by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
The fast fresh and fun character of the new Toyota 86 is definitely an upgrade from the FR-S…but is that all it’s about?
When Toyota nixed the Scion brand, many, like me were worried that the mid-engine FR-S would be gone for good. Toyota’s new 86 aims to make sure the FR-S lives on, now with a sleeker design and more power. The coupe weighs just 2,774 lbs but it packs a punch- with 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque from a 2 liter Boxer engine.
The low-slung mid-engine Toyota 86 dropped late last year and is unchanged for 2018. The 2017/18 86 coupe boasts more sports car style inside and out plus advanced infotainment. A 6-speed manual transmission standard and 6-speed automatic trans with paddle shifters and Dynamic Rev Management is optional.
We took 2018 Toyota 86 with manual trans through downtown and the south suburbs and got compliments from fans young and old, male and female – even homeless guys.
Peep the First Drive Video
Though the whip is slightly less versatile than its predecessor, its turbo aggression with robust chassis design makes for a thrill-ride in the big city, and in any season. Since our review we’ve seen quite a few out in Chicago.
Here are the Best Upgrades from FR-S to 86
The Scion FR-S was a cool looking coupe. And the Toyota 86 keeps many of its best design elements and enhances others. The Toyota 86 has a sleeker design with low wide stance and twisted-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels.
LED headlights, fog lights, turn signals and daytime running lights are flanked by big front intakes. In the rear, the 86 has an aerodynamic bumper with diffuser and LED taillights. Dual chrome-tipped exhausts are standard.
A lightweight design with enhanced powertrain gives the Toyota 86 an impressive 0.29 coefficient drag. The Toyota 86 is also efficient offering 24 mpg combined fuel economy thanks in-part to an innovative D4-S port and direct injection system.
The Toyota 86 also has its emblem plastered all over the whip – embedded in the headlights, on the sides, on the steering wheel and dash.
More power and Agility
The Toyota 86 has a mighty powertrain with its aggressive rear-wheel drive layout. Torque and horsepower get a small increase, but with revised shock and springs and broader torque curve the 86 is TTG (#trainedtogo!) For the manual 86 a 2.0 liter aluminum boxer engine delivers 205 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 156 lb-ft of torque at 6,400 rpm. The automatic has 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque. The D4-S system’s direct injection earns a 12.5:1 compression ratio and the port injection system maximizes combustion efficiency.
With more power comes more responsibility. And the lightweight Toyota 86 answers with a specially designed rear-wheel drive platform that includes MacPherson strut front suspension and double wishbone rear suspension. As a result the 86 is agile and resilient over city terrain. Riding over craters and train tracks was as cushioned as a sporty sedan.
The 6-speed automatic transmission features sport mode and Dynamic Rev Management technology that aids seamless downshifting. The manual trans we reviewed has short-throw shifter and ‘easy-effort’ clutch. I like how the trans can hold at 5 mph or about 1000 – 1,500 rpm when downshifting.
While the clutch is easy to use, the shifter can sometimes be sticky, even with the clutch fully depressed. And the aggressive trans is gift – great for highway driving. But pulling off from a parking spot or pausing to make a left and a gentle roll is needed- the trans is a curse as it might kill the engine in traffic.
The Toyota 86 trans trades some versatility from the FR-S drivetrain for all-out aggression. The FR-S was a fun car that was easy to whip and shift in most driving scenarios.
But the 86 doesn’t perform as well in dense traffic. In stop-and-go traffic, 2nd and 3rd gear are almost useless. Either the whip jets forward with a hardy huff in gear 2nd or immediately runs out of juice in 3rd. I had to accelerate harder than needed to keep the car rolling in 2nd and even 3rd gear only to have to brake immediately. And sometimes I needed the clutch to show a bit of flexibility, and hold my rpms up for quick turns. Instead at times it felt like I needed to provide the perfect amount of pressure to a finicky clutch.
Fortunately electric power-assisted steering allows for fluid turns and responsive steering. And Torsen limited-slip differential helps maximize traction between the rear wheels when corning.
Vehicle Stability Control has track mode and Hill Start Assist Control keeps the 86 from rolling back when starting on a hill – two things lacking in the FR-S.
Functional Interior with More Flair
During our #FirstDrive new fans said they were even more impressed by the interior. The cockpit of the new 86 is more stylish and more tech-advanced than the Scion FR-S. The whip doesn’t offer much legroom for the rear passengers and really could be a 2-seater. But who needs rear passengers in this sporty 2+2. A smooth Granlux material covers door and dash and is matched to leather inserts, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter. Silver contrast stitching and aluminum sport pedals and scuff plate add sporty flair. And the revised driver’s instrument panel features digital speedometer and programmable rev indicator.
A 7-inch touchscreen is standard on both 86 models and features a rearview camera, navigation, 8 speaker audio system, and Bluetooth and Aha infotainment. Aha features over 100,000 radio stations and access to local info for dining, lodging and gas stations. Social media, sports stats and news is also assessable via Aha.
The 2018 Toyota 86 is a worthy upgrade from the popular FR-S. What it lacks in performance versatility it makes up for with cool interior flair. We’re looking forward to where this whip will go with some improvements to the drivetrain and more safety technology.