Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Engine needs to be worked hard…
  • But its joyous when you do
  • Slick-shifting manual the most fun

Although there’s no debate about whether or not the Toyota GT86 is a sports car, performance is sparkling rather than dazzling.

One choice of engine

Whichever GT86 you go for there’s only one type of powerplant nestled into the Toyota’s nose: a 2.0-litre, non-turbo petrol unit with its four cylinders arranged in a horizontally opposed – or Boxer – configuration, known as D-4S.

This is primarily because the engine comes from Subaru, exponents of this type of engine since the 1970s. It’s great for a sports car because its wide, flattened design allows the weight of the engine to sit low down, bestowing the car with greater dynamic ability.

Peak power is 200hp at a rev-happy 7,000rpm, meaning you have to make it work hard to get the best out of it – something it does willingly.

Maximum torque of 205Nm also requires the engine to be revved, as it’s fully on song between 6,400-6,600rpm. In real terms this requires frequent gear changing, especially when overtaking or pulling away from slower corners, reinforcing that this is a car the driver has to get involved with in order to extract the most pleasure from it.

Two transmission types

Two six-speed transmissions are available – one manual, the other an automatic. Stick with the former for a top speed of 140mph and a 0-62mph acceleration time of 7.6 seconds. Opt for the auto and those figures tumble to 130mph and 8.2 seconds.

It’s not all about outright pace though – the GT86 makes a grin-inducing growl that noticeably changes pitch as the revs chase towards the red line, something you’ll do frequently.

Although many enthusiasts will immediately write off the automatic option, the self-shifting ’box is decent. It’s a conventional automatic rather than a twin-clutch job, but is the quickest-shifting of its type.

When coupled with the paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel you’re able to extract an extremely engaging drive from an automatic GT86 once you’ve learnt the ropes.

The manual gearbox, however, is close to perfection. It is placed brilliantly in the cockpit, has a positive and engaging feel and swaps between cogs in a measured and assured fashion.

  • Handling set up to deliver fun
  • Small steering wheel offers great feedback
  • Tail-happy driving with confidence

Handling: this is really what the Toyota GT86 is all about.

Unlike many performance-orientated cars, the GT86 uses common-or-garden 17-inch wheels with tyres originally used on the Toyota’s sensible Prius hybrid car. The key is their low-rolling resistance means that they’re not especially grippy, allowing the GT86’s rear end to slide in corners more easily.

The suspension has been tuned specifically for an exciting drive – its firm but not harsh – while the steering offer excellent feedback and respond accurately to driver inputs.

Measuring 365mm, the steering wheel itself is the smallest ever fitted to a Toyota. This accentuates each turn of the wheel, affording the driver far more accuracy.

What you really notice when driving the GT86 quickly is that it is just so balanced through corners. It feels incredibly assured when you want it to be but a liberal application of your right foot will tease the back end out in a progressive, controllable manner.

The sophisticated stability and traction control systems do a great job of making sure everything is pointing in the right direction, although if you’re feeling particularly brave you can turn them all off for a raw and highly entertaining game of tail-out Toyota.