Since the structure of the GR 86 is largely the same as the 86 that preceded it, we’d call it a major refresh and not a redesign. It does look new as Toyota changed enough of the exterior design to distinguish the new car from the old. It’s a well-proportioned and downright handsome car with a sleeker greenhouse. Toyota also strengthened the structure with front and rear reinforcements. Previously, the 86 featured an aluminum hood. The new car adds an aluminum roof and fenders to help offset the weight of the new structural components.
A very important change is under that aluminum hood. The old 2.0-liter flat-four that thrummed and moaned has been bored out to displace 2.4 liters. Horsepower rises from 205 for the manual version to 228 across the board. (Previously, the automatic made 200 horsepower.) Aside from the sound of the old engine, it had to be revved to 5400 to yield its 156 pound-feet of torque. The larger engine makes 184 pound-feet of torque at a much more usable 3700 rpm. The intake and exhaust plumbing has been smoothed out to improve airflow, and a plastic intake manifold replaces the former aluminum plenum equipped on manuals and features larger ports that feed a revised valvetrain.
From behind the wheel, the changes are obvious. The added 23 horsepower may not sound like much, but an 11 percent gain is a meaningful improvement in a 2800-pound car. We expect the manual-equipped GR 86 to shave time off the last 86 GT’s 6.2-second run to 60. The extra power should be good for a 5.8-seconds run to 60 mph, and the engine is livelier, more responsive, and happier as it spins to the 7500-rpm redline. It sounds better too. There’s a speaker to amplify the engine sound, and that sound intensity varies depending on the selected drive mode, but it’s good enough to believe it’s the real thing.
Automatic buyers, which Toyota predicts will be the majority, will find six speeds and paddles on the steering wheel. Revisions include additional clutch plates and a new torque converter to cope with the newfound, well, torque. With the automatic-specific Sport mode engaged, the shift strategy smartens by holding on to gears and wisely downshifting during hard braking. Automatic buyers will also be able to add safety features such as adaptive cruise, collision warning, and lane-departure systems provided by Subaru’s EyeSight dual cameras peering through the windshield.