Spent a week of the month renewing my acquaintance with the Toyota GT86. i drove it in Japan late last year, but only on the track and in pouring rain. Even so, its poise, balance and unquenchable thirst for oversteer was revelatory. But it had asked as many questions as it answered, not the least being how it would behave on a dry British road.
Now I know the answer, I’m more taken with it than ever. This car is not merely a very good example of its type, but something else: a type of car hitherto presumed extinct. In many ways, this brand new toyota is old-fashioned. It’s not heavy like modern cars, it doesn’t understeer like modern cars. its steering is crisp and alive, its performance rather tame. On tyres deliberately sourced direct from the Toyota Prius, it has surprisingly little grip. Objectively you’d wonder why anyone would consider spending £25,000 on one.
But we’re not objects, we’re humans with hearts and red blood. For the money there is no car I’ve driven in recent memory that’s both sufficiently sensible to use all the time and anything close to as fun as this. Living in the countryside, if I owned one i’d get to balance a car on its throttle every day of life. It’ll do those massive, broadside slides beloved by the YouTube generation, though I’m not a huge fan of that kind of behaviour on public roads.
But it’s also delicate enough just to nudge into that delicious neutrality where true road driving pleasure belongs, yet is imperceptible to onlookers. there’s not a car on sale today to which it can profitably be compared. Its character is closest to a Mazda MX5 but with far greater civility, rear seats, a big boot and a fixed roof. A Nissan 370z might look like a close it, but it’s far more brutal and less sensitive as well as having just two seats. as for the likes of the Audi TT or Peugeot RCZ, they are as sheepdogs to a whippet.
Once the initial fuss has died down I don’t think the GT86 will sell in vast quantities over here because those looking to spend this kind on money on a 2+2 coupé would happily trade all that driving pleasure for a plush interior and a name the neighbours will covet. Closed two-door Japanese sports cars have almost always struggled in our nation of badge snobs.
Still, GT86 owners will be too busy enjoying themselves to care what anyone else thinks.