Toyota 86

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“86 is one real sports car!”

We know about Toyota. Yes, they are the world's largest car manufacturer by production and a top player in the Middle East. It’s been a decade since we’ve heard about anything sporty from Toyota (apart from huge sales figures), yet just when hopes were down, the 86 came out. No, it wasn’t a one day project and not at all a 100% Toyota shot, but thumbs up for their effort to initiate this project, stick to their objectives and finally we see the car out for sale in our region starting June this year. I was invited by Toyota to the launch day of 86 in the holy Yas Marina Circuit and I must admit, I was excited (though it doesn’t feature a turbo charged engine with a 250hp plus reading).

Later this month, we take the 86 out again for a weekend wherein we get more intimate with the car and will share a more detailed review. As for now, we have our first impression of the car after a few exercises planned in the circuit, the notorious skid surface and a fun filled drift session with the UAE Drift Star, Ahmed Al Amri. It was a good opportunity to spend some time with Tetsuya Tada, Chief Engineer of Toyota 86 – the mastermind of this project. According to Tada, the plan was to present a product which offers the driver the best of fun and attention rather than just the car being a show stopper.

The idea was simple: a rear-wheel-drive transmission, narrow tires and no turbo. To get the best of sports feel, the driver’s position should get quite flat and low. Now with an FR layout, the main challenge was to lower the hood with an inline 4 cylinder engine, hence guiding the concept of adapting a boxer 4-cylinder engine. This led Toyota to a cooperation with another Japanese giant, Subaru. Subaru, mainly known for AWD types, were to offer the Boxer 4 cylinder engine and to package the chassis for a perfect front to rear balancing property. Toyota came with the design for the shell and cabin and added its D-4S that features separate twin injectors for both direct and port injection.

A fine presentation of the car, which speaks of the inspiration borrowed from the old Toyota 800, 2000GT and finally AE86; itself explains the term “Old School”!

Driving Impressions

Step inside the car and the first thing to note is the seating position; it’s laid very low and you get a thrilling sports feel because you are close to the road surface, feeling every push and stop in the course. 86 has the smallest steering wheel from Toyota and I was very keen to check its response on track. With a very wide and open view up front, I took the car forward and hell yes, 200 hp isn’t that small. The reason is quite simple. The body weight of the 86 is considerably light and the front and rear proportion has got a wonderful balance “53:47”. The front then has a certain command on corners wherein the rear part (where transmission starts) has less to interfere. Slalom tracks were designed to check the traction and the 86 did a wonderful job. Apart from a dilatory shift downwards in transmission, there were no major cons to notice. A direct feedback was the highlight in this exercise and I think that was exactly what Toyota was aiming for. It was kind of a big go kart experience.

The next round was on the slippery wet rink (simulation) surface, which included a couple of water walls on alternative sides with an objective to slide through sideways to demonstrate the traction control’s effectiveness. It looks quite simple, but trust me, it isn’t. With the VSC sport mode on, I somehow managed to cross through without showing exceptional abilities, but not too bad I say. It was really an entertaining round and I wonder how long will it take for me to be a pro on this surface. I messed up in my last round, trying too much with my accelerators and when the traction was off, I was pathetic. But a good show from the trainers of Yas showed how good a car the 86 is.

To end the schedule, I had a passenger lap with the UAE Drift Star, Ahmed Al Amri. It was a clear shot by Toyota to justify 86’s drifting ability, which is one of its main attributes. I can’t remember if he ever used hand brakes and he revved up high in 2nd gear to push on. All he did was use the thrust sideways - a simple job for a genius of his kind! More entertaining was him on wheels as he took the sideways with a lot of excitement; 200hp was just enough for the 86 to perform.

86 certainly filled a void in a segment which automakers forgot to list in their brochures for over a decade.

Verdict

Toyota is out with a huge ambition to address a youthful community who cares about style, performance and of course sport. This is a no compromise car and if schedules stick right, we’ll see TRD kits in August this year.

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