Akio Toyoda, CEO and president of Toyota, wanted to find a way to make the sports car fun, affordable and relevant to more people. He was also keen to remind us that the brains that enable Toyota’s hybrids to achieve outstanding fuel economy could just as happily turn out a fun car as an environmentally-friendly one.
The result is the GT86, a complete reworking of the sports-car concept that taps into the principles of 1960s models, and gets to the nub of what makes a car fun to drive; proving it isn’t big power that is key – it’s weight, or rather a lack of it. Add weight and a car accelerates more slowly, is slow to turn and stop, and uses more fuel. Take it away to produce a car that is just 1,275kg and everything improves.
Low and lean
Here in Snowdonia, craggy peaks soar skywards as if trying to prick the clouds above, but the GT86 seems to be stretching the other way. It looks impossibly low, like a sports car should. Lean, too, is the taut curve of its front wings following the contours of the standard 17-inch alloy wheels beneath, much like a fitted suit over an athlete’s body.
The GT86 follows the traditional sports car recipe of an engine up front delivering power to the rear wheels. It’s the optimum layout for a compact 2+2-seat coupé such as this, giving perfectly balanced front-to-rear weight distribution for secure, entertaining handling, while providing sufficient interior space for a pair of rear seats.
Style, as standard
While the ethos behind the GT86 is that of a no-frills sports-car, Toyota hasn’t skimped on equipment. Leather covers the tactile three-spoke sports steering wheel and gear lever, while the pedals have aluminium covers. Dual-zone climate control, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, cruise control and Toyota Touch multimedia system are also standard.
Plus, the GT86 boasts the smallest steering wheel fitted to any Toyota car, while driving is distraction-free as there are no clunky controls on the wheel. What’s more, for added fun, the vehicle stability control (VSC) system can be switched off.
Even trickling along at low speeds, as you might on your daily commute, the car’s talents shine through. The GT86 is quick-witted, accurate and perfectly weighted. Its steering relays every nuance of the road’s surface, and rarely requires more than a wrist flick to dispatch most corners into the rear-view mirror. Also, steering is entirely uncorrupted by the engine’s power as the two are handled separately – power at the rear wheels; steering at the front.
That Toyota has made accessible driving fun – without sacrificing the usability we’ve come to expect from it – is a unique achievement. And proof positive that the sports car can be as relevant as it ever was.