Two-seater sports cars are not typically deemed affordable. The 2017 Toyota 86 is without doubt one of the values in a category that does not make price point part of the sales pitch. It's usually all about horsepower, 0?60 speeds and exotic exterior styling. The 86 steps outside the box with its value - and its boxer engine.
The 86 is the former Scion FR-S, the coolest of the now-defunct brand that Toyota killed earlier this year. As the 86, Toyota has a really unique product, engineered in tandem with Subaru's BRZ. If you like small, sport two-doors with sleek styling and a low center of gravity, the 86 is your target with a starting price of $27,000.
The 86 has immediate impact by showing off a wide, low stance, diving roof line and big haunches. Thankfully, the rebadged Scion gets a sizable refresh. Look for reshaped LED headlamps and taillights, a wider center intake grille and aggressive front bumper.
Inside the cabin, you will find the predictably smallish spaces associated with sports cars, but it is definitely more open than others in the segment. Sure, headroom is always a concern, and the back seat is a seat in name only, though it does offer some appreciated room for reclining in the front row.
My tester delivered the comfy buckets that get you low in the car and slightly reclined in a racing position. Seats offer easy manual adjustments, and sight lines are pretty good for a sports car. Surfaces offer soft-touch plastics that are attractive and work well with the Granlux faux suede my tester provided. That suede material is really soft and adorns the dashboard and doors in a stylish approach that makes it look streamlined and cool (very important in a sports car).
The 86's control layout is a departure from that of other sports cars - and even other Toyotas - with its extremely simple and clean approach. The message is clear: This car is all about the driving experience, not bells and whistles, and that's a great feeling when you don't have distractions.
As you might think, room is at a premium in the 86. Doors offer narrow cubbies for storage, and a double cup holder can be moved back to open up the center console area. A small slot in the bottom of the center stack has space for a cell phone.
Look for a 7-inch infotainment screen as the centerpiece with all the knobs and controls right beside it. It's easy to use and intuitive to operate. Look for the climate control knobs right below with equally easy reach and operation. Trunk space is 6.9 cubic feet - not much, but it does accommodate the necessities.
Braking assistance software is standard, and it helps bring the 86 to a stop, though there is no front crash prevention tech. There were no blind spot monitor, lane departure or cross-traffic system alerts, which could have been really useful.
When Toyota took ownership of the Scion, it upped the horsepower to 205, and torque from 151 pound-feet to 156. That may not seem like a lot of a tweak, but with a feather-light car like the 86, it can really make an impact.
The 86 holds true to sporty coupe traditions by offering a six-speed manual as well as a six-speed automatic transmission. My tester had the automatic with paddle shifters on the wheel that added a fun factor to the driving experience. A Snow and Sport driving mode changes suspension and other physical drive characteristics. Fuel economy, if it matters, is 24 mpg city/32 highway/27 combined.
For me, the Toyota 86 has its biggest appeal for driving enthusiasts. But the second appeal may just be the one that is more important: the sports coupe from Toyota is really fun and really affordable.
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