My Favorite Sportscar

Oh, how I hated to hand the keys to this one over to my partner in automotive crime, Reagan Wyka. She and I don’t always agree on things automotive, but the 2017 Toyota 86 thoroughly charmed us both. We got to spend quite a bit of quality time in this one and racked up a fair number of miles.

Take a peak at the in-car driving experience …

Typically, Reagan and I split our time in the press-fleet cars close to 50-50% (one car per media organization donchaknow.) Our week with the 86 was a bit different due to busy personal schedules and the Texas Auto Writers Association Truck Rodeo falling smack in the middle of our loan. The end result being I got much more seat time in this one than she. Aw heck!

The 86 is a continuation of the recently departed Scion FR/S. Somehow the Toyota manages to look fresher and more stylish to my eyes. This wasn’t my first experience with a Toyota 86 or mechanical sister Subaru BRZ. I’ve had the pleasure of driving several different 86/BRZ’s both on and off the track. Each encounter left me wanting more … much, much more. My last encounter was at another TAWA event at Austin’s Circuit of the America’s where I drove the special edition Toyota 860 manual and its mechanical twin the BRZ with a paddle shifted automatic.

The 860 is a limited edition of the 86 with more standard features and several styling enhancements. Only 860 will be produced in Halo White, and another 860 in Supernova Orange. A functional rear wing is added, racing stipes, and black side mirrors, integrated LED fog laps, and wheels exclusive to the 860. Toyota claims the rear wing combined with the unique to the 860 underbody aerodynamic panel help it achieve a drag coefficient of 0.27 Cd.

But what of the “Ablaze” red 86 that recently occupied my driveway? This was a base line car that stickered for $27,145 all in. It was devoid of options, but nicely equipped as delivered. All the distracting nonsense has been eliminated in this car making it a real drivers car. Yes, it has power windows, electric mirrors, a decent sound system etc. But with the sounds this thing makes who wants to listen to the radio anyway?

The chassis is somewhat conventional being a front mid-engine, RWD. The 86 and 860 manual weigh in at 2774lbs, and the automatic 2815. Lock-to-lock steering is an ultra-quick 2.48. The boxer 4-cyl has a Bore x Stroke, mm. (in.) 86.0 x 86.0 (3.39 x 3.39), 12.5:1 compression ratio, overhead variable valve timing cams, and direction injection with the manual having 205hp and the automatic 200hp. The diminutive chassis has a 101” wheelbase, shod with 17X7” alloy wheels. 215/45R17 87W tires. More on the tires later.

There are two choices in the transmission department. Quoting from Toyota’s press materials, “The 6-speed Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i), sequential shift mode with Dynamic Rev Management and paddle shifters, Vehicle Stability Control26 with Track Mode, Sport Mode, Snow Mode, and an automatic transmission fluid heat exchanger. The manual is a Short-throw 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission with triple-cone syncromesh on 1st/2nd/3rd gears, ball-bearing mounted shift linkage, and Reverse gear lockout protection.”

As I said I’ve driven both the automatic and manual … and well, I’m a manual guy from way back, and this is one-slick shifting manual. Reverse is in the over to the left and up position, but with a shifter mounted pull ring lockout that at first confounded Reagan. Within minutes I was banging off shifts and heel ‘n toeing as if the 86 and I had been together for years. When we filmed our acceleration tests, Reagan laughed out loud as I chirped off shifts in 2nd and 3rd. The power to weight ratio for the manual is 13.5 and the automatic 14.1.

But don’t get hung up on horsepower figures and power to weight ratios. The 86 is a quick little car in straight line acceleration with Toyota claiming 0-60 times of 6.8 seconds, and a top speed of 136mph. And the sounds it makes getting to its 7,400 rpm redline! You can really feel the effect of the variable valve timing when the rev’s build to about 4,200 rpm and you can really feel the engine in its powerband. In fact, it sounds so great I found myself going to the redline over and over.

The steering is light and precise, and you can hang the tail out a bit if you turn the traction control off. Uh…personally I just turned it off and left it off. Acceleration isn’t neck snapping but it’s adequate to have fun, and if you want to bump up the “go” the aftermarket is full of performance goodies. My biggest gripe is the tires. If I owned one they would be the first thing I’d change in favor of some super-sticky Yokohama’s.

MSRP (US $)

MPG City

MPG Highway

Horsepower @ 7,000 rpm

Engine: Cylinders @ 2.0 L

Curb Weight (US lbs)

Torque (lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm)

Wheelbase (US Inches)

Other Worthy Competitors

2017 Mazda MX5 Miata

The Mazda MX5 Miata has been with us so long that’s it’s easy to forget what a revelation this car was when introduced in 1989. Enthusiasts quickly named it the spiritual successor to the classic MG’s and Triumph sportscars. The MX5 was and is better than those classic sportscars in every way and is now the gold standard for open roadsters.

Dimensions: 154″ L x 68″ W x 49″ H

MSRP (US $)

MPG City

MPG Highway

Horsepower @ 7,000 rpm

Curb Weight (US lbs)

Wheelbase (US Inches)

2017 Mustang Base

Well if horsepower and comfort is the name of your sportscar game, then a base pony car might be for you. I’ve chosen the ’17 Mustang for our comparison because I love the styling. One could just as easily include the ’17 Dodge Challenger, or ’17 Chevrolet Camaro. Truthfully the Mustang is a vastly different kind of car than either the Toyota 86 or Mazda MX5 Miata.

Dimensions: 188-190″ L x 75″ W x 53″ H

MSRP (US $)

MPG City

MPG Highway

Horsepower

Curb Weight (US lbs)

Wheelbase (US Inches)

So which one would I buy? Well it’s a bit of a tough question. The MX5 is a roadster in the classic sense and delivers all the right visual cues and sensations. Its small size would tend to rule it out for me as a daily driver, but I’d be delighted to have one join the Riley fleet as a weekender.

Ah the Mustang. It’s comfortable, delivers great fuel mileage and respectable performance at a highly competitive price. The base car just doesn’t deliver that visceral experience that I want in a sportscar. Truthfully it is probably the more practical choice but one must step up to the much more expensive and thirsty GT to get the sound and feel I crave.

My choice of the three would be the Toyota 86. It isn’t the most comfortable or practical, and there isn’t a lot of added “stuff” available to run the sticker into the stratosphere. In my opinion the 86 and its mechanical twin the Subaru BRZ represent the best bargain sportscar experience available today. Yes, I know there are faster and better handling care out there, but I can’t think of any others that deliver this experience for $26,000 and change. Decision Toyota 86.