UK Drive: How does the Toyota GR86 live up to the reputation of its predecessor?

The GT86 became a motoring icon – but how does the new GR86 compare? Jack Evans finds out.

Toyota GR86
Toyota GR86

What is it?

Toyota GR86
The GR86 retains its rear-driven layout

The original GT86 was a smash-and-grab success for Toyota. Here was a lightweight model with the verve and agility of a classic sports car, but one backed by a low price and low running costs, too. How do you go about replacing a car as successful as the GT86? Well, if you’re Toyota, you take the same basic recipe and elevate it.

That brings us to the GR86. It follows the same ethos as the original but throws in a little more power and a little more grip. Does it spoil the package? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Toyota GR86
It’s still remarkably agile in the bends

The new GR86 – which now falls under Toyota’s Gazoo Racing arm of performance vehicles – walks the same lightweight line as the car it replaces, but we’ve got a slightly punchier engine designed to solve the original’s issue of feeling slightly underpowered.

You may have seen that the original GT86 famously rode on eco-focused tyres – similar to those fitted to the Prius hybrid – which gave it its slightly slippery driving style. However, they’ve been chopped out for stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber in a bid to make the GR86 even better in the bends than the car it replaces.

What’s under the bonnet?

Toyota GR86
The GR86 is now part of Toyota’s Gazoo Racing arm

Things under the bonnet have taken quite the lift. The original 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine of the GT86 has had its capacity increased to 2.4 litres, increasing power from 197 to 231bhp in the process. Torque is up from 205 to 250Nm, too, but a smooth-shifting six-speed manual gearbox remains. You can get the GR86 with an auto should you wish, however.

With a zero to 60mph time of 6.1 seconds, it’s by no means the fastest car around, but this is a car more about involvement than outright driving figures. Toyota claims that the GR86 should manage around 32mpg, but expect this to dip significantly if you choose to drive the car in a more spirited manner.

What’s it like to drive?

Toyota GR86
The GR86’s increased power helps out on the road

If the GT86 was the stunning opener, then you could argue that the GR86 is the difficult second album. It’s fair to say that the newbie doesn’t feel quite as light in the bends as its predecessor, but that boost in power means that you don’t feel quite as hamstrung in the straights. The steering still has loads of agility to it, mind you, and the front-end grip that you get in the GR86 feels much better than the car it replaces.

You still have to be on your toes, mind you. Even though those new tyres might be stickier, the GR86 still feels noticeably rear-driven so cold mornings or damp junctions take a little extra care than they would in a ‘normal’ car.

How does it look?

Toyota GR86
The front end of the GR86 is more rounded than before

Toyota has tweaked the look of the GR86, giving it a slightly more rounded, bulbous shape than the GT86. It’s still a fine-looking thing – in our eyes, at least – and does appear to have been influenced somewhat by the latest Supra. It’s not quite as sharp as before, but we feel that many people might find this more grown-up aesthetic more appealing.

Around the back, it’s still very recognisable, with the full-width trim section now adding a little extra interest to the design. Chromed exhaust pipes finish off the entire look nicely, too.

What’s it like inside?

Toyota GR86
The interior is focused around the driver

It’s snug and definitely sporty inside the cabin of the GR86. There are two rear seats, but these really can only be seen as ‘occasional’ chairs and wouldn’t provide nearly enough space for an adult to sit comfortably. What matters here is driving, however, and thankfully the seating position for whoever is behind the wheel is excellent – though the front of the seat did feel slightly too high for us.

The material quality is basic in places and better in others, but lashings of Alcantara do help to make everything feel a touch more upmarket and worthy of a car with a £29,995 price tag. The 226-litre boot is surprisingly good in terms of both shape and capacity while lowering the rear seats expands this further. It’s more boot space than you’ll get from a Mazda MX-5, too.

What’s the spec like?

Toyota GR86
The boot is square and easy to access

Toyota has really bulked up the equipment available on the GR86. The main screen – which measures eight inches – isn’t too overladen with menus or readouts and it uses both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto so, for the most part, you tend to just use those smartphone mirroring systems rather than the native setup.

The digital display ahead of the driver is also nicely clear and easy to read. You get basic information but it’s actually quite refreshing not to be overwhelmed by features. Standard-fit heated seats were particularly welcome during our chilly test period, too. Chunky dials for the heating and ventilation are really easy to operate, too.


The GR86 feels like a GT86 that has been tweaked in all the right places. It doesn’t feel quite as light to drive as its predecessor, but we feel that the added power and grip that this new version brings is a welcome trade-off.

A far more upmarket cabin than before is a pleasant find, too, while the upgraded technology makes interacting with the infotainment far easier than it was in the earlier car too. Its only sticking point is availability – the GR86 sold out in minutes. But if you’re able to pick up a second-hand version, you’ll be treated to a very exciting experience.

  • Model: Toyota GR86
  • Price as tested: £29,995
  • Engine: 2.4-litre ‘Boxer’ petrol
  • Power: 231bhp
  • Torque: 250Nm
  • 0-60mph: 6.1 seconds
  • Top speed: 140mph
  • Economy: 32.1-32.5mpg
  • Emissions: 198-200g/km

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