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Road Tested: 2017 Toyota 86 offers style and great handling

Written By | Dec 10, 2017

LOS ANGELES, December 10, 2017: Unless you’ve been a loyal fan of the Toyota brand, you may be asking, what is an 86? After axing the Scion brand, Toyota needed a car to keep its sports car brand going.  Toyota’s answer is the 86,  the sports coupe formerly known as the Scion FR-S.
Toyota 86

Image courtesy of Toyota – Toyota 86

Toyota 86 – Under the hood

This car is analogous to the Mazda Miata MX-5, in a number of notable ways. It’s rear-wheel drive, small, has a 4-cylinder engine and comes with a very smooth-shifting six-speed manual transmission. There is an automatic available, however, the overall engine output drops 5 horsepower with the automatic.

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The exhaust note could be tuned to sound better but it’s not bad, overall.

Toyota 86

Image courtesy of Toyota – Toyota 86

Its 2.0-liter engine churns out 205 horsepower (with the six-speed manual transmission) and 156 lb-ft of torque – enough to get it up to 60 miles per hour in 7.7 seconds. The primary issue with this car is the engine output.

Toyota 86

Toyota 86 Image Courtesy of Toyota –

We love the fact that it’s rear wheel drive and handles extremely well.  However, Toyota really needs to slap a turbocharger on this bad boy and ratchet it up, closer to 300 horsepower. Obviously, that’d raise the price of the car, however, it’d easily be worth it.

Toyota 86 – Bells and Whistles

The EPA rates the fuel economy at 24 around town and up to 32 miles per gallon on the freeway. Our observed economy, however, was closer to an overall average of 26. The main reason is, that you’ll always want to be getting on that acceleration pedal in order to get the car going.

There’s nothing at all fancy about the interior – it’s functional yet stylish for a sports coupe and appropriately appointed. After all, this isn’t a posh sports car but an affordable one that’s meant to be fun to drive. A part of that experience comes from ways Toyota can keep the price down.

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The infotainment center does include all of what we consider normal functions in a modern car and that is Bluetooth telephony, Bluetooth audio, AM/FM/XM/CD/MP3/WMA playback. Our test model had the baseline audio system and therefore had lackluster performance.

Toyota 86

Toyota 86 Image Courtesy of Toyota –

You’ll definitely want to pay for the  audio upgrade.

Front seats provide solid support for more spirited driving while retaining comfort on longer road trips. Rear passenger leg room is – well – nearly non-existent. You could fit a couple of small kids back there, however, teens or older are going to have a rough go at it.

What we love about the Toyota 86

What we love about the 86 is the unrelenting feedback and sense of command-of-the-road. You’re in for a rewarding driving experience when you drive a lightweight sports car with rear-wheel drive and a good balance of front and rear weight distribution.

It flies around corners at speeds far exceeding the recommendations of posted speed limits: aren’t those simply recommendation signs, anyway?

Sure, the Toyota 86 isn’t a fast or even a quick car off the line but it delivers very well for its intended use. Which is to provide a spirited driving experience that will reward those who thirst for a more pure-driving car.

Who is the customer for this car? It’ll be those who want a sporty car that is affordable with solid handling and the fun that a rear-wheel drive configuration offers. It’s not likely going to appeal to those who want a very fast sports car.

Instead, think of a Miata with a hardtop and that’s the kind of car we’re talking about.

If you’re in the market for a value-driven sports car that handles like it’s on-rails, has handsome styling and Toyota reliability, then you should test-drive an 86, soon.

Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.