The 2017 Toyota 86 isn't about power, but it is about fun, and it has just enough creature comforts to make it livable as a daily driver.
With the demise of the Scion brand, the FR-S sport coupe becomes the Toyota 86 (pronounced "eight-six") for the 2017 model year. With the changeover, the 86 gets styling tweaks, revised suspension settings, slightly more power, and a few upgraded interior materials. The changes tweak the 86's driver-focused character, adding a bit of comfort and making the rear end stickier.
The 86 has a nimble and fun-to-drive spirit, with just enough of the modern conveniences, technology, and safety equipment to keep it from being a penalty box when driven anywhere but a twisty mountain road. It's a sports car at its essence and among the purest of enthusiast cars on the market today, and it?s also quite affordable.
We give it an overall score of 6.3, crediting good handling and features and taking away for its average powertrain and teensy back seat.
Toyota 86 styling and performance
Simple surfaces give the 86 classic proportions. Details at the nose and tail provide a modern, aerodynamic look. Inside, the 86 is basic, but well-built and handsome, if not quite beautiful.
This Subaru-built, Toyota-designed sports coupe is engineered for fun above all else. Steering is a mixed bag, with the precise and well-weighted electric power assist taking out much of the feel, leaving behind an intuitive and quick, but not very communicative, wheel. The brakes are easy to modulate and adequate for the car's weight, easily surviving a half-dozen laps on a track or a long, fast canyon run. And the 86 actually uses low-rolling-resistance tires, like those you'd normally find on a hybrid or fuel-economy special, in part to limit overall grip and let the driver toss the tail around a bit. Rear suspension changes this year, however, help keep the rear end more planted; that will be welcome to some but a negative to others who liked the Scion FR-S's tail-happy character.
Power is derived from a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine. For 2017 it adds 5 horsepower and 5 pound-feet of torque for totals of 205 and 156, respectively. It's not exactly a torque monster, especially in the low-rev range. Run the car all the way up to its redline, though, and you'll find a little more power when you need it. As long as you don't mind putting some work in, the 2.0-liter rewards you. The engine is a variation of a Subaru design, with Toyota's direct- and port-injection system added in.
Once you've reconciled yourself with grabbing the flat four by the nape of its neck and squeezing for all it's worth, the 86 becomes a second skin. Nimble, light (by modern standards), and incredibly neutral in its balance, the Toyota 86 captures the essence of what a sports car should be: honest, inexpensive fun.
Toyota 86 comfort, safety, and features
Sitting in the car isn't a chore, either. The front seats are where the interior really shines. Well-bolstered, comfortable, with plenty of leg room and hip room for larger and taller drivers, the front seats are excellent for a production vehicle. The rear seat is best reserved for children or packages.
While there's a sound pipe to bring some of the car's growling engine note into the cabin, very little actual exhaust noise is heard. Wind and road noise can become prominent at speeds above 70 mph.
On the equipment front, there's not much to talk about as the Toyota 86 is offered in just one spec. Standard equipment includes Bluetooth, keyless entry, climate control, and a 7-inch touchscreen radio. The lone major option is a Display Audio system with a navigation system and apps capability. Toyota also offers several accessories through dealers, including some that improve performance.
Six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, and traction control are all among the standard safety equipment, as is a rearview camera. Federal officials haven't completed crash testing for the 86, but it has earned four stars in front crash protection and five stars for rollover protection. The IIHS carried over its scores for the 86, which earned "Good" ratings in all categories, save for an "Acceptable" score in the tough small overlap frontal category.
Fuel economy for a lightweight, low-power sports coupe should be better. The manual-transmission Toyota 86 is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined.
It may draw inspiration from classic Japanese sports car design, but the Toyota 86 is a modern car with current styling. It's long, low, and sleek, though not quite as stylish as a sport coupe can be.
