Does the world need another sports car? Or two?
Yeah, it does, writes Brian Byrne. Or at least Toyota does. To bring a youthful magic back into its showrooms. Even if the new GT86 is aimed at maturity rather than the young turks.
Which is all OK in my book. A proper sports car is for somebody experienced enough to appreciate it. And without being ageist, putting your typical boy racer behind the wheel of this one is a bit of a waste.
Toyota has a pedigree in sports cars going back half a century. And it's a dozen years since they dropped out of this particular part of the automotive game.
But they haven't been doing nothing about it for all that time. Seven years ago they started talking with Subaru about a joint venture. A year later both sides got serious. Since then they have been finely crafting their project.
It has been a close partnership. Platforms, bodywork and powertrains are the same from both brands. But their respective engineers have fine-tuned their own cars to drive differently from each other.
I may go further into that when I get to drive the Subaru. But this is about Toyota's version.
It's a cool style. Traditional 2+2 coupe with a nice splash of now and tomorrow. Could become a classic in its own right.
I'm not going to describe the sheetmetal. The pictures tell that better than words. But do note the character line linking the front and rear along the side panels. Sheer sculpting poetry. And check out those tailpipes. This is what Bond should be piloting in his next spy fantasy flick. They could double as rear protection rocket launchers.
Spinning up the hills behind Barcelona on the recent international launch, I couldn't help enjoying myself. And I didn't have to break any rules doing it (although an East European journo the previous day had got too enthusiastic and ended up overnight in the city clink).
The cabin behind the Subaru-based boxer engine is perfection for this kind of car. A steering wheel almost vertical, and for steering only. A nice mix of classic and digital in the instrumentation. What used to be called 'aircraft-style' switchgear (Toyota resurrects the description in the blurb). Aluminium detailing and metal pedals. A short-throw shifter. Seats that mould to the body. Visibility in every direction.
A combination of very low centre of gravity—thanks to where the opposed-cylinders 2.0 four sits—and a careful selection of slight weight bias to the front in the rear-drive car, produces handling that's as stick-to-the-road as probably any race-car. Yet there's no sacrifice in comfort.
(And get this, the tyres are bog-standard, the exact same ones that are used in the Prius hybrid. So the GT86 doesn't depend on high-end sports tyres to give the exceptionally competent performance it does. Means they got all the other stuff right.)
Some technical bits. The power output is a nice round 200hp. In the interests of weight-saving and reduced complexity, there's no turbocharger. So the high output/litre of engine capacity was achieved by adding Toyota's dual-injector technology to the Subaru motor.
Don't look for miserly fuel consumption, but the CO2 emissions of 181g/km are very acceptable for the 7.4 seconds acceleration capability. The manual and autobox versions, both 6-speed, are selling in Ireland for the same price of just a few fuel tank fulls short of €40,000. The auto uses less fuel, but you mightn't want it for this car.
Even if the target market is as described by Toyota as 'Dads who Dream'. And the enjoyment factor is 'Smiles per Hour'. Those two descriptions could have diminished the ethos of the car. Except that it's so much better than them.
More when I get into it in Ireland. Here from June.