After the death of the Scion brand, Toyota absorbed three of the four models from its lineup including the FR-S. With a new badge comes a new name, the 86, which had been used in global markets since the car’s introduction back in the 2013 model year. For 2017, the 86 received a revised front fascia and some minor mechanical changes that help make it more fun to drive. Other changes include full LED headlights, new 17-inch alloy wheels, and a smaller steering wheel. Our tester is the 86 860 Edition, a limited-run model that will be used to gauge demand for a higher-trim level. Features such as dual-zone climate control, keyless entry/start, a 4.2-inch multi-information display, heated front seats, and a rear spoiler come standard on the 860 Edition. A navigation system is the only option on our test car, and it costs $900.
Powering the 2017 86 is the same 2.0-liter flat-four now rated at 205 hp and 156 lb-ft of torque when paired to the standard six-speed manual gearbox. At the track, the 2017 86 860 Edition hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.2 seconds at 92.7 mph. Associate road test editor Erick Ayapana raved about the shifter, which offers short, precise throws, making it easy to go through the gears quickly. The clutch is easy to work with because it has an engagement point that’s easy to find, and the pedal placement is also ideal for heel-toe downshifting. However, launching the 86 takes some finesse because the tires lose grip quickly and the engine bogs down if revs are below 4,000 rpm. Stopping from 60 mph, on the other hand, took 117 feet, which is on par with the last 86 we tested but longer than rivals such as the Mazda MX-5 Miata and Fiat 124 Spider.
Toyota revised the 86’s suspension with retuned shocks and springs to improve handling for the 2017 model year. The car finished the figure-eight course in 26.1 seconds with a 0.66 g average and produced 0.87 g of lateral acceleration. Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the steering is “laser precise” and that the driver is always in control, allowing for different kinds of corner entries from smooth to wild and tail happy. The stock tires aren’t exactly high-performance rubber, which explains why it’s so easy to get the 86’s rear end to step out and start drifting.
On the road, the Toyota 86 reveals itself as a thoroughbred driver’s car—razor sharp and seriously fun to drive. The car’s chassis shines on the winding roads where you can explore its handling capabilities without the risk of losing your driver’s license. Through the twisting mountain roads of Southern California, the 86 stays planted and flat, and when combined with its precise steering, it feels like a scalpel slicing through the road with pinpoint precision. Along with its twin, the Subaru BRZ, the Toyota 86 gives the driver so much confidence that on twisty roads, you’ll find yourself taking corners at higher-than-normal speeds. Unlike the Mazda MX-5 Miata, there’s minimal body roll, but you still know exactly what the car is doing as it communicates with you. The 86’s handling prowess does come at the cost of ride comfort because it’s extremely stiff, and you will feel every road imperfection.
Despite the slight power bump for the manual-equipped 86, you still need to wind the 86 up because there’s not much low-end torque. Its happy place is high up in the rev range, away from the torque dip between 4,000 to 5,000 rpm where it can happily scream to redline all day. The standard limited-slip differential and shorter final gear ratios help make the most out of the rev-happy engine because the former helps you put power down more efficiently while the latter puts you higher up in the rev range. You’ll also enjoy rowing through the gears because the standard six-speed manual is one of the most satisfying units to use with short, crisp throws.
Inside the 86’s cabin is where its age shows. The dash layout is dated, especially with the old Scion head unit, and it doesn’t help that the material quality is only average with plenty of hard plastics everywhere. Thankfully some touch points such as the door panels have soft padding to mitigate that cheap feeling. Large adults might find the front seats too tight because of their aggressive bolstering; however, they do hold you in place extremely well during enthusiastic driving. Forget the rear seats even exist because they’re not useful for people and are best when folded and used as an extension to the tiny 6.9-cubic-foot trunk.
The 4.2-inch multi-information display that’s exclusive to the 860 Edition is a nice touch because it gives you more useful information in your line of sight. The outdated head unit is slow to respond and lacks smartphone integration, and the 7.0-inch touchscreen isn’t capacitive, so you have to poke at it to accept your inputs. The available navigation system isn’t the most comprehensive unit, and it doesn’t come with traffic reports. During our time with the 86, the system froze multiple times when we tried to stream music via Bluetooth or play them out of a flash drive.
Among affordable sports cars, only a few vehicles offer a pure, distilled driving experience that makes the vehicle feels like an extension of the driver. The 2017 Toyota 86 is one of them, thanks to its impeccable chassis and impressive balance that puts the driver in total control. Although it doesn’t have the newest tech or the most comfortable ride, the 86 is one of the few sports cars that embody the definition of driving fun. Sure, more power, a better ride, and stickier tires would be nice, but as it stands, the Toyota 86 proves that you can have fun without breaking the bank.