Thursday, November 21, 2019

86, BRZ or FRS: By Any Name, A Blast to Drive Sports Coupe

Within the past year you could have bought essentially the same car with three different names. The now defunct Scion FR-S became the Toyota 86, while the Subaru BRZ has remained the stalwart of the three. So, what’s in a name?

When Toyota disbanded the Scion division in 2016, there was no way they were abandoning the FR-S, so it was renamed the 86 (pronounced “eight-six”), a reference to the production code of previous noteworthy Toyota sport coupes. The digits “8-6″ translate into “iconic father” in Japanese, again honoring heritage Toyota models.

2018 Toyota 86

Fun & affordable is a good place to start

This fun and affordable sports coupe is known throughout the world as the 86, with only the USA and Canada once calling it the FR-S. Confusing, maybe, but not unprecedented. Back in 1984 Nissan decided to drop the Datsun name throughout the world and start selling cars under their corporate name. This move was both costly to the company and its dealers, but also very confusing to consumers who had fallen in love with the reliable, small and cheap (inexpensive, that is) Datsun family of cars. This has not been an issue with the FR-S to 86 rebranding, as enthusiasts are not as concerned with what it is called as how much fun it is to drive. And the Toyota brand is much more firmly established than the Scion brand ever was.

A Shrinking Breed

The auto market is dominated by front-wheel drive cars, with only trucks and a few cars being pushed rather than pulled. Even with the diminishing rear-wheel drive car breed, the enjoyment of driving one grows with the hours behind the wheel, especially if you are driving a sporty car. Add to it the other rarity of a manual transmission, and the possibilities are endless for big smiles to match the miles ahead.

2018 Toyota 86

Not many coupes in the affordable sporty market

The 2018 Toyota 86 is the lowest priced rear-wheel drive, 200+ horsepower sports coupe on the market. The distinction of coupe is important as the Mazda MX-5 Miata is the lowest priced two-seat rear-wheel drive convertible sports car on the market. You want performance and handling with a fixed roof, then look no further than the Toyota 86.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The 2018 Toyota 86 is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 16-valve, boxer (flat-four) engine, producing 205 horsepower and 156 pounds-feet of torque at 6,400 rpm. The Subaru designed and built boxer engine uses Toyota’s direct and port injection system. The boxer design is a horizontally opposed engine, invented by Karl Benz in 1896. Yes, the Benz of Mercedes-Benz. In recent automotive history the boxer design has been used by, among others, Porsche, Volkswagen and Subaru, the latter of which shares a platform with the Toyota 86 with its BRZ.

2018 Toyota 86

The cockpit is all for the driver

Smarticd’s 86 was equipped with a six-speed manual (a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters is optional and probably is fun to drive too). Running on premium 91 octane fuel, the 86 is EPA rated at 21 city/28 highway/24 combined mpg. Our week in the 86 saw 552 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving and an average of 31.7 mpg, meaning even in a sporty car that loves to run high in the rev band, it is possible to get respectable fuel economy. But let’s get real here, who will be buying the 86 to squeeze miles from every tank of fuel?

The six-speed manual in our 86 was designed for aggressive shifting and loves taking the engine high in the rev band. The torque under 4,000 rpms in each gear was so-so, but becomes much better when taking the 86 up to the 7,500 red line, which coincidentally is where the fun and spirited driving lives. The manual has notchy shifts, so while the throws are short (which is good) you also must hit the gear precisely, or you will be in the wrong gear. If you are rapidly going through the gears and go from third into sixth, instead of fourth (which is close-by sixth), your acceleration momentum will end and your salty language will begin. Particularly fun is when the 86 pulls hard in the top-end of third, fourth and fifth. Heck, you can even get to 50 mph in second, so wringing-out the speed, approaching red line, is what this car loves and is built for.

2018 Toyota 86

Shining on the road

The 86 has a rough ride at freeway speeds, but has little wind noise partly due to the respectable 0.29 coefficient of drag. Where the 86 really shines is with very predictable handling from its tuned chassis. The point-to-a-spot steering was enhanced by electric power steering that did not reduce the road feel as much as other cars we have tested. When combined with the MacPherson strut front, double wishbone rear and stabilizer bars at both ends, vehicle stability and traction control and the Bridgestone Turanza high performance 215/45R17 tires, handling was crisp, agile and very, very fun. The 2,758 pounds was never anything but easy to enthusiastically toss around. Braking was as hoped for with ventilated front and rear discs, four-wheel anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and brake assist.

As a point of reference, this season’s is using a Toyota 86 GT as their “reasonably fast car” where celebrities try to set fast times on the airbase track.