We give it a styling score of 7, for above-average interior and exterior themes. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The 86 carries the old-school long hood/short deck proportions that often define the look of a sports car. With the switch from Scion to Toyota, the car gets some styling changes that are most noticeable in the front end. The grille is wider and it takes on a more complex, more organic shape than the outgoing trapezoidal look. The bumper is also revised, and so are the headlamps, driving lights, and turn signals, all of which now feature LEDs.
The front fenders are slightly flared and bulge upward from the hood line. They get new side gills that actually create a vortex to improve airflow. A simple side profile sees the roof sweep up and dive down again in a graceful arc, meeting the rear fenders and stubby tail.
A new bumper and LED taillights highlight the changes to the rear this year. The rear diffuser adds adds an additional slat, helping to improve downforce. The alloy wheels get a new design with twisted spokes.
The cabin of the 86 follows the car's form-follows-function, minimalist aesthetic. It features durable plastics molded in flowing, simple lines and highlighted by carbon-look accents. The nearly monochromatic upholstery helps put the gauge cluster front-and-center for the driver. For 2017, the interior is prettied up a bit with a new Granlux synthetic suede on the dash and door panels, and silver accent stitching. The steering wheel is also three millimeters smaller in diameter.
The Toyota 86's main mission is to convert gasoline and $26,000 or so into an infinite supply of fun behind the wheel. We give it an 7 for performance, awarding points for its excellent handling and steering and for its manual transmission, but we take away a point for engine performance with the automatic. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Light, tossable, and balanced
The Toyota 86 does not have very high limits, thanks in part to fairly low-grip standard tires. However, those limits are very approachable, and, best of all, it's easy to keep the 86 near them-a feat almost impossible, on the street or the track, in cars with stratospherically high performance. For 2017, Toyota stiffens the structure slightly, and revises the shock tuning and spring rates, making it stiffer up front for better turn in and softer at the rear for better roadholding and reduced rear tire noise.
The changes at the rear help keep the tires on the pavement, reducing bump steer-skipping sideways when it encounters a bump mid-turn-and that serves to reduce the tail's willingness to come around and let you drift this relatively low-power sports car. However, the rear sway bar increases slightly from 14 to 15 mm in diameter, adding a little of that tail happiness back in, and Toyota has changed from a Sport to a Track setting for the stability control system that lets the car get sideways longer before the electronic nannies come in. Overall, we found that it isn't quite as easy to kick the tail out, and that's something we will miss, but the revised stability control lets you play longer when you do induce a drift.
Power isn't this car's strong suit or its focus and never has been. Its Subaru-supplied 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine sits low and rearward in the nose, linked to either a 6-speed manual or a paddle-shifted 6-speed automatic powering the rear wheels. For 2017, horsepower and torque increase by five each, to 205 and 156 pound-feet, respectively. The torque peak arrives high in the rev range, so you really have to wind up the engine to get the most out of it. Those power numbers aren't impressive, even for a lightweight sports car. Fortunately, the 86 is less about straight-line speed or acceleration than what it does when the road bends. Even with changes to gearing of the manual transmission, the 0 to 60 mph time should stay close to the 6.8 seconds of the outgoing FR-S, though it may improve slightly.
The car's limited power is easier to tap into with the manual, and we find the automatic frustrating due mostly to the engine's low torque. If you want to get the most out of the engine, keep the revs around 5,000 rpm either with the manual's gearshift or the automatic's steering wheel shift paddles.
A number of factory performance upgrades are available through Toyota dealers, including a cold-air intake, an exhaust system, lowering springs, strut tie braces, anti-roll bars, upgraded wheels, and larger brakes.
We drove a model with the lowering springs, lightweight forged alloy wheels, stiffer rear bar, and TRD exhaust system and didn't detect much of an advantage. The lowered suspension caused pronounced up-and-down motions over bumps and ruts, though it did help to reduce body lean. We'd recommend the forged wheels because they save unsprung weight and the exhaust system for its additional snarl. You may also want the stiffer rear sway bar if you like the idea of sending the rear end into controlled drifts.
