Toyota is back in the fast lane with the boxer engined GT86 coupe. No, it is not a replacement of the Celica. Rather it is a spiritual successor to the rear-drive Corolla GTs of yesteryear.
Low-slung and with curves in all the right places, this little 2+2 is an eye catcher. Is it a mini Ferrari or an MX-5 with a modern twist? Take your choice – inside the snug cockpit, you are gripped comfortably by the sports seats as you press the engine start button.
The flat four engine burbles into life. It sounds rorty, in a subdued sort of way, as I wend my way through the town. On the open road it just sings all the way up to 7,000 rpm in each of the six gears. That is a lot of revs for a non-turbo car.
I should explain at this point that the GT86 is a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru. The famous 2.0-litre boxer engine was better known for its gruff torque but has now been breathed upon to make it much more free revving. In this guise, it produces a useful 197bhp.
That is enough power to take it from rest to 62mph in 8.4 seconds and to give it a potential top speed of 130mph. But it is the responsive way that the power is delivered that adds to the experience. Even when driving around town there is a feeling that this is a bit special.
Out on the open road the GT86 really comes into its own. My car had the optional six-speed gearbox with steering wheel flaps to give ‘manual’ control. These worked well and I was soon playing tunes through the gears and enjoying the mellow exhaust note. On the road and around the bends, GT86 feels engaging and enjoyable – and that is what it was meant to be.
You get a balanced ‘living’ car feeling on the road – due in part to the rear drive and in part to the standard issue tyres – a contrast to the fat boys fitted to most sports cars. The more adventurous, and more capable, driver can turn off the traction control to enjoy sports car driving as it used to be.
There may be faster cars out there, but few are as entertaining for their driver. Toyota has brought back the traditional sports car with all the latest technology – everything from heated seats to satellite navigation.
The GT86 is priced from £26,495 and must be considered as value in terms of what it delivers on the road. With a Combined consumption figure of close to 40mpg, it is also quite efficient given its exuberant performance. This is a welcome and relatively affordable addition to the choice of sports cars.
Toyota GT86 2.0L auto
ENGINE – 2.0-litre flat four producing 197bhp
PERFORMANCE – Accelerates to 62mph in 8.4 seconds, 130mph top speed potential
ECONOMY – 39.8 mpg
EMISSIONS – 164 gm/km
INSURANCE (0-50) Group 29E
PRICE – from £26,495