Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: February 27, 2017
I’m usually quite excited when I know that I’m going to have a manual-equipped sports car for the week (especially when the forecast calls for a heavy amount of snow). My left foot has been itching to touch a clutch since Project 1 has been put away for its winter slumber.
I’ll be completely transparent in that my hopes were more than shattered when I picked up the new 2017 Toyota 86 for review and peered inside the driver’s window to see that it was autotragic. Up to this point, I’ve driven countless manual FR-Ss and BRZs but never an automatic. With Toyota axing the Scion name, perhaps now is a good time to take a fresh look at the lazy enthusiast’s 86.
So what’s different? For starters, the Scion badge has been dropped in lieu of the globally recognized Toyota 86 nomenclature. Sitting underneath that shiny new badge is a reworked front fascia. The main air dam has been stretched to cover almost the entirety of the bumper. Glancing at the wide “grin” of the grille, you can see faint familial ties between the 86 and other entrants in the Toyota camp (notably the Camry). Moreover, the daytime running LEDs housed in the updated headlamps look reminiscent of the Lexus LFA. The rear end receives a far more subtle change with a redesigned bumper and a first for the model, LED tail lamps.
Changes to the interior are minimal. A new and ever so slightly smaller-in-diameter steering wheel replaces the old variant, and comes complete with audio and bluetooth controls (a first for the model). Doors and dash panels are lined with a vinyl-like material Toyota calls Granlux. Extra padding around the door trim and centre console are there to protect the knees for those extra hard corners - a nice addition as you’ll likely want to hit them fast.
Underneath all that sheetmetal lies the same beating heart of the aforementioned. The Subaru-sourced BOXER 4-cylinder gets a small update to the air intake for 2017. Freeing up the breathing tract of the motor allows for a peak horsepower rating of 205 and peak torque at 156 lb-ft, up five from the previous year. To help its sprint to 100 km/h is a shorter final drive ratio. All fine and dandy except all of these changes are for nought if you opt for the automatic transmission - power levels remain the same as the previous model year (200 hp, and 151 lb-ft). Clearly Toyota’s focus is on the manual driver.
But there are additional changes still present regardless of whether you put the 86 in D or 1st. Toyota’s made some tweaks to the suspension too, stiffening the springs and dampers in the front and softening them in the rear. These changes help increase turn-in response and road-holding abilities. The ethos of the 86 then remains the same - it’s a momentum car, made to keep as much speed through the corners as possible. And is the automatic conducive of that ethos?
Surprisingly yes. My experience up to this point with the torque converter has been nill. I expected the car to flash 4th gear when I slap the shift lever from Drive to Manual like all other Toyotas (and even some Lexus). Colour me shocked then when the car stuck to its cog and revved all the way up to redline (and stayed there!). Thus far, things were looking good.
Start from a stand still, mash the throttle, and the motor bogs down for a moment, struggling to overcome the inertia. The first drawback has already made an appearance - you can’t launch the 86 as hard as its manual counterpart. After all, there’s no clutch for you to dump. But again the 86 is all about momentum and once it gets hustling, the transmission makes up for its initial deficiencies.
It’s not the fastest shifting 6-speed out there, nor will it hold a candle to the industry standard ZF 8-speed, but it’s certainly leagues better than anything else from the Toyota marquee. Upshifts are brisk, and precise slinging one gear after the next allows you to make the most of the paltry motor. Downshifts come quick too, with an ever so slight delay between depressing the paddle and seeing the tach needle swing upwards before the previous gear engages. It will even respond to a quick double tap without skipping a beat.
While you may not be able to take advantage of the extra 5 horses (and 5 torques) offered in the manual variant, the output of the motor and automatic transmission operate symbiotically to allow the 86’s chassis to shine. The revised suspension set-up on a vehicle that’s already known for its stout driving dynamics is a welcome addition. Turn in feels incredibly tight, and the 86 absolutely dances around corners.
Tiny flinches in your wrist translate into nuanced directional changes to the 86. The softer rear suspension allows the back end to hug the road just a little bit more, making the car veer towards safe understeer as opposed to power-on oversteer. Indeed it isn’t as easy to get the backend of the new 86 out, but when it does, a new traction control setting (Track) allows for a little more play in the rear before any of the stability and traction assist nannies intrude.
Steering feedback isn’t quite as pronounced as other entrants in the segment (primarily the Nissan 370Z and Mazda MX-5), but the wheel loads up progressively and is very direct. The resulting difference from the altered suspension settings add up to a heightened driving experience, but ultimately not drastically different from previous years.
The 86 comes in only one guise - a $29,580 standard package. Tick the box for the automatic transmission and you tack on $1,200 to the price tag. At $30,780, you get all the features we’ve come to expect such as Bluetooth navigation, a 6.1-inch screen, back-up camera and USB connectivity. There’s a $1,260 dollar option to add navigation but I’d rather stick with Google Maps on my phone.
After a week with this sports coupe, I sorely missed the option to row my own. Even Toyota seems to agree by skipping the updates on the automatic. Frankly, if you don’t know how to drive stick and you’re absolutely unwilling to learn then the automatic 86 is the only option. For everyone else (and yes even the lazy enthusiast) the manual 86 is still a no-brainer.
型号 Model: 2017 Toyota 86
顏色 Paint Type: Oceanic Blue
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $29,580
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,570
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,235 / 1,775 / 1,285
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,252
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre horizontally opposed flat-four BOXER engine
最大馬力 Horsepower: 205 hp @ 7,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 156 lb-ft @ 6,400 - 6,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.3 / 8.3 / 9.9
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P215/45R17