Comfort & Quality
Toyota says the 86 was designed to hold four wheels and tires, a toolbox, a helmet, and a driver-all you need for a basic day at the track.
On our rating scale, it merits a 6. It gains points for good cargo and front passenger space, and loses one for its near-useless rear seat, which doesn't meet its four-seat mission statement. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Cargo space isn't abundant, but it's not bad for a 2+2 coupe. In theory, four people fit in the 86, but the rear seats are best used for kids or cargo. The trunk is reasonably sized with a well-shaped aperture allowing medium-sized bags to fit easily. The rear seats also fold flat to open up much more horizontal space, though taller items won't fit in the shallow trunk.
The little coupe's front seats are roomy and comfortable, while also offering enough bolstering for support during spirited driving. Head room and leg room are quite good, allowing the car to accommodate drivers over 6 feet tall with ease. The rear seats are small, and only minimal knee space and leg room are available with the front seats at their rearmost positions. With shorter front-row occupants, the rear seat can work for adults, but on the whole, it's best reserved for children and gear.
Don't be fooled by the Toyota 86's spartan interior. While there may not be too many moving parts inside, the things you can touch all feel solid and well-built. It manages to be just utilitarian enough while avoiding the feeling of having been built to a price. The new Granlux synthetic suede on the dash and doors is a nice touch.
Standard safety equipment on the Toyota 86 includes the basics such as six airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability and traction control. A limited-slip differential improves low-grip traction and starts from a stop. The standard rearview camera alleviates the problem of the car's mild rear blind spots. Hill start assist prevents the car from moving backward when starting on a hill.
Advanced technology safety features like blind-spot monitors and lane-keep assist aren't available in the Toyota 86, but, at the $26,000 starting price, that's understandable.
The Toyota 86 hasn't been completely crash-tested, but the Scion FR-S has and it's the same car with a different badge.
The NHTSA has given the 86 a four-star score for frontal crash protection and five stars for rollover protection. While it doesn't have an overall score, the FR-S earned five stars overall. The IIHS rated the 86 "Good" in all categories, save for an "Acceptable" in the tough small-overlap frontal test.
Based on that, we give the Toyota 86 a 6 for safety.
The 2017 Toyota 86 comes in just one specification with very few optional features. However, the standard equipment list is decent and Toyota offers several accessory features through its dealers.
Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, manually adjustable 6-way driver and 4-way passenger front seats, a one-piece fold-flat rear seat, remote keyless entry, a leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, aluminum pedals and scuff plates, LED taillights, and 17-inch alloy wheels on skinny 215/45 Michelin Primacy HP summer tires.
The Pioneer audio system comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen, eight speakers, HD radio, voice control, and an auxiliary jack and a USB port. A rearview camera is also standard.
Offered as an option is a Display Audio system with navigation that also comes with iTunes tagging, Pandora internet radio, and Aha Radio.
Some of the available accessories include wheel locks, carpeted trunk and cabin floor mats, an ashtray kit, mud guards, lowering springs, forged wheels, a thicker rear sway bar, a TRD exhaust system, a TRD air filter, and a rear spoiler.
We give the 86 a rating of 6 for features, thanks to its list of a la carte accessories.
The manual-transmission 2017 Toyota 86 stays close to the Scion that it's replacing. The 2017 edition manages 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined with a manual transmission, and a considerably better 24/32/27 mpg with an automatic. Those are good, but not especially impressive figures for a compact, lightweight 4-cylinder car. It's also important to note that it's rated for premium fuel only. We also prefer the manual, so it's too bad that it isn't as efficient.
The 86's power is best tapped into at higher revs, so it should be easy to get the EPA ratings in typical everyday driving. However, while it is fairly efficient, the 455-horsepower Chevrolet Corvette Stingray can achieve as much as 30 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. Given those numbers, we'd expect the 205-hp 86 to be more efficient.
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