2023 Toyota GR86 10th Anniversary Edition (car review)

When Toyota’s affordable sports car first hit showrooms ten years ago – then called the 86 in Australia and GT86 in Europe – it garnered such an impressive amount of praise from the media that you’d have thought it was the second coming of Christ.

Wheels announced it as better than a Porsche Cayman on the cover of their June 2012 issue. TopGear took it a step further, declaring the GT86 the winner of its inaugural ‘Speed Week’ group test, beating the likes of the 991-series Porsche 911 and McLaren MP4-12C.

Even Jeremy Clarkson, who is often too honest for his own good, proclaimed that the GT86 was the best car of 2012. Now, a decade or so on, there’s a new one. Can it fill the shoes of its successor? Hint: Yes, it can.

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Those with a keen eye may notice that the lurid Solar Orange paint scheme on our car isn’t an available colour option for the regular GR86 range, and that’s because the car we’re testing is the limited-run GR86 10th Anniversary Edition.

Restricted to just 86 examples locally, the GR86 10th Anniversary Edition costs $46,700 plus on-roads for both the manual or automatic, an increase of $1390 over the range-topping GTS. At least, it would be if you could buy one, which you can’t. They’re all sold.

It matters not though, because unless your heart is set on purchasing an orange GR86, prospective buyers will be pleased to know that the 10th Anniversary Edition is otherwise virtually identical to the flagship GTS – and its twin under the skin, Subaru BRZ S.

2023 Toyota GR86
2023 Toyota GR86

That means it comes with 18-inch black alloy wheels, adaptive LED headlights, heated front seats, aluminium pedals, an 8.0-inch multimedia display, a 7.0-inch multi-information instrument cluster display, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The GR86 10th Anniversary Edition also comes with unique, orange contrast stitching that appears throughout the cabin, some naff 10th Anniversary orange embroidery, and black instrument panel moulding.

Despite, the smatterings of orange and suede, the 10th Anniversary Edition’s interior is actually a bit uninspiring. Much of the switch gear is plastic, and the substandard six-speaker sound system transforms music into a muddy and unbalanced mess.

The 8.0-inch centre screen is agreeable in size but loaded with rather dreary infotainment software – plus, you’ll still need to plug your phone in to bring up Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Then there’s the indicator stalk which is downright infuriating.

It re-centres immediately after a direction is signalled, and I often found myself unintentionally indicating in the opposite direction in an attempt to to switch it off, as it requires truly the lightest of touches to do so.

That said, the heated sports seats are a delight – the oddly angled headrests notwithstanding. The compromised rear seats do have ISOFIX mounting points, but you would have to be a sadist to put anyone bigger than an infant back there.

2023 Toyota GR86
2023 Toyota GR86

Boot space is a usable 237-litres, and the spare tyre thankfully no longer takes up most of it. That’s primarily because it no longer has one. The steering wheel, while a bit of an eyesore to look at, is perfectly sized.

The 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster is clear and features some cracking graphics, including a horizontal rev counter when the car is slotted into Track mode. Judging the GR86 for its interior really misses the point though.

This thing is all about the experience from behind the wheel, not what the wheel looks like or how the materials around it feel. The GR86 never pretends to be anything other than a sports car, and you get the sense that it wants to be driven at ten-tenths constantly.

This is largely because its 2.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder boxer engine begs to be flogged, with its peak power of 174kW not arriving until 7000rpm. Thankfully, unlike the previous car, you don’t have to be bouncing off the 7500rpm rev-limiter to deliver it.

That’s because its 250Nm of torque is accessible from 3700rpm. Critics may bemoan its relative lack of power compared to turbocharged hot hatch rivals, but it still manages the 0-100km/h sprint in a brisk 6.3 seconds when equipped with the 6-speed manual.

A 6-speed torque-converter automatic is also available which adds another half a second to that. The manual is far from the slickest of units. The process of shifting gears feels less like cocking a shotgun and more like rowing a spoon through a bucket of granite.

2023 Toyota GR86
2023 Toyota GR86

The clutch pedal too, is far from ideal and doesn’t depress progressively. Point the GR86 down a twisty road though, and all that falls away. The GR86 tries hard to be taken seriously as a proper grown-up sports car, but it’s not grown up at all – it’s a proper rascal.

Sure, it’s now wearing a pair of big boy boots – grippy Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres, no less – but it hasn’t been smothered in grip. Power oversteer may be out of the question, but sideways antics are but a steering flick away.

The wizards at Toyota’s GAZOO Racing division have blessed the GR86 with truly delicious steering feel. The tiller offers up such a delectable stream of information that it’s almost like reading braille for the road; you’re aware of everything the front end is up to.

It’s not just the steering that the GR86 nails, as its chassis is another engineering marvel. Driving it feels like injecting Red Bull straight into your bloodstream: it gives you wings. It doesn’t so much as drive as it does dance down a road.

The front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension breath in time with the tarmac. Understeer is not in the GR86’s vernacular. Pile on seemingly unbelievable amounts of lock and the front end simply sticks.

It’s a deeply confidence-inspiring car, much like donning a pair of Superman slacks. The brakes are disappointing however, and lack bite until you apply enough force to give you a hernia, so it’s sorely missing the old 86’s Brembo stoppers.

2023 Toyota GR86
2023 Toyota GR86

You won’t have any trouble when simply pootling around town, but press on, and you may find they lack initial stopping conviction. That’s more than a little unsettling when you consider that the GR86 hasn’t been crash-tested by ANCAP.

The manual-equipped GR86 also misses out on a big suite of safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist. Mind you, Subaru is adding its EyeSight safety system to the manual BRZ, so it may well come for the Toyota as well.

The GR86 will sip 9.5-litres/100km of 98RON premium unleaded, and 10 years on, it remains an enticing proposition. It’s backed by a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, but if you service it at a dealership you’ll get an extra two years on the engine and drivetrain.

With the latest generation GR86, Toyota set out to create an “affordable and exciting sports car” that builds on the legend. To this end, they nailed it. Sure, there are bugbears (like the uninspiring brakes and utilitarian interior) but as a car to drive, it’s all but peerless.

This article originally appeared on drivesection.com and has been republished with permission. Test vehicle provided by Toyota Australia. To find out more, contact your local Toyota dealer.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Driving experience
9
Exterior styling
8
Interior look and feel
6.5
Technology and connectivity
7
Family friendliness
6.5
Value for money
8

SUMMARY

Pros – rorty four-cylinder engine; superb steering; enthralling chassis; affordable servicing; solid warranty.
Cons – cheap interior; brakes lack bite; clutch and shifter feel is suboptimal; no ANCAP rating; missing key safety tech.
Noah Charalambous
Noah Charalambous
Noah Charalambous is what you might call a young gun. He considers himself a voice of reason in a sea of chaos. He's also humble. After all, he wrote this too.

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<strong>Pros –</strong> rorty four-cylinder engine; superb steering; enthralling chassis; affordable servicing; solid warranty.<br> <strong>Cons –</strong> cheap interior; brakes lack bite; clutch and shifter feel is suboptimal; no ANCAP rating; missing key safety tech.2023 Toyota GR86 10th Anniversary Edition (car review)