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Atonement is what the 86 is for Toyota. After mass producing cars that are economical, practical and boring since the demise of the Supra, then the Celica and eventually the MR2, the Japanese car maker has finally found retribution with the 2012 Toyota 86.
Show me the corners
So what’s the recipe for this engineering genius? A front engined, RWD coupe weighing 1200kg with a centre of gravity of just 475mm - the lowest in any production car ever, might I add. Under the hood is a Subaru derived 4 cylinder, direct injection, naturally aspirated boxer engine rated at 197 bhp, 151 lb/ft of torque.
Clearly, this is not engineered for straight line performance. What it can do though, is go around corners while guaranteeing bucket loads of fun. Available in 6 speed automatic and manual gear, the obvious choice for us at AutoMiddleEast.com is the manual gear.
6 Levels of Fun
Inspired by the 1967 2000GT, the 2012 Toyota 86 has a long front end with flowing lines starting from the front wheel arches going all the way to the compact rear end. The car draws fair bit of attention while driving around town. Couple of people even come up to find out what it was. The optional full body kit gives 2012 Toyota 86 an aggressive stance. Its interior design chants the mantra of function over form.
I admit my bias for Japanese ergonomics, but the 2012 Toyota 86 seems flawless. The leather wrapped tilt and telescopic steering sits well and so do meters, gear stick and switchgear. Once seated in the low slung comfortable bucket seats, the driving position and access to controls almost feels natural. The placement of controls is perfect. The faux carbon fibre trim adds to the sporty feel of the car while the low dash allows for excellent visibility especially for a sports car. Another design cue inherited from race cars is the Tachometer that sits bang in the middle of the instrument cluster.
Race inspired Instrument Cluster
Although advertised as a 2+2 seater, the 2012 Toyota 86 is a strict 2 seater. The rear seats seem to be an afterthought and are only useful as parcel shelf. Boot space is plenty and enough to handle more than your weekly visit to Spinney. Toyota claims, with the seats folded down; there is enough space to carry a set of 4 tyres plus a trolley jack in there.
Toyota UAE distributor Al Futtaim Motors sells this car in basic trim level only for the manual which means you do not get climate control, HID’s, cruise control, keyless go and a digital speedometer unless you choose the automatic. To be honest, none of that matters. Not when you are busy going sideways around corners.
The music system comes with USB and Aux support which is alright, but the speakers are bit of a letdown - a compelling reason to switch off and listen to the engine screaming all the way to the 7400rpm red line instead. Let’s admit it; the Toyota 86 is not a car you would buy for creature comforts.
It is hard to compare this car with any other out there. The Toyota 86 does not have any real competitors. The car is programmed to induce the most amount of fun that can be had while behind the wheel. Rumor has it that the engineers at Toyota measured the endorphin released while doing a lap around the Fuji Speedway. Objective - ensure that the Toyota 86 delivers maximum amount of smiles per bhp. OK, maybe I just made that up, but this car is so much fun; it makes the MINI feel boring.
The free revving engine loves to be pushed all the way to the rev limiter at 7400 rotations. The normally aspirated engine ensures power delivery so linear that it can almost be depicted by a straight line graph. Real grunt comes in after 5000 revs. From thereon, the exhaust notes make you want to keep the go fast pedal pushed down all the way to red line. Keep the car in that band through all the gears and the power feels adequate.
Let's do the Tango
The crisp throttle response and excellent steering give balance and precision that can only be the result of a lovechild between a ballerina and a ninja. The direct steering feel helps throw the Toyota 86 into a corner anyway you like. Approach a corner with the perfect entry angle and accelerate your way out for a clean race line. Just the way this car is intended to be driven.
For some drama, first, approach a corner with a bit of under steer. Next, flick the steering and play with the throttle to switch to oversteer and finally, let the car gracefully slide out of a corner. With the traction control partially switched off, it is not too difficult to get some sideways action until the traction control puts the Toyota 86 back in line. Not like a headmistress in primary school but rather a supportive friend almost encouraging to do it again. However, switching off the electronic nanny altogether lets the car do the tango.
Typically, with exceptional handling come stiff suspension and a harsh ride. Not on the 2012 Toyota 86. Using it around town, not once did the ride feel uncomfortable. The gearbox is not perfect, but is notched enough to guarantee accurate shifts. Heavy clutch pedal leads one to believe it can take a fair beating before taking the car back at the workshop. For those who often commute between Dubai and Sharjah, a knee surgery insurance policy might be needed.
Love the red stitching. Faux Carbon Fibre trim adds to the sporty feel.
At a price of AED 95,000, in today's market there is no other car that offers such a rewarding experience as a daily drive.
In times when car manufacturers are loading their cars with more technology than the Hadron Collider, Toyota has gone against convention.
There is no computer here to help change lanes, hit the brakes to reduce speed, park your car or to harness previously unheard of horsepower and torque figures. The 2012 Toyota 86 feels natural and delivers an honest motoring experience.
The actions of your right foot, steering control and intuition, not some algorithm sitting under the hood, dictate how the 2012 Toyota 86 responds. This is a car that can be pushed to the limit - yours' as well as the cars'. Very few cars deliver an experience this rewarding. Rarely, cars on the market today allow this outside a track.
There is a sense of achievement, glory almost, every time gears changed and corners conquered. With the 2012 Toyota 86, the Japanese car maker brings an affordable, no-nonsense sports car to petrol heads. For the love of motoring, we hope they succeed. I just wish they bin the euro style tail lamps.
Arigato Toyota 86.