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2023 Toyota GR86 GT review (video)

Toyota’s unwavering commitment to the essence of a true sports car is evident in the second-generation GR86, now adorned with the ‘GAZOO Racing’ initials.

Formerly known as the 86 in Australia, this two-door, rear-wheel-drive sports coupe has undergone a significant transformation from its predecessor, featuring a larger 2.4-litre horizontally-opposed engine for increased power and torque, enhanced suspension, and structural rigidity, all wrapped in a refreshed design.

Despite these advancements, the GR86 maintains its fundamental identity as an affordable, stripped-down coupe that fosters a visceral connection between car and driver.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Specifications

Engine: 2.4-litre flat four-cylinder
Output: 174kW@7000rpm / 250Nm@3700rpm
Gearbox: Six-speed auto
Drive type: Rear-wheel drive, LSD
Wheels: F & R: 17×7.5, 215/45
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 1245kg
Power-to-weight: 7.15:1 (kg:kW)
Official consumption: 8.7L/100km
Our consumption: 7.9L/100km
Fuel tank/Fuel type: 50L/98 RON
Power efficiency: 20.0kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 3.65 seconds*
0-100km/h: 6.95 seconds*
60-110km/h: 4.39 seconds*
1/4 mile: 15.06 seconds at 157.8km/h*
Max acceleration: 0.724g*
100-0km/h braking: 39.98m in 3.02 seconds*
Max deceleration: -1.181g*
Decibel at idle: 46*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 92*
Starting price: $43,240

*Figures as tested by Driving Enthusiast on the day. Manufacturers’ claims may be different

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: How much does it cost?

For the 2023 model year, enthusiasts can choose between two variants in Australia; the GT starting from $43,240 and the GTS priced from $45,390 (excluding on-road costs).

Both variants offer a choice between a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, with the latter being the focus of our evaluation. Positioned in the market alongside competitors like the Mazda MX-5 and the Ford Mustang – as well as its identical twin sister, the Subaru BRZ – the GR86 holds its own with a compelling blend of performance and affordability.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Interior & packaging

The exterior of the GR86 exudes the spirit of a fun and agile sports coupe, with distinctive proportions, sleek contours, and sporty details such as air intakes in the guards and a prominent front intake scoop in the middle, low down.

While not as visually striking, the interior maintains a practical approach to keep costs down. Basic elements like an 8.0-inch touch-screen, a 7.0-inch semi-digital instrument cluster, and a straightforward layout featuring knobs and buttons contribute to the coupe’s simplicity.

The GTS variant introduces a mix of two-tone suede and leather seats, offering a snug fit for spirited cornering. Other features exclusive to the GTS include courtesy door lamps, illuminated vanity mirrors, active cornering headlights, heated front seats, sports pedals, door sill scuff plates.

Safety has been a touchy point for GR86 although Subaru and Toyota have enhanced this for the 2024 model. For this 2023 example, it comes with seven airbags, a reversing camera, and tyre pressure sensors. However, models with manual transmissions miss out on certain advanced safety features given to the auto, such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist.

All models, however, come equipped with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, digital radio, keyless entry, and dual-zone climate control. It’s an accommodating place to be in general, but you do sit very low to the ground which means you’ll have to get used to bending down to get in and out.

Rear seat space is very restricted due to the sloping rear windscreen and the front seats, depending on how much length is provided by the front passengers. Even then, the rear seats are carved out like buckets, with very little in the way of under-thigh support. Foot space is also limited.

Up at the back the boot offers just 237 litres. It’s not very deep but it pushes forward quite a bit. For a focused sports car like this we think it is adequate. You can do some shopping and store a gym bag or some sporting equipment, or even a couple of weekend luggage bags.

Toyota’s warranty coverage spans to five years (unlimited kilometres), with the engine and driveline covered for seven years. Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, and they are capped at $280 for the first five years or 75,000km.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Powertrain & handling

The debut of the new ‘FA24’ 2.4-litre horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine is a huge step forward. With 174kW and 250Nm (an increase 22kW and 38Nm over the previous 2.0L), this is worlds apart from the predecessor.

There’s considerably more low-end grunt and acceleration is now linear throughout the rev range with no more flat-spot at around 3500rpm. It still loves being revved hard, so you can enjoy proper flat-out driving and it feels like the car is enjoying it.

