Toyota GT 86: hype machine?
After all that anticipation the GT 86 left us a little cold – time to try and understand why...
About half an hour or so into my drive of the new GT 86, I’m starting to worry that Toyota has really screwed this up. It’s supposed to be one of the most exciting performance cars to launch in years, but the test route is choked with traffic. Worse still, in these conditions, the GT 86 feels sluggish, sounds dirgy and seems to be missing the promised sweet-shifting gearbox. Could it all be some kind of terrible mistake?
First off you have to understand why the GT 86 had us – well, me, anyway – so enthralled. This is a back-to-basics sports coupé. There are no turbos here, no fancy electronics or adaptive suspension systems – just 200hp from 2.0-litres, rear-wheel drive, an ultra low centre of gravity and a 1,200kg target kerb weight. Reports from early circuit drives suggested it was like an MX-5 with no scuttle shake and more power. Delicious.
UK cars come in at 1,240kg thanks to the climate control, etc, etc – but it’s still a commendable effort with all the contemporary safety gubbins. And in order to keep things interesting Toyota has fitted the decidedly non-performance orientated tyres from the Prius. The idea is to refocus driving enjoyment on the simple pleasures of pure responses and direct, balanced handling – rather than ultimate velocity.
It’s a beautiful thought. Why concentrate on bigger and bigger speeds when there are fewer and fewer opportunities to exploit them? Why not lower the limits at which the driver can get properly involved? With a strong preservation instinct for my licence and a restrained ego, this is the kind of car I want to be driving.
For a company like Toyota to have reached this position, and then – according to chief engineer Tetsuya Tada – deliberately engineered in a learning curve is remarkable. But out in the real world, does the concept actually work?
To be absolutely honest, I’m not sure.
Away from the congestion (this didn’t actually last too long; it’s merely representative of how I felt about the car at that particular moment in time), the GT 86 is good fun on the right road, and on the track it’s even better. You won’t see which way a determined hot hatch went, but as a demonstration of the joys of rear-wheel drive dynamics it is a hoot.
So I like it. Let me re-emphasise that, I like it. However, I strongly suspect many people won’t – and although this may be for a variety of reasons, the root cause of most of these is probably going to be the powertrain.
Let’s concentrate on the engine. This is fine if you’re happy to live life above 6,000rpm – but you need space, confidence and passengers prepared to endure you driving the car like you stole it to really make this happen. Great on the racetrack, then, where both the GT 86 and its Subaru BRZ cousin have received such rave reviews; less so in the cut and thrust of everyday European traffic.
Anyone who’s experienced a modern turbo motor – be that petrol or diesel – is going to wonder just where all the low-down urgency has gone. Toyota would probably argue this is missing the point, and that may be so. Yet casual sporty car drivers are perhaps going to be a little bit galled at just how hard they will have to work their new sporty car in order to keep up with a turbodiesel rep-mobile.
Japan, incidentally, doesn’t really do diesel; for example, just 0.2 per cent of the passenger car market was taken by derv in 2009.
Enthusiasts, on the other hand, enamoured with the idea of a sideways slidey drift puppy brand new for under £25,000, are also set for disappointment. Getting the standard car to skid in the dry requires either lots of speed or lots of aggression, and the GT 86 is actually so well balanced it doesn’t really like it much anyway. Which is liable to be a relief to regular road users.
200hp ought to be enough. And perhaps it would be if there was a turbocharger involved or the engine had Honda on the valve cover. But in the context of now I’m not sure it gives the GT 86 the edge it deserves.
Fortunately for people like us, this car is almost uniquely open to the attentions of the aftermarket – Toyota having open-sourced the CAD drawings to make modification that much easier. It could be that all it needs is a noisier induction system and a sweeter-sounding exhaust to make the process of wringing it out more visceral. Though if you really want to go faster, there are a number of Japanese tuners who will already sell you a supercharger or a turbo as a bolt on kit as well…
The Toyota Soarer had three engine options back in he 90's. V8, 6 and 6TT. The Supra had NA and Turbo, so did the MR2.
The Nissan Skyline had NA, 6T and 6TT 4WD options. There was a model for everyone. Mum could buy the Auto NA to drive down to the shops, while Dad could buy the Turbo Manual to flog on the weekends.
Consumers don't want to be told how they should enjoy a product Toyota and Subaru. They want to make up their own minds about the car and what they want it for.
86 seems great as it is now as long as you have a circuit in your backyard or happen to give in a particularly mountainous area with good public roads where traffic isn't a problem.
But since most normal people don't live in a place like that we get 90 percent of the everyday enjoyment from driving on straight roads with tame corners.
The car has to be fun there as well.
Engineers are using robots to test Ford vehicles through some of the most strenuous obstacles in the industry.
Date 18/06/13, Duration 2:20, Views 363
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