar through the quarter mile as well, with the manual clocking in at 14.3 seconds at 98.7 mph, while the auto takes a full 15.0 seconds at 96.2 mph. Around the skidpad, the auto actually surpasses its manual counterpart, posting a full 1.00 g while the manual checks in at a still-impressive 0.98 g. Scrubbing off that speed and braking from 60-0 mph takes the auto 107 feet, and the manual takes just a foot longer. The auto also posts better fuel economy numbers too — 21/31/25 city/highway/combined mpg while the manual checks in at 20/27/22 city/highway/combined. Though we also think that given the chance to wind out that big four cylinder to seven grand just for kicks might account for some of those diminished numbers.
So all in all, the Toyota GR86 is not a groundbreaking new model like it was back in 2012. Instead what we get a decade later is an updated and improved upon version of that same car. And what’s more, the base price for a new Toyota GR86 is almost identical to what it was for its predecessor. The base model starts at a bargain-basement price of just $28,725, and even if you opt for all the possible bells and whistles, you still won’t pay more than about $33,000. So while the jury is still out on pineapple on pizza, it is clear that the GR86 is a perfect evolutionary step in the world of fun-to-drive sports cars.