Road tests

New Toyota GR86 2022 review

If ever a Toyota felt designed for British B-roads, the GR86 is it

Overall Auto Express Rating

5.0 out of 5

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The Toyota GR86’s chassis balance, the adjustability and the steering are all hugely impressive, and with a willing engine it adds up to be one of the most enjoyable driving experiences you can find today. At least it would be if you could buy one, because they’re all sold. Those who managed to get an order in for one can consider themselves very lucky indeed.

There was an awful lot of hype surrounding the new Toyota GR86 when it was revealed. A new sports car that promised back-to-basics driving thrills; one which not only followed the formula of the superb GT86, but would be developed by Toyota’s Gazoo division hot on the heels of the firecracking hot hatch-cum-rally car, the GR Yaris.

In fact, it was no surprise to us when Toyota revealed that the UK allocation - thought to be fewer than 500 - sold out in 90 minutes. 

We’ve already driven the car on track in sunny climates to discover that it’s a riot when there are no restrictions but your own talent. And as it turns out, it isn’t half bad on a cold, damp UK B-road, either.

As opposed to a ground-up, brand new sports car, the GR86 takes the GT86 as a starting point, and then subjects it to a very extensive technical overhaul. Toyota has targeted keeping the GR86’s kerb weight roughly the same as its predecessor (despite the introduction of better crash protection), along with a lower centre of gravity, improved aerodynamic efficiency and extra power. 

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The list of changes, big and small, is far too lengthy to list in its entirety. Alongside the chassis changes it gets lighter seats, silencer and rear prop shafts, along with an aluminium roof, bonnet and front wings - all of which contribute to lowering the centre of mass by 1.6mm and shifting the weight balance 0.05 per cent backwards (now 53:47 front to rear). That bonnet is stiffer, and improvements to cross member fastenings and internal chassis structures boost rigidity by 50 per cent. 

Drive is sent to the rear wheels through a Torsen limited slip rear differential, and a six-speed gearbox which has been refined to make the shifts smoother and faster than before.

Then there’s the engine. The flat-four unit has been bored out, increasing the capacity from 2.0-litres to 2.4. New intake and exhaust systems work with the larger capacity, while larger intake valves are hollow for lightness. Along with thinner cylinder liners and resin rocker covers, it all means that the engine isn’t just lighter than before, but more responsive and potent. Power now stands at 231bhp, and torque is up 45Nm to 250Nm.

In the age of 300bhp-plus hot hatches, those numbers might seem a little bit ordinary. But this is absolutely a car which shows that numbers and stats are pretty much irrelevant to the driving experience. That engine has a fairly modest 1,276kg to shift around, and as a result it always feels keen. Accelerate hard, and you’ll discover it’s willing to be thrashed. 

You’re egged-on to make the most of the 7,500rpm available to you. It’s accompanied by a soundtrack that’s augmented by a small speaker that accentuates the most exciting engine noises and pipes them into the cabin. It’s not a stunning engine note, but it certainly feels exciting. The six-speed gearbox is sweet, and the engine so responsive that heel-and-toe downshifts only require a gentle blip of the throttle to match sweetly.

But it’s the chassis that undoubtedly plays the starring role here. The direction changes seem instantaneous, the body control is fabulous, and the steering system is so pure and precise, delivering great detail as the tyres load up through the corners. The balance is wonderful, too; you can adjust it mid corner on the brakes or the throttle to pick your chosen line. 

All of those chassis modifications in the new GR86 have absolutely refined the previous GT86 formula, but one of the biggest improvements of all has come from the tyres. Early GT86s came from the factory on Michelin Primacy rubber - so chosen because those Eco tyres had lower limits of grip, and therefore could be more easily exploited on the road. Trouble is, they weren’t designed with performance in mind, and they tended to be a bit snappy on the limit - and not always when you expected it.

That has been rectified with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres on the latest car. They just feel so much more progressive, predictable and controllable. The maximum grip limits have increased, but they’re still modest enough to explore at completely legal speeds. Few other new cars on sale today will be able to teach you so much about car control.

While the GR86 is 300mm longer than one of its closest competitors, the Mazda MX-5, it’s still only roughly the same length as a VW Golf. At 1,775mm wide it’s also narrower, and only 40mm broader than the Mazda. Both of these things make it feel like a perfect fit on twisty country lanes. 

The new styling really helps to emphasise that compact dimensions, though it does mean that the back seats are pretty much useless. Better, to fold them down, then, and expand that 226-litre boot into a much more practical space.

Up front, the driving position is pretty much perfect. The seat can be positioned very low, the steering wheel comes out horizontally towards you, and both have a huge range of adjustment. The infotainment system doesn’t have built-in navigation, but does have smartphone connectivity. The dashboard is functional, but does feel a little basic. 

But that can be easily forgiven when you consider the fact that Toyota was asking £29,995 for such a complete sports car. No wonder they sold out so quickly.

Model:Toyota GR86
Engine:2.4 4cyl petrol

Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

0-62mph:6.3 seconds
Top speed:140mph
On sale:Now

Now read our list of the best sports cars...

Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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