It also sounds huskier but more refined than before – it used to sound like a small boat. At idle, you feel that renowned horizontal engine shake and tremble. As before, Toyota supplies its D4-S direct injection system and six-speed manual and automatic transmissions.

Subaru does pretty much everything else, including handles production at its Fuji Heavy Industries factory in Japan. It’s also built on Subaru’s Global Platform, which has been around since 2017. This platform is known for being more rigid and safer than Subaru’s previous setups.

Obviously one of the key driving characteristics is that it is rear-wheel drive, and both the manual and auto come with a tight limited-slip differential. It’ll perform donuts and tail-out driving at will. You need to carry in some speed to maintain a good slide, though, because although the new engine is more powerful it’s still needs some revs to maintain wheelspin.

It’s a very well sorted vehicle when pushed hard, including when subjecting it to drifting and slides. The suspension is absolutely brilliant. Take it for a thorough drive up a mountain road with bumps and dips and you’ll see how amazingly controlled and planted it is.

Since it only weighs 1245kg in automatic GT form, the after-shock of bumps is minimal. This is not one of those cars that surprises you with moments of uneasiness. It only responds to what you tell it to do. And responds almost instantly, including steering.

Toyota has mentioned that the tyres are purposely not overly wide, to keep costs down, and the brand understands that some buyers will modify various aspects as well. However, out of the box, it’s an extremely well balanced machine and one that you can tell has been developed by true driving enthusiasts.

Does the auto gearbox detract from the overall driving pleasure? In some ways, yes. As with any auto compared with a manual. The manual is obviously much more engaging, but Subaru/Toyota have made some revisions to the auto for the new model to help improve shift times and enhance the sporty feel.

For more serious drivers you can engage with the paddle shifters, but the biggest change we find is the engine. Now with more torque, the auto doesn’t feel as laggy or strained. You can build speed quickly and the gear shifts feel more progressive. We timed 0-100km/h in a brisk 6.95 seconds. That’s really impressive for a naturally aspirated, four-cylinder automatic.

On paper, the GR86’s fuel consumption is pretty ordinary considering its light weight and power/torque level. The auto version scores an average of 8.8L/100km. But we were able to achieve 7.9L/100km during our test. That was over 400km of highway and city style driving. One benefit of the auto is it enjoys a better official average compared to the manual version’s 9.5L/100km.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Key attractions/reasons to buy

  • Fun to drive: The GR86 carries over its raw driving experience for enthusiasts, with rear-wheel drive and a limited-slip diff and more power and torque it is easier than ever to flick out the rear end.
  • Affordable: It started out as a circa-$30k vehicle and despite prices rising, it’s still affordable relative to its near competitors.
  • Brilliant new engine: Noticeably more power and torque, the new 2.4L also provides a healthy boost in refinement yet it’ll still scream to 7000rpm.
  • Build quality and overall sturdiness on the road: All of the interior feels strong and secure, with no rattles, and the platform is just the same, feeling more rigid and concise.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Key considerations before you buy

  • Relatively bare and basic: Compared with some of the more modern rivals, the GR86 could be seen as lacking features. The touch-screen is quite small, comparatively, for example.
  • Small boot: It’s not a grand tourer so don’t expect it to offer the accomodation of one. Even so, the boot is pretty small for a coupe.
  • Road noise: Due to the rigid chassis and sports suspension, a lot of tyre roar and general noises are fed through to the cabin.
  • Safety gear missing on manual models: Although, this is being rectified with the MY24 version arriving soon.

2023 Toyota GR86 GT: Video

How does it rate against its rivals?
  • Price
  • Quality look & feel
  • Interior tech
  • Powertrain performance
  • Ride & handling
  • X-factor (does it stand out in its class?)

Final word

The new GR86 maintains Toyota’s dedication to performance cars, offering driving enthusiasts a compelling mix of affordability and raw driving experiences. The new engine, more refined dynamics, and enhanced drifting capabilities make it an upstanding successor to the almost flawless predecessor.

Mark Davis

Mark's fascination with cars originated long before he was allowed to get behind the wheel himself. To him, cars are more than just a mode of transport; especially the ones that adopt purposeful innovations while preserving the joy of driving. With a master's degree in IT, he brings a tech-savvy perspective to our car reviews, particularly as the automotive industry embraces digital advancements. Mark joins Driving Enthusiast as a road tester after more than a decade at PerformanceDrive.

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