We have all heard it – sports cars don’t sell. Well, apparently not all of us, and definitely not Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) team. The motorsport division has been carrying the load for enthusiasts in the past few years, and in 2022, they decided to show out by offering the GR86, GR Corolla, and GR Supra trifecta – all available with manual gearboxes. This is moving in the complete opposite direction of the automotive industry, and does Toyota know something we don’t? We’re going to try and answer this question, starting with this – the all-new 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium.
The 2022 GR86 is the successor to the wildly popular Toyota 86 with some GR magic sprinkled all over. Leading with the GR-exclusive G-mesh-shaped matrix front grille, the completely reworked exterior looks more aggressive with its wide fender flares and low-slung stance, and Toyota says the side air outlets help improve aerodynamics by allowing air to escape from the wheelwell. The unique duckbill spoiler, a GR86 Premium exclusive feature, adds both form and function to the design and is quickly becoming one of our favourite spoilers.
As part of its weight saving effort on the new GR86, the front fenders and roof are now made of aluminum, along with the hood that was already aluminum-constructed since the last generation, and used lighter-weight materials in its underbody, fuel door, front seat frames, engine, and driveline.
The biggest complaint with the previous 86 was the lack of power and the well-documented ‘torque-dip’ that made the car feel even more sluggish. The good news is that Toyota listened to the critics and fixed both of these issues, and the bad news is they did not give them everything they were looking for and held out on the turbocharger. The horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine displaces 2.4 litres instead of 2.0. There is now 228 horsepower on tap – an additional 23– and torque has improved to 186 pound-feet.
We understand that some might be disappointed with the small power increase, but thanks to the elimination of the ‘torque dip’ and another small but not insignificant change in peak torque arriving at 3,700 RPM instead of 6,600 RPM in the outgoing model, the GR86 feels like a completely different car. There is plenty of usable power in getting going from a standstill, and it will happily keep accelerating to the 7,500 RPM redline. The standard manual transmission is fairly easy to operate even in traffic – the clutch pedal is light and clutch engagement has been improved – and there is an also optional automatic gearbox.
Toyota has made the chassis more rigid to accommodate the additional power, and much like the outgoing model, steering feel is direct and extremely precise. The GR86 will oversteer if you are not careful, but it is far from feeling out of control and any misadventures can be easily corrected in the corners. The compact size and lightweight construction is easily felt when you are behind the wheel, and the GR86 is simply a joy to drive on back roads or on the track.
There is a designated track mode that dials down the nannies and changes the digital instrument cluster to a cleaner and more concise design, and we wish we could set the track cluster display as a default layout. The Premium trim adds a set of 18-inch alloy wheels and stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires that ups the fun but sacrifices a bit of comfort when compared to the standard 17-inch Michelin Primacy tires.
The GR86 offers a good amount of head and legroom for front passengers and we enjoyed the seating position and above-average visibility. The front seats are accommodating but the rear bench is best reserved for extra cargo to supplement the 178-litre trunk rather than to hold passengers. Our biggest complaint is its ride quality – it is really firm and every road imperfection is felt. We suppose the standard model’s 17-inch wheel and Michelin Primacy tire combo will improve overall ride comfort and is worth considering if street driving is a priority over sheer performance.
Fuel economy is rated at 11.8L/100km in the city and 8.7L/100km on the highway for a combined figure of 10.5L/100km, closely matching our observed 10.8L/100km figure for the week. Premium fuel is required for the 50-litre tank.
The interior layout follows a similar design language as the outgoing model, with minor changes to make it easier to live with. This includes a larger eight-inch touchscreen that no longer looks like an aftermarket unit, and an improved eight-speaker stereo system for the Premium trim (six speakers for the base). The Alcantara and leather interior is nice to the touch, the toggle design of the HVAC system looks race-inspired, and the GR86 does well from feeling basic despite its low price tag. The infotainment system is fairly intuitive to use and there is standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Toyota GR86 comes standard with Smart Stop Technology and Brake Assist safety systems, and our Premium model adds Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Unfortunately, you would have to opt for the automatic transmission to get features like radar-guided adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure and Sway Warning, Automatic High Beams, and Lead Vehicle Start alert. We would like to see these features make their way across the lineup to keep pace with the competition.
The base price of the 2022 Toyota GR86 is $31,490, and the Premium adds LED headlights, leather and Alcantara wrapped seats with heat, digital gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control, and other goodies mentioned above for an all-inclusive price tag of $34,490. While the rivalry might not be direct apple-to-apple, the GR86 is cross-shopped against several newly redesigned ‘enthusiast cars’ such as the Subaru WRX, Volkswagen GTI and Honda Civic Si. The GR86, along with its fraternal twin the Subaru BRZ, is the least practical of them all, but the pure driving thrill delivered easily makes up for it.
The Gazoo Racing team is not just swimming against the current, but they are powering their way upstream using not one but three promising three-pedaled performance cars, and we like their chances of making a difference even in today’s electrified era. While the 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium is not the perfect ‘do-it-all’ car, it does provide one of the most connected driving experiences at a price that is more affordable than some mainstream subcompact crossovers.