You might think I'm paranoid, but lately, I've felt that Japanese cars are out to get me.
The new Toyota Supra and Nissan Z have so much grunt and drive with so much gusto, it's like they're conspiring to send me to an early grave. But not the 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS: the latest iteration of this sports car (which has long been a ripper in my book) has been upgraded with a power boost.
It's had an increase in price too, with both the manual and automatic GR86 GTS variants starting at $45,390 before on-roads - that's roughly 8 grand more expensive than the 86 GTS I drove back in 2019!
It's a noticeable upgrade from earlier models: the previous Toyota 86 was a charming little thing. It was playful, well-balanced, and a hoot when driving on bendy roads.
But, as much as I loved it, I couldn't help but wish for a bit more oomph under the bonnet. Because when you put your foot right to the floor, it was like asking for a bit more horsepower from a Shetland pony.
A much-needed power boost: the new GR86 GTS
Well, it seems someone at Toyota has been listening, because the 2023 GR86 GTS has received a much-needed power boost.
Its 2.4-litre flat-four engine now produces 174 kilowatts, which is a significant improvement over the previous model. It's like the aforementioned Shetland pony went on a strict diet and training regimen, and emerged as a sleek thoroughbred.
The moment I turned the key and fired up the engine, I could sense that the GR86 GTS was now a more mature, refined beast. The flat-four's throaty burble was enticing, and I couldn't wait to see how the extra power would translate on the road.
Toyota GR86 in numbers
|Engine||2.4L Naturally Aspirated Boxer-4|
|Transmission||6-speed manual / 6-speed automatic|
|Power is sent to||Rear wheels|
|0-100 km/h||Approximately 6.1 seconds (manual) / 6.6 seconds (automatic)|
|Top Speed||Approximately 225 km/h|
|Curb Weight||Approximately 1,270 kg (manual) / 1,286 kg (automatic)|
|Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)||11.2/7.8/9.8 L/100km (manual) / 9.8/7.4/8.7 L/100km (automatic)|
Taking the GR86 GTS for a spin: all about balance
Once behind the wheel, it quickly became apparent that the GR86 GTS had lost none of its charm. The steering was sharp, the gearbox precise, and the brakes confidence-inspiring. However, I found the clutch a tad tricky to get used to – but once I did, it was great.
The added horsepower made the car feel more eager to please, like a well-trained Labrador fetching a stick.
As I pushed the GR86 GTS through corners, it remained beautifully balanced and composed. It felt like I was dancing a tango with a well-choreographed partner, rather than wrestling with an angry sumo wrestler, as I did with the Supra and Nissan Z. It's a sports car that doesn't want to kill me – how refreshing!
Inside the GR86 GTS: no-nonsense functionality
Inside, the GR86 GTS has undergone a subtle makeover.
The interior is basic but functional, with everything you need and nothing you don't. The GTS trim adds Alcantara upholstery, heated front seats, and a premium audio system to the mix.
It's a no-nonsense cabin, like a Japanese Zen garden – simple, yet elegant. The driving position is spot-on, and the seats are comfortable and supportive.
A few niggles: infotainment and rear seats
Of course, there are still a few niggles.
The infotainment system is about as user-friendly as a Sudoku puzzle - I couldn't get Android Auto working for the life of me up until the last day with the GR86. And the rear seats are only suitable for extremely limber contortionists.
I reckon the designers at Toyota should have just put some more storage space there – an idea that I was pleased to see implemented on the Nissan Z. But I do concede that this makes it cheaper to insure.
The GTS exclusives: aggressive stance and enhanced handling
On the outside, the GTS model boasts 18-inch alloy wheels, giving it a more aggressive stance. The larger wheels not only improve the car's looks but also contribute to the enhanced handling and driving experience.
However, on long trips, I found that the cabin noise could be a bit intrusive, with the engine humming at about 3,000 revs while cruising at 110 km/h. But these minor complaints pale in comparison to the joy that the GR86 GTS brings on the open road.
Is the Toyota GR86 safe?
While the manual transmission model of the 2023 GR86 GTS may not come equipped with adaptive cruise control and some other advanced safety features, it still offers a solid array of safety systems.
You'll find standard features like stability control, traction control, and multiple airbags, which work together to ensure that, while the GR86 GTS is a fun and engaging drive, it's also a car that aims to keep you in one piece – even when you're having a blast behind the wheel.
The perfect balance of power and playfulness
The 2023 Toyota GR86 GTS has won me over once again.
It's a Japanese sports car that has finally found the sweet spot between power and playfulness, and it doesn't want to send me to an early grave.
If you're looking for a car that's fun, engaging, and won't scare the living daylights out of you, the GR86 GTS is the one to choose.
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