Driving Experience: Exterior

Toyota says the 2018 86 is “more than just a pretty face” as it adopts a more aggressive styling.” No argument, the 86 is a sharp-looking car with a stance that welcomes/invites/urges/demands it be driven fast. The proportions for this low-slung sports car are one of the first things you notice. With 4.9-inches of ground clearance and a mere 50.6-inches of overall height, your butt nearly feels the road. Maybe not quite like driving a go-kart, but certainly a feeling that a crossover or sedate sedan cannot provide.

2018 Toyota 86

The 86’s fenders are snugged to the tires

The front end is highlighted by fog lights with angular LED projector-beam headlights, leading to a swept back windshield and a rapidly declining roofline, which is topped by a color-keyed shark fin antenna. The rear window drops down to a very shot trunk lid, ending with a tasteful and attractive spoiler. The back-end has horizontal LED taillights, cool looking chrome-tipped exhaust ends integrated into a wind-channeling lower bumper that also houses one of the most uniquely-designed CHMSL (Center High-Mount Stop Light) brake lamp and back-up light set-up. Make sure to look for the Easter Egg “86” emblem on the headlights.

Driving Experience: Interior

Smarticd was driving the Toyota 68 GT Black with what Toyota says has an “honest sports car approach” to the interior design. Starting with the clean and simple gauges that were set at perfect eye level–the tachometer, with a rev-programmable rev indicator, is the largest gauge and is right smack dab in the middle of the cluster. Fuel and temperature gauges sit to the sides of the tach.

Simulated carbon-fiber inserts are found on the doors and dash, and leather is found on the heated steering wheel and heated seats. The GT model has suede-like seating surfaces that add grip. The dash, steering wheel and seats had accent topstitching and a big 86 adorned the center of the steering wheel. Minimal, tasteful aluminum was used through the cockpit, and the aluminum sport pedals were a nice touch.

2018 Toyota 86

The backup camera shows up in the mirror

That aforementioned 4.9-inches ground clearance means getting into the driver’s seat takes a combination of bending, squatting and leg swinging. Not that any of this is difficult if you are at all nimble, but if you are used to hopping into and out of a crossover, you will be learning a few new skills. The driver’s seat offers a base level of support, but with the stiff suspension and no lumbar adjustment, your bottom and backside know you have been driving a sports car.

Toyota classifies the 86 as a 2+2, meaning that it is designed for two up front and two in the rear. In a pinch, the rear seat could–if absolutely necessary–have passengers…but the smaller the better. The best use for the one-piece rear seatback is to fold it flat, taking advantage of more than doubling the stowing space of the small trunk.

The eight-speaker audio system was centered in a 7.0-inch color touch screen display for the AM/FM/CD/MP3 HD radio with Aha. The infotainment system was also equipped with USB ports, iPod connectivity, Aux-in jacks, Bluetooth streaming audio, hands-free telephone and voice recognition. There are steering wheel-mounted controls for the audio system.

Safety and Convenience

The 2018 Toyota 86 comes standard with an extensive list of safety features, starting with six airbags, rear-view backup camera (display screen located in the rearview mirror), tire pressure monitoring system, cruise control, remote keyless entry, push button start/stop, power door locks, windows and outside heated rearview mirrors, carpeted floor mats and dual zone climate control.

Advanced driver safety systems like emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot alert and adaptive cruise control are not offered on the 86.

The 2018 Toyota 86 does not have an overall rating by the  but does have four out of five stars for the front driver and passenger crash rating. The gave the 86 Good and Marginal safety ratings.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the 2018 Toyota 86 with the six-speed manual is $26,445; $27,125 for the six-speed automatic. Smarticd’s 86 GT Black had a MSRP of $28,385. All listed pricing does not include the $895 delivery, processing and handling fee, which brought our 86 final price to $29,280.

2018 Toyota 86

The car’s a looker–and a goer

The 2018 Toyota 86 comes with these warranties:

  • Powertrain                     60 months/60,000 miles
  • Basic                                36 months/36,000 miles
  • Maintenance                  24 months/25,000 miles
  • Roadside Assistance     24 months/25,000 miles
  • Corrosion Perforation  60 months/Unlimited miles

Observations: 2018 Toyota 86 GT, 6-Speed Manual

Smarticd is a fan of rear-wheel drive sports cars, such as the 86, its sister the Subaru BRZ, the and (another pair if sisters). You can spend much, much more for sports cars than these four, but the fun-per-dollar equation will not be significantly higher.

Flat out, the Toyota 86 GT Black is a fun car to drive. If you really want to take your driving experience up a notch, fold down the rear seat, toss in some race tires and head out to your local track. There are high performance on-track organizations where, for a very reasonable cost, you can drive your car on some of the best courses in the country. Lapping your 86 with expert instruction will reveal its full performance potential.

So if you are looking for a fun, sporty coupe for under $30,000, then the Toyota 86 should be on your shopping list.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

John Faulkner is Road Test Editor at Smarticd. He has more than 30 years’ experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent’s 1950 Studebaker. He is a journalist member of the Motor Press Guild.

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