- 2022 Toyota GR86 wears a GR badge and will be offered with both automatic and manual transmissions.
- Engine sizes increases from 2.0L to 2.4L resulting in 228hp and 184 lb-ft of torque (formerly 205hp and 156 lb-ft).
- Expected on-sale date is November 2021, with MSRP starting below $30K.
- Improved engine provides linear acceleration, more usable torque, and doesn’t require the need for boost.
For over a decade, I’ve been pretty darn lucky to get invited to a large number of media-exclusive test drives where I’m often the littlest fish in the pond. With journalists on hand from the likes of Road & Track, Car & Driver, and Motor Trend, as you can imagine, it can get intimidating and even sometimes feel like I’m out of my league. Certain seasoned writers have been reviewing cars for as long as I’ve been alive, not to mention, have logged hundreds more hours on the track. But there are certain new car launches where I feel I bring something to the table, especially regarding a vehicle’s aftermarket potential and enthusiast appeal. Such was the case when I checked out the new 2022 Toyota GR 86 at Monticello Motor Club.
MORE ACCEPTABLE ENGINE
The biggest talking point about the new GR 86 is its 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine. My first reaction was that I had serious doubts. Like many of you, I pleaded for a turbo. In fact, there were rumors circulating months prior that the rear-wheel-drive coupe might house a similar boosted 2.4-liter powerplant out of the Subaru Ascent. I was wrong to assume and felt disappointed that we would only see a .4-liter increase in displacement (+8mm bore), which resulted in a 23hp gain and 28 lb-ft bump in torque. It didn’t sound like enough, and I was already researching who would be developing supercharger or turbo solutions for the GR 86, all before I even got behind the wheel of one. When I finally arrived at Monticello Motor Club, though, let’s just say I was surprised, in a good way.
Where the current-gen 86 begged for improvement was its gutless 2.0-liter that summoned just around 200hp, barely enough power to oust a Sienna minivan off the line. The new GR 86 remedies that with a little more pep to its step – 228hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. So instead of pegging my foot on the gas pedal and banging my fist on the steering wheel for more power, the GR’s 2.4-liter offers usable torque that starts lower in the powerband and peaks at 3,700RPM (eliminating the dreaded “torque dip”). Overall, this engine breathes and revs much more freely. 0-60mph in the new GR 86 is 6.1 seconds compared to 7 seconds flat in the older car (MT only). The 86 was never meant to be a straight-line car, but the numbers don’t lie. Acceleration is greatly improved, which translates to a more forgiving and fun-to-drive car exiting the corners.
After logging four hours on the track (yes, four hours!), I never experienced the dire need for turbo. I was having a blast, pushing the limits of my mediocre driving skills and giving the Michelin Pilot Sport tires and factory brakes everything they had. The absence of boost didn’t stop me from smiling after each session. A contrast to the previous generation, which left me hungry for more.
STILL HANDLES WELL
While power was always the FA20’s biggest complaint, exceptional handling and having a low center of gravity was what Toyota nailed on both first and second-generation models. The GR is just that much more improved in all of the above areas. The chassis and suspension components are virtually the same but slightly tweaked (in fact, I heard many aftermarket parts should swap right over from the previous gen). The GR 86 comes with a Torsen slip rear differential and still uses MacPherson-type front struts, double-wishbone multi-link rear, and 11.6/11.4-inch vented brakes. The rear track is slightly wider and the wheelbase a fraction longer, but the main upgrades take place in the fine-tuning of all these parts, which include 50-percent more torsional rigidity (more adhesive and stronger steel), retuned springs and shocks, lower strut connections, and more rigid steering box, plus an aluminum hood, roof and front fenders for better weight control. The Premium GR 86 comes equipped with Michelin Pilot Sport 4s, great factory rubbers, which I can attest to.
DREADFUL AUTOMATIC TRUTH
Despite the new GR 86 six-speed automatic having things like paddle shifters and updated shift mapping, I honestly hated it out on the track. I was often screaming for the paddles to downshift or upshift when I wanted it to, tapping repeatedly and waiting for correct gear to kick in… seconds later. It was frustrating and took away from the overall experience.
Unfortunately, the take rate of automatics over six-speed gearboxes in the current-gen 86 is 70-percent. With the new GR 86, the team at Toyota expect the take rate to reach up to 80-percent. Manual transmissions are a dying breed amongst regular car buyers and the younger generation. Soon it will be something only older enthusiasts value and appreciate. So my advice is not to take a six-speed manual for granted because the GR 86 might end up like the GR Supra one day, without a manual option in sight!
MORE MODERN AND PREMIUM
We all agree that Toyota did its due diligence with the GR 86 in updating the aged cockpit and design with something worthy of a cool sports coupe for this day and age. Some of my favorite highlights are the standard LED lights all-around, pronounced rear arches, functional air vents (unlike the GR Supra), 8-inch touchscreen, 7-inch digital dash (tachometer changes when in track mode), Apple CarPlay, and a sweet duckbill spoiler (Premium model only). The new GR 86 will also be offered in seven colors, which I’m already drawn to Trueno Blue (what a name!).
WORTHY OF THE GR BADGE
Gazoo Racing (GR) is a name that is still new to us here in the States, but a name that’s been associated worldwide as Toyota’s top-performing products, whether it be racing prototypes at 24 Hours of Le Mans, flying across the desert in the Dakar Rally or tied to Toyota’s top of the line flagship vehicles such as the GR Supra or the coveted GR Yaris. When I asked Toyota if the GR 86 would live up to all that prestige, they replied with an emphatic “yes”, explaining how the GR brand is Toyota president Akio Toyoda’s baby. Akio is a firm believer in track performance and a test driver himself. The latest GR 86 was rigorously developed in Japan by Gazoo Racing drivers and engineers to make the best possible circuit-ready sports car. After my day at Monticello, I can verify the folks at GR took the original 86 to a higher dimension without the need for a turbocharger.
Side note: The GR 86 will also be the first Toyota sold in America with a GR accessory line which includes a cold-air intake, sport exhaust, short shifter, stabilizer bars, and forged wheels.
I had high hopes of having a new GR 86 sitting outside in my driveway when writing this. Sadly, the expected on-sale date has been pushed back to November 2021, meaning we’re likely not going to see any GR 86 builds at the SEMA Show this year. If you can remember, back to SEMA 2012, the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ were all the buzz. Now, with the timing off and the GR 86 being a second-generation vehicle, I can safely conclude that this car won’t quite make the noise it did 10 years ago. However, I will say this car does feel much more refined and is a significantly better car than the previous-gen, which might not make it the “car of SEMA 2021”, but I’ll go as far as to say it might be the “track car of 2022”! In stock form, it’s perfect for beginners and learners (something I could see SoCal residents take out to an event like Starting Grid right off the bat). For intermediates/experts, the GR 86 can be modified for faster lap times without the need for forced induction. You don’t need to run out and buy a GReddy turbo kit or stress about the reliability and additional costs of having boost. The beauty of the new GR 86 is that there’s a solid foundation with more usable torque and a more planted sports car. I can only imagine what the aftermarket can do once they squeeze every last drop of horsepower out of the 2.4-liter, add more grip, remove weight where possible, and dial in the suspension. This coupe is more thrilling to drive and will be more satisfying to own than the outgoing model. And best of all, the GR 86 lives up to the spirit of the lightweight, rear-wheel-drive and affordable AE86 Corolla while carrying the torch of Toyota’s latest track-bred GR nameplate. What more could you possibly want for under $30K?