2017 Toyota 86 Review

Autocrossing in Toyota's 86

Formerly known as the Scion FR-S, the 2017 Toyota 86 (eight-six) glides into 2017 with a new nameplate, a new model designation, updated front and rear styling, more horsepower (with the manual transmission), new gearing for the rear differential and a recalibrated suspension system.

Toyota wants you to think of this car as a successor to the affordable and agile rear drive AE86 Corolla GT-S from the mid-1980s. In fact, when the FR-S debuted in North America in 2012, it was known everywhere else on Earth as the Toyota 86. The Scion FR-S, as did the Scion brand, existed only in Canada and the U.S.

For the 2017 Toyota 86, a large center air intake with “fangs” gives the face of the car a more aggressive appearance. Combined with a pair of sleek LED headlamps and artful placement of the Toyota badge, the car’s face presents a look of intense determination. (BTW, those with a sharp eye for detail will note “86” logos in the headlights.) Meanwhile, the profile is largely the same as before, save the addition of an “86” badge just aft of the wheelwells. LED tail lamps, a reworked rear bumper and a new lower valance complete the styling updates.

Though a bit coarse compared to more sophisticated sports car powerplants, the engine winds easily to redline and produces adequate—if not wholly satisfying thrust. Of course, the 86, like its Subaru sibling and the FR-S before them, was designed to be a lean mean handling machine. Pavement searing acceleration was omitted from its mission statement.

Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway with the manual. Automatics are quoted at 24-city and 32 on the highway. I averaged 26 mpg overall with my six-speed manual test car.

Driven briskly through corners the Toyota’s rear end feels a bit more nailed to the ground than the mildly tail-happy previous setup. Revised spring rates and damper tuning, along with a thicker rear roll bar improve the overall stability of the platform. Many of you may recall the FR-S chassis was calibrated to accommodate drift kings who prefer a degree of oversteer. The 86 will still do that, but the threshold is a bit farther out than before.

Otherwise, the little coupe is just as agile as it ever was, displaying outstanding balance and an enthusiastic willingness to play along on both the track and challenging twisty roads. In other words, it’s still big fun to drive. On the street, you can wind it hard and still remain well within the bounds of civility, demonstrating once again, it’s a lot of fun to drive a slow car fast. If you liked it before, you’ll like it still. If you have yet to drive Toyota's sports car, now’s as good a time as any.  

Pricing starts at $26,255.

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