For intricate details about the Australian Toyota 86, its standard features and specs please have a look at our previously posted story of the official media pack booklet. The booklet has all the clever Toyota 86 marketing and infinite details about the car, its engineering and the companies passion and new found sporting direction. This was the only enthusiast website invited to the launch next to well known publishing media and professional journalists who by now all know one another very well and frequently hop from car launch to car launch in Australia and abroad. A number of them are fantastic drivers and have no trouble pushing the new Toyota 86 or any other car to its limits.
We hope this review is different, and gives your more of a buyers and regular drivers and enthusiasts perspective rather than an official professional journalist or professional driver perspective, or a pretty rehash of the official Toyota 86 Australian Media kit and its photos and videos (although they are available for your view on this website) and ultimately show the great amount of work that Toyota Australia has done to successfully launch their new sports car. Further this car will get compared to a whole host of cars below and well above its $29990 entry level price tag. At the launch amongst the journalist chitter chatter this car was being compared to the mazda mx5, golf gti, hyundai veloster turbo, porsche boxter, audi TT, subaru wrx and many other popular sports and sporty cars and expect to see many such comparisons in their magazines alongside various time trials and track tests.
All the journalists at the event were flown in, while we instead drove to Canberra from Sydney in a heavily accessorized VW Golf 118 TSI, which is just a regular hatchback. After seeing numerous photos of the Toyota 86, since its announcement in November last year, like little kids we again felt a rush of excitement and amazement at how the car looked in person when seeing a couple of red Toyota 86s in the Burbury Hotel (Canberra) car park as we were driving in to park. The car just looked so much better sitting there in front of us and brought out a great amount of thrill and excitement and easily looked like it would fit in the then speculated ~$45000 price range, funnily enough some of the catering girls at the race track though it was an $80000 sports car. The rest of the pre-launch day unfolded with an organised garage photo shoot and the details of the day can be seen from our pre-launch toyota 86 review.
The start to the launch day was extremely early, 6am. After breakfast we were under the impression that Toyota would organise a mini bus and drive us to The Sutton Road Driver Training Complex, to then drive some of the cars that were involved in last nights photo shoot. Instead we were taken down to the hotels car park once again and none of the cars had been moved. They now had name tags on every window and two journalists were allocated per vehicle. I soon realised that this meant that we would be driving the red Toyota 86 GT to the event and could not wait to get behind the wheel, however my name tag was on the passenger side window, but as a consolidation prize I thought at least I was lucky to be put into a manual car. To my surprise a friendly journalist from Motor Magazine offered for me to drive first and I eagerly grabbed the opportunity.
The drive to the racetrack was 112km and there was a drive change about half way though. Sitting in the car I instantly noticed how low the seating position was compared to my car. The seats were very supportive and it did not take long for me to adjust into what felt like a very comfortable driving position. The steering wheel size felt perfect and there was loads of room for my feet and a comfortable foot rest. I depressed the clutch and moved the gear stick into neutral. The stick felt very direct and smooth and it too was at a very comfortable position, whilst the clutch was softer than my current car, but I had no trouble quickly finding the friction point.
After a brisk warning from Toyota to drive carefully we were on our way, with the odometer set to zero to make the directions easier to follow. We were now part of a fifteen car convoy and would have looked very impressive on the road to any onlookers. While driving the car we instantly noticed the nicely weighted and communicative steering wheel and throaty engine coming into the cabin using Toyota’s new sound creator intake system. I loved the fact that the engine could rev to such high RPM, and let the car get there in second gear to hear the magnificent growl of the engine. When it came to corners the car felt very confident and capable and had no problem eating up the many twisty roads that were on the way to the track. However once the Motoring journalist took his turn, he really showed me what the car was capable of as he meticulously cornered the car along the apex of every bend, closely following a black Toyota 86 GT in front of us. He too liked the car, and commented how the suspension was very compliant despite the cars low seating position.
Before the driving event, everyone was present for the Toyota media launch where the pricing and the majority of the information in the media pack booklet was disclosed in a speech by Tada San and Official Toyota Representatives. Soon after a number of questions were asked by journalists and the answers to those were covered in our previous story. Overall though, everyone was extremely surprised at how competitively priced the car was in the Australian market, and many that pre-ordered without knowing the price would be extremely pleased. The five tracks were headed by the Bates family, with a family member in charge of every track. Each group did the tracks in a different order and being in Group 3 we started with the drifting track. The tracks that were covered all varied from slow speed, to fast speed maneuvering as well as drifting and a dirt track (which one would not have expected for the Toyota 86). The idea behind this was to show how the car performed in all of these scenarios. I had a video camera and made sure that I got as much footage of the car in action as was possible, even as a passenger to some professional drivers such as Neal and Rick Bates as well as Dave Russell. All these guys have won numerous titles from Go Kart Racing, through to Rally, V8 supercars as well as various exotics and drifting events. In short, they can drive, and drive far better than me or any of the journalists there who are also spectacular drivers. Please look at the official video footage and non official footage taken by me to really see what the cars are capable off. This to me is the true test of the cars sporting abilities.
While doing the courses in the car I realised that my driving abilities were nowhere as good as those of the professional drivers and that it would take many hours of practice to be able to master driving this car around a racetrack. Further it made me realised that this car really did have a beautiful balance when pushed to the limit by me in the slow driving drift events and I was quickly able to adapt to balancing the counter steer to straighten the car out of a drift. Even though I did not have the control or finesse of the professionals I definitely understood what the media reviews were praising the car for. Similarly, when taken for a drive by the professionals in the dirt track (rally style) and around a fast track (blocked off road) I could really see how the professionals simply made the car dance around the apex of various bends and hairpin turns using the handbrake and how hard and skillful professional racing really is. It also made me experience first hand the true pureness and passion of this drivers car.
