Born again: Toyota’s new 86 pays homage to company’s sports-car heritage
OJAI, CA — 86 is an important number at Toyota, as it’s attached to a new car in the Japanese automakers’ showrooms across the country.
The two-door, rear-wheel-drive sports car was born from a tryst between Toyota and Subaru, and the 2017 Toyota 86 is meant to pay homage to the company’s sports-car heritage.
The Toyota AE86 was a performance version of the fifth- generation Corolla introduced in 1983, the last rear-drive Corolla.
The small, lightweight coupe or hatchback was powered by a twin-cam, fuel-injected, 1.6-litre engine and was popular in international Group A and Group N classes in circuit racing and for rallying.
In Japan, the AE86 was known as the Hachi-Roku, Japanese for eight-six.
The 2017 Toyota 86 had a more complex beginning. Designed by Toyota, built by Subaru and developed by both, the series of sports cars is manufactured by Subaru in Japan with a Subaru flat-four or boxer engine up front, driving the rear wheels.
It is sold worldwide by both companies, as the Subaru FRZ and