By: Susan Frissell, Editor,

It appears that the sporty Toyota GT 86 remains to be popular, having been well-received. A near-authentic ‘driver’s car,’ some say, and it even boasts back seats!! Hard to imagine when getting a glimpse of the sporty Toyota from afar. We didn’t have any volunteers to try out the 2+2 rear seats, but take Toyota’s word that they are usable..

Unique in its sector, the GT 86 is available in three versions: 86, 86 GT TRD, 86 Hakone Edition. Never mind it resembles the ‘sport’ cars from the 70s-80s, it’s still sought after and unique in its offering. In a time when ‘sports’ cars and convertibles are near extinct.

Available since 2012, the GT 86 hasn’t had any power upgrades leading some to call it ‘underpowered.’ The GT 86 promises fun-as opposed to turbochargers and offers just one engine. Drivers can choose the automatic version, but it’s much more fun driving the six-speed manual.

The GT 86 did get a mid-life facelift along with a few updates: stiffened suspension, an additional mode to the stability control, a few tweaks to its aerodynamics, and a redesigned headlight arrangement. Perhaps Toyota didn’t see a need to make many improvements to an already great coupe.

As with Toyota products, one can expect a decent warranty package, and reliability is a given. The tires chosen seem small for a sporty car, but unless you upgrade, replacing them will be more affordable.

Rivals to the GT 86 include the Mazda MX-5 (stable mate Fiat 124 Spider). Special editions include the TRD (our test car) which offers sportier tires, bigger wheels, special colors, and a performance package with heavier suspension and brakes. Powertrain remains the same.

Frankly, the rear wing adds a little something to the car’s sportier look. Without it, the GT 86 blends in. The GT 86 is more comfortable when on the road than a Miata MX-5. Less wind noise and a more refined ride, but these are two very different sports cars.

Some of the goodies you’ll find on the GT 86 include an engine immobilizer, front fog drive lights, dual front side-mounted airbags, front/rear side-mounted airbags, emergency brake assist, passenger/occupant air bags, alarm, front/rear disc brakes, LED headlamp, traction control, AM/FM stereo, 8 speakers, USB connection, power windows, heated mirrors, among others.

The new 7.0 touch media display with Android Auto and Apple Carplay projection is a welcome addition for those who have to have the latest up-to-date sound system. Toyota tries to please. The folded rear-seat back allows for extra trunk space. The rear-wing in matte black adds to the sports-car look, with its color-keyed aerodynamic endplate turn signal (optional, TRD).

The interior is a tad dated but feels sporty and isn’t overloaded. More so, it is simple inside, with comfortable seating, somewhat low, but can be adjusted to all heights and leg lengths. The sport seats were comfortable and accommodating in leather suede microfiber. Apparently, our press car color-Halo-was a special order. The front seats can be flipped forward so that small people and/or objects can be put in back. The trunk’s wide opening allows for more ‘stuff’ than expected. The steering wheel is placed just right and needed no adjusting on this driver’s part. The dial area is simple, without a lot of hardware. Those who care can easily locate the 7,400 RPM red line, a color touchscreen in the center dash. The front center sliding armrest, new for 2020, accommodates small things and a place for your arm.

We had some difficulty figuring out the sound system. The sound was good but figuring out how it worked wasn’t easy for this writer, and couldn’t be operated while in driving. At first we couldn’t figure out how to change channels and kept getting stuck on Indy’s ‘religious’ channels. I’m not sure I would ever feel comfortable with how it works.

It’s been said that the Japanese/Toyota in their tradition of launching a ‘base’ car, makes it a purchase at a reasonable price-and possibly modified in several ways. They’ve done just that with the GT 86. One can modify this car if so inclined. Google Toyota GT 86/modify and you’ll come up with many different videos regarding adding power, etc. With that in mind, the GT 86 may just be the car the enthusiast holds onto, modifying it as he/she learns to drive it year after year.

Upgrades to the GT 86 in 2017 included refinement to the infotainment system, TFT instrument displays, and audio controls added to the steering wheel. It appears at first glance a fairly barebones car; not a lot of frill.

Competition includes the Subaru BRZ and sales show the Toyota sells far more of their GT 86s.
If this is a car you plan to keep and grow old with, seek out the special edition. Minor additions and tweaks make it worth it; for instance, upgraded suspension, brakes or tires. This isn’t a resale plus, but it adds some nice additions to this fun little coupe.

Up next, convertible fans are hoping, will be the convertible version of the GT 86. Photos look great and it will position the GT 86 in a more competitive line with the Miata MX-5. Will anyone opt for the convertible version? Remains to be seen. Surely, there are convertible fans out there-still-but choices are dwindling. So, let’s hope Toyota goes ahead with it.


Pricing: $30,116; with options $34,783
Engine: 2.0-liter, 16V, gas, 4-cycle, 151 ft. lbs. torque, DOHC, variable valve timing,
Transmission: 4-wheel drive, 6-speed shiftable manual, 4-wheel ABS. optional 6-speed automatic
Height: 52.0 in.
Interior volume: 83.4 cu. Ft.
Wheelbase: 101.2 in.
MPG combined: 27 mpg
Length: 166 in.
Curb Weight:2,841 lbs.
Gross Weight: 3,748 lbs.
Cargo capacity: 6.9 cu. Ft.
Seating: 4
Width: 69.9 in.
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport, all-season, 215/45 R W performance; 215/40R Y Tires
TRD Package; Optional Sway Bar $550
TRD Optional Cat-Back pressure growl Exhaust System: $1,100
Wheels: 18 light alloy, locks (17-inch X7); 18×7.5 in.
Fuel tank: 13.2 gal. Premium
Warranty: 2 yrs/25,000 free maintenance, Basic: 3 yr/36,000; Drivetrain: 5 yr./60,000 miles; Rust: 5 yr/unlimited miles; roadside: 2 yr/unlimited miles

*All photos courtesy of Roadblazing, G. Straton