Updated: Apr 1
If they gave out awards for most improved player in cars, the 2022 Toyota GR86 would have a lock on it this year. More power, better suspension, weight-suppression efforts, improved looks, nicer interior---all still at a really low price.
Especially in the Track (b)Red (I see what they did there) paint, the new 86 (the first major redesign since this car debuted ten years ago as the Scion FR-S) looks like a sports car you could love instantly. Has there been a better shade of red this side of Porsche and Ferrari?
As before, the Toyota GR86 (until last year, just the Toyota 86), is a joint venture with Subaru, which markets an identical vehicle, apart from some trim work and suspension tuning, as the BRZ. The GR in the name stands for Toyota's Gazoo Racing, which went to work on the 2.0-liter Subaru BOXER four-cylinder, boring it out to 2.4 liters, changing intake and exhaust systems, optimizing the dual injection tech and wringing an extra 23 horsepower out of this year's model---a jump from 205 to 228. There's also an increase in torque from 156 pounds per foot to 184.
Better still, that power is much more accessible, with peak torque now coming at 3,700 RPM as opposed to 6,600 RPM in last year's car. The new BRZ will get all of these improvements, too. That cuts 0-60 runs in cars with the six-speed manual transmission from 7.0 seconds down to 6.1. And in cars equipped with automatics, the previous 8.0-second run to 60 is now only 6.6.
Not only are there automatics available in the GR86, Toyota estimates 75% of the GR 86s they'll sell will have the automatic---as did our tester. I'll confess to some disappointment---I was really looking forward to driving this with a manual. But, the automatic does a nice job, especially when you select "Sport" mode and it hangs onto the revs, and there's a significant improvement in fuel economy---an EPA estimated 21 city/31 highway for the automatic versus 20/27 for the manual. Aluminum roof panels and fenders join the already existing aluminum hood to offset the weight gains from structural improvements (it's a much stiffer car than the previous gen) and with a near-perfect weight distribution of 53 percent front/47 percent rear, this handles like a slot car.
The trunk? Tiny. 6.2 cubic feet. The rear seat? If the people up front are 5'5" or shorter, there might be legroom back there, but really, this is a two-seater.
The new interior? Light-years better than the old one. Clean, contemporary and everything right where your hand expects it to be.
The test car was a GR86 Premium. A standard GR86 starts at $27,250. The Premium is $30,300 but adds 18-inch matte black-painted alloy wheels (an upgrade from 17s on the base car), auto-leveling headlights with adaptive front lighting, black heated power outside mirrors, a color-keyed rear spoiler, heated sport seats with ultrasuede bolsters and leather-trimmed inserts, ultrasuede trim on the rear folding setback, dual illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors and an eight-speaker audio system replacing the standard six-speaker unit. This tester, equipped with an automatic, starts at $31,800. Also standard: Every GR86 comes with a complimentary one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association (NASA), including one free-high performance driving event and discounted admission to NASA-sanctioned events.
The only option on the test car was the Track (b)Red paint ($425), so with $1,025 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price for the 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium with automatic is $33,250, which is an astonishingly low price for the fun that can be had in this car.
Here's the caveat---and the reason for the headline. If you're numbers-obsessed, if you're competitive to the point of standing around talking about how your car will beat the other guys' cars, the GR86 loses a little something in the data. For all the performance improvements, it's still slower than a Mazda Miata. And slower than a Volkswagen GTI. And a lot slower than a Hyundai Veloster N. It gets worse gas mileage than the Miata and the GTI and ties the Veloster. The GR86 requires premium fuel (as does the Veloster). The Miata and GTI take regular. But if you aren't one of those guys---if, like me, you measure how great a car is by how great it feels to drive it---the GR86 gets you right in the feels. I'd be happy to have one, payments, insurance, title and all.