For the better part of the past decade, the Toyota 86 (formerly known as Scion FR-S) along with its fraternal twin, the Subaru BRZ, has been a very popular choice for motorsport enthusiasts. Attend any track day or autocross event and you are guaranteed to run into least several of them, usually with a modifications reflecting varying degrees of driver skill. These little sports cars are loved for being fun to drive, cheap to run, and easy to maintain. Thanks to Toyota Canada, we had the opportunity to put the all-new 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium to the test on the track and share our thoughts on what we expect to be this year’s hottest new toy.
The biggest improvement on this new GR86 aside from the sleeker and more aggressive styling is the updated horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine that now displaces 2.4 litres instead of the 2.0-litre plant in the outgoing model. Output has been increased to 228 horsepower arriving at a peaky 7,000 RPM and peak torque of 186 lb-ft. now arrives much earlier in the rev band at just 3,700 RPM.
Not only does the GR86 now deliver its maximum acceleration force sooner, the infamous ‘torque dip’ where the previous generation 86 would lose power in the mid-section of the rev range has also been eliminated. On the track, we were able to get up to speed with ease, and the new torque curve allows us to stay on third gear throughout most of the course without needing to downshift like we did a lot in last year’s model. Though there is only an increase of 23 horsepower, the GR86 feels tremendously faster and is a refreshing change of pace from the outgoing model.
On top of the power upgrade, engineers at Toyota’s Gazoo Racing (GR) team have placed extra effort to enhance the chassis and added rigidity throughout which results in a car that feels highly responsive and engaging. The 2022 Toyota GR86 in the Premium trim came equipped with upgraded 18-inch Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires that improved traction on track, but its rear end will swing loose at a moment’s notice. Good thing is that though its limits are low, they are clearly communicated to the driver and you can anticipate its response at all times.
The 2022 GR86 comes standard in a six-speed manual transmission which is a very easy unit to learn and operate thanks to the improved clutch engagement. The shifter is notchy, though we noticed a bit of imprecision between gear positions especially when downshifting, and the pedals are well positioned for heel-and-toe driving.
The low seating position and extra headroom made available by the GR86’s bubble-shaped roof is welcomed as it allowed us to fit inside comfortably with our helmets on, and visibility is quite good all around. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered to hold us snugly even when G-forces get high, but they do fit wide and we suppose slimmer drivers might be left wanting more. Cargo space at 178 litres is quite shy for a daily driver but is are more than adequate for track day use – it is over 50 litres more than the Mazda MX-5 plus the additional room on the rear occupant area.
The 2022 Toyota GR86 starts at $31,490 for the base model with the manual transmission, and our tester with the Premium trim arrives fully loaded at $34,490. In our opinion, you can get by with the base model without the bigger wheels and better tires, fancy driver assistance features, and additional infotainment gadgets if motorsport is all you do with the GR86, and use the $3,000 towards a set of sticky summer tires and other performance upgrades as you get more comfortable with the car. Our only ask is to try the GR86 out on track in stock form before you make any modifications to it. When the base car is already this good, it is more fun to find its limits first, and then improve on it.
All in all, Toyota has managed to take everything they learned from their popular track car and made it even better to suit that same purpose. We think the 2022 Toyota GR86 is an excellent choice for motorsport enthusiasts of any skill level, but is especially suited for novices. Its communicative handling means you can learn your mistakes quickly, its setup is easy on consumables like tires and brakes, and there will be an endless supply of parts when repairs or upgrades are needed. It is no secret why the last twins were so popular on the circuits amongst amateurs, and we can expect that to continue with the new model.