Many have called for more power and a turbo/supercharger on the engine, but this to me now seems laughable as I could see that very few there could really even master driving this car around the various tracks with the current amount of power, let alone the same car with a more powerful engine. As a passenger in the car of the Toyota 86 driven by a professional driver I could best describe the experience as violent in the number of Gs I felt as i held together the video camera to stop myself from flying around the cabin and the speed with which this car was able to maneuver through and around bends with such poise and balance and quick turn in towards any direction. The car is definitely not underpowered, but does need to be kept in the higher revs 4k+ for maximum aural and road performance. Another comment that resonated at the track was that the car was so much fun with its current tyres which are not as wide and sticky as what could be optioned on the car. Many commented that having stickier tyres would potentially ruin the fun of the car. I agree with their comments as I now realise that stickier tyres would stop the car from sliding and drifting around the corners so elegantly and would remove the fun factor. In reality, with stickier and wider tyres you would need to push the car at much higher speeds to get the same enjoyment and that would not be easily achieved on public roads and most smaller race tracks.
In short this car is terrific fun and easily performs well above its weight and would shames many cars many times its price around a race track, It really is that good. Anyone who is considering doing any kind of club racing should not look further than this car. Once you fold the rear seats you can even fit four spare tyres to help you swap back from your track day tyres to your normal rubbers. Toyota and Subaru are both in a wonderful position with these cars as they have created a new niche that in my opinion will bring them hoards of new buyers.
Taking a step back from the racetrack and back to normal day to day driving I can easily say that the car looks stunning and much better than the $29990 price indicated. I could also hear some journalists saying that they would get the GT model in white with the black TRD wheels, and that certainly is a popular look amongst enthusiasts. I love the fact that this car will be easily customizable using either official TRD accessories (which may have to be imported) and knowing that the aftermarket tuning scene will bring many more to the equation. I am pleased that the Australian pricing does not make me envious of the American pricing or feel as ripped off as I usually would when comparing the price of overseas cars. The interior of the car is very comfortable with medium soft plastics and all the controls within comfortable reach. The interior most reminds me of a porsche boxster with a Toyota twist and the engine is simply gorgeous. Noise insulation is pretty good and the car has a very solid feel and build with a nice thud when closing the doors. Combined with Toyota’s reliability this is one hell of a fun car. I think the GTS model is very well appointed and the bigger brakes, wheels, alcantara and leather interior, Xenon Headlights, Touch screen GPS system, nicer dashboard with digital speedo etc.. are worth the extra few thousands but, even if you do not get them, you are not missing out on even 1% of the fun of this car. From the outside the GT and GTS models are not marked and for most part very few people will be able to tell the difference but will simply be impressed by the cars sporty / sexy styling.
I found reaching for the seat belt a little hard due to the bucketing of the seats, but would not trade that off as you really do need the extra side support due to the cornering abilities of this car. I also found that on the GT model, the Tachometer was center featured whilst the speedo was smaller and to the left. This made me focus more on the revs than the speed I was doing, which I would need adjusting to. Lastly I would also have liked a reversing camera fitted standard to the GTS model, however this does not appear to be an official accessory to the system, even internationally. However with a strong popularity of the car I am sure such and other addons will shortly appear on the marketplace. Please note that the Auto GT model does not come with an LSD, but chances are if you have chosen that model, you won’t really need it. I did not drive the automatic (which looks similar to the manual gear stick), but did hear some say that they much preferred the paddle shifters in the GTS model to the manual due to ease of driving. I was also told that on the GT models the paddle shifters were not standard and that the manual shifting mode was down for down and up for up, which to manual drivers would be counter intuitive.
The theme of the number 86 is resonated through many details of the vehicle, such as the boot, carpets, the width of the bore, the width of the rear diffuser etc… and really does make you appreciate the extra effort Toyota and Subaru went or make the enthusiast driver feel at home and comfortable. This is a 2+2 sports car and with plenty of room in the front, and standard amount of room in the back for an occasional passenger, I would easily pick this car as a daily driver especially knowing the reasonable servicing costs and high Toyota reliability. This is a car that is going to be a true modern classic and will generate a huge following. I don’t think there is another car in the world that performs so well on the race track and on normal roads in the price bracket. Finally if you love driving, or just want to look cool in a sports car, then this is currently the Best and surprisingly affordable proposition on the Australian market. Please enjoy the photos and video footage we took for your viewing pleasure below. Thank you for reading and please share your comments and opinions in our forum. We would love to hear from you, especially if you have ordered a Toyota 86 or a Subaru BRZ, you really are in for a treat.
Toyota 86 Launch Our Photos
Toyota 86 Launch Driving Day Official Photos
Toyota 86 Launch Official Photos
Neal Bates (4 times Australian Rally Champion) driving fast around a track in a TRD Toyota 86 (passenger view)
Awesome sliding fun in Canberra – Toyota 86 cars
Red Toyota 86 drift show off
Sonic Blue Toyota 86 Drifting
Toyota 86s Drifting in a Dirt Track (Rally Style)
Toyota 86 Drifted by Professional Driver Dave Russell (passenger view) https://twitter.com/#!/Dave_Russell_22
Toyota 86 Media Launch the day before (Official Video)
Toyota 86 Media Launch Morning (Official Video)
Toyota 86 Media Launch Evening (Official Video)
Toyota 86 Australian Launch Media Pack Video 1 (Offical Video)
Toyota 86 Australian Launch Media Pack Video 2 Technical (Offical Video)