The Car Connection Toyota 86 Overview
The Toyota 86 (pronounced "eight-six") is a 2+2 coupe built on a rear-drive platform that makes for an entertaining, affordable choice for driving enthusiasts.
With the 86, Toyota started a partnership with Subaru building sports cars that may be a blueprint for those small-volume cars' futures. The 86 began life as a Scion FR-S (in the States, at least) but changed names after that brand was shuttered. The Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ are very similar and share a 2.0-liter boxer 4-cylinder spinning out 205 horsepower. That's just enough to make the 86 a fun little sports car that can compete with the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Mazda Miata, and perhaps even the Ford Mustang.
MORE: Read our 2017 Toyota 86 review
The Toyota 86 started as the Scion FR-S for the 2013 model year. It proved itself to be one of the best new cars on the market, and accordingly, it made it to the final cut of Motor Authority's Best Car To Buy 2013 awards.
With the changeover to the Toyota brand for the 2017 model year, the car also gets some other updates.
Peak output from the car’s 2.0-liter engine is increased by 5 hp and 5 pound-feet of torque to 205 and 156, respectively. The standard 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-speed automatic is also offered) gets some new gear ratios for better performance. Toyota has also revised the shock and spring rates to make the car bite into corners better up front and hold the road better in the rear.
On the outside, the car sports new bumpers that give it a wider, more aggressive stance. LED lighting is used front and rear, and there are new wheel patterns. Inside, you’ll find some new soft materials and accent stitching.
While the flat-4's 205 hp is not a whole lot in the sports-coupe realm, the 86 tips the scales between 2,700 and 2,800 pounds, depending on trim, and the combination makes for an entertaining, if not quite thrilling, driving experience. Fairly skinny, low-rolling-resistance tires allow the driver to easily overpower the grip with the engine's modest torque output and steer the car with the rear wheels.
Fuel economy ratings for the 86 are quite respectable, though not as high as you might expect for a small 4-cylinder paired with a manual transmission. The EPA estimates 21 mpg city, 28 highway. With the automatic transmission, things get noticeably better, rising to 24/32 mpg. To balance power and efficiency, the Subaru-based engine uses Toyota's combination port- and direct-injection fuel delivery.
Inside, the 86 is sporty, with a youthful, modern design and a minimalist ethos that puts the emphasis on driving, rather than coddling occupants with rich materials and intricate features. It suits the sports car nature of the 86 well, and considering the affordable price point (starting around $26,000), it's well within expectations. The driver gets a large and readable tachometer front and center, with other gauges off to the side and a digital speedometer inset in the middle. There are few other distractions in the interior, which is as it should be.
The Toyota 86 has not been fully crash tested, but the Scion FR-S, which is the same car with different badges, has. It earned top "Good" results in all categories but the small front overlap test from the IIHS. It also nearly aced testing by the NHTSA, with a five-star overall rating and a full five stars in all but the frontal crash category, where it earned four stars.
Toyota offers several accessories for the 86 that come with a warranty. They include items like spoilers, wheels, shift knobs, trim pieces, and even suspension and brake upgrades. Aftermarket tuners also offer a variety of parts.
Rumors of higher-performance versions, a hybrid, or at the least, a factory-backed set of upgrades, persist for the 86. A convertible version of the car is also possible; a concept droptop version of the car was shown at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show. Given the coupe's limited sales to date, however, chances for other variants and offshoots are looking less and less likely. Subaru and Toyota have both said they are working together on a second generation of the architecture.