"The true marvel of the Toyota 86 is that it's every inch as much fun to drive as its vastly pricier competition."
These are the words of Kerry Roodt, Toyota South Africa's General Manager of Marketing Communications.
"Here you have a car that's priced at the same level as a hot hatch but manages to dish up classic sports car delights — engine at the front, driven wheels at the back, fast throttle responses and quick meaty steering — without the need to be travelling at warp speed to enjoy them. In fact, the 86 goads you to drive it flat out as often as is humanly possible and the good news is that you can pilot it that way 90 percent of the time," she adds.
Chief Design Engineer Tetsuya Tada says many of the 86's rivals have turbos, big tyres and four-wheel drive. In his opinion, this has diluted their fun factor to the point that modern-day sports cars have become "boring".
Based on an entirely new platform, the 86 has a low, highly aerodynamic bodyshell stretched tight over the engineering hard points, making it the world's most compact four-seat sports car design.
Throughout thousands of man-hours spent overcoming hundreds of development challenges, Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada fought tooth and nail for three key elements in the new sports car: a rear-wheel drive format, no turbocharging and ordinary tyres.
Shunning a heavy, large displacement powertrain for its performance, the 86 returns to Toyota's sporting roots with the world's only combination of a compact, front-mounted, naturally-aspirated, free-revving, horizontally opposed "boxer" petrol engine and rear-wheel drive.
Inside, two seat finishes are available, a combination of leather and Alcantara on the High models, and a newly designed, non-slip, suede-like fabric on the Standard version which combines durability and breathability with excellent holding characteristics.
The one-piece rear seatback can be folded, creating sufficient loadspace for four standard tyres and additional racing paraphernalia.
Over and above the low centre of gravity inherent in its design, a further advantage of the boxer engine installation is that its compact front-to-rear dimensions make the transmission far less intrusive in the cabin. As a result, the pedal box does not have to be squeezed to one side, and the pedal positions are perfect for skilled and sporting driving.
Red accent stitching and silver ornamentation abounds throughout, as does the 86-unique T-mesh pattern finish, which is applied to the instrument binnacle dials, climate control panel, door switch base and upholstery; the connecting rod motif is applied to the instrument dials, side air vents and gear lever base.
On the passive safety front both model grades boast a total of seven airbags: driver, passenger, side, curtain and driver kneebag.
The 86 range in South Africa comprises three models: a Standard six-speed manual, a High six-speed manual and a High six-speed Auto.
External differentiators between the two grades are limited to the HID headlamps with LED accents, 17-inch alloys and the headlamp cleaners — all of which are standard on the High models only.
Onboard, 86 High models get a frameless rearview mirror and digital speedo read-out and in the case of the auto model, this is coupled to a shift indicator and steering paddles. Further exclusive High-spec trinketry comes in the form of cruise control, illuminated sun visor mirrors, Smart Start with a push start button (the Standard model gets remote central locking) and a fully automatic climate control system with independent left and right temperature controls (the Standard model features a manual aircon system).
Both models are equipped with the same audio system featuring AM/FM/CD six speakers, AUX and USB input connectivity. The six speakers comprise two 25mm dashboard-mounted tweeters, two 160mm front door speakers and two 65mm rear quarter speakers.
During development of the 86, Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada established a unique combination of performance characteristics for the vehicle's powertrain. Those characteristics embodied a low centre of gravity and a naturally aspirated, high-revving sports engine developing 147kW at 7000rpm and maximum torque of 205Nm at 6400 to 6600rpm.
The solution to these potentially disparate requirements lay in combining Subaru's newly-developed boxer engine with Toyota's latest direct fuel injection system to create the world's first horizontally opposed engine with D-4S (Direct injection 4-stroke petrol engine) technology.
Equalising the intake and exhaust timings has given the engine a pleasant, smooth-revving sound. But Toyota engineers were concerned that various countries' strict noise regulations would make it difficult to increase the exhaust note volume as much as might be desirable for the driver to hear in a sports car.
In response, the engineers decided to bring the sound directly into the car; the first time a system of this type has been used in a Toyota vehicle. When intake pulses hit the sound creator, a damper resonates at certain frequencies to optimise the intake sound. The optimised sound is then channelled directly into the cabin via a rubber hose. A stress-free, soft intake sound is produced under slow acceleration, while a true sports car intake sound is generated under full throttle acceleration.
While outright acceleration is clearly not the 86's raison d'être, the figures still reveal a car that is capable of sprinting to 100 km/h in just 7.6 seconds (8.2 seconds for the auto). Top speed is pegged at 226km/h for the manual and 210km/h for the auto.
The 86 is equipped, as standard across the range, with an Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Traction Control (TRC) and an advanced, three mode Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
The ABS and switchable VSC safety systems have been specifically tuned to combine dynamic stability at the limit of the vehicle's performance envelope with minimal electronic intrusion on the purity of the driving experience.
The new VSC system features an additional, next generation VSC SPORT mode. When selected via a transmission tunnel-mounted switch, VSC SPORT expands the permissible range of lateral acceleration and movement before the system intervenes, allowing the driver to explore the limits of vehicle dynamics without sacrificing stability.
Both TRC and VSC may also be fully disengaged by pushing and holding the VSC switch for more than three seconds.
Toyota 86 Standard 6-speed Manual: R298 500
Toyota 86 High 6-speed Manual: R329 400
Toyota 86 High 6-speed Auto: R346 500
Details of a range of accessories available for the 86 have yet to be released.
All new 86 models come with a four-year or 60 000km Service Plan included in the purchase price (15 000km service intervals), along with Toyota's comprehensive three-year or 100 000km warranty.