IT'S BACK
MOTOR Magazine Australia|October 2021
WE CUT LOOSE IN ONE OF THE MOST EAGERLY AWAITED CARS OF 2021, TOYOTA’S GR 86. AND WE HAVE QUESTIONS
PETER NELSON
AFTER A DECADE’S worth of getting acquainted with the Toyota 86, the Aichi, Japan automaker has officially debuted its ground-up replacement: the 2022 GR 86. Well actually, it’s not really a ground-up replacement, but rather a pretty substantial checklist.

The previous ZN6/ZC6 generation had some rough edges, and wasn’t the quickest thing on the road, but all things considered it was a fun, engaging, and inexpensive little sports car that was tailor-engineered for anyone who wanted to have any amount of fun behind the wheel. Nobody ever loved that FA20 engine though.

This brand new 2022 model takes the old 86’s basic formula and rounds off these edges. Toyota (and its platform-sharing pal Subaru) have taken criticisms from both journalists and enthusiasts into consideration, and have visited upon the 86 some substantial updates. There’s more power, more overall refinement, some increased dimensions, and the styling and design has been refreshed to keep it relevant for years to come. But is this enough?

We recently attended the 2022 Toyota GR 86’s official North American Launch at Monticello Motor Club, a wonderful track complex that’s just a hop and a skip outside of New York City, to give it a thorough going over. Well played on Toyota’s part, they had a few old 86 models on hand to help underscore the improvements.

Toyota’s checklist of re-styling, re-engineering and refinement of the 86 begins on the outside with some pretty welcome changes. Dimensionally, the GR’s wheelbase has increased by 5mm, its rear track width has expanded by 10mm, and there’s a tiny bit more real estate underneath in the form of 5mm more ground clearance, though its height decreases by 10mm. The net effect is that it looks more taut and compact than the old model. Supporting this further, its exclusively LED lighting package aids its design’s overall sharpness.

There are some clever new aerodynamics going on in three key spots, which double as elegant styling touches. Both the Base and Premium trim’s share sporty front bumper feature channels that direct air around the front wheels to improve stability at speed, as do small fins mounted on the rear wheel arches. Finally, the Premium trim has a substantial duckbill spoiler, which not only looks great, but increases downforce as well.

Although the GR 86 now looks smaller, there’s no real compromise in liveability. Its larger doors and slightly larger dimensions over the old model give it an airy interior that’s roomier, and easier to live with day in and day out. Shoulder room has increased in the new model as well, and there’s even less of a blindspot over the left shoulder. On the other hand, rear-seat room is still comically small. Like the old model, dropping the bench for expanded cargo room makes up for this.

The GR’s interior feels workmanlike and inherently right, with a good, low-slung driving position, big frontal view, supportive seats and excellent pedal placement. Like the old 86, it’s very driver-focused. You don’t feel like you’re reclined back over the rear wheels, either. It’s easy to get a feel for where the front bumper begins and dual, chrome exhaust tips end. Plus, tall folks rejoice: our 190cm-tall tester affirms that there’s plenty of headroom.

Toyota has integrated some clever bits to the latest car’s cabin in order to keep it relevant and fresh. Switchgear and other various controls’ layout is similar to the old 86, but materials quality has certainly taken an uptick. Its fully digital dash and centre infotainment screen are generously sized and offer great clarity. As one would hope for a sports car in the 2022 model year, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all standard. In fact, the Premium only trumps the Base trim by offering two more speakers in its sound system, plus some minor bits of advanced driver assistance tech: six-speed manual models get blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. When specified with the six-speed automatic however, pre-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, sway warning, lead vehicle start alert, and high-beam assist are thrown in as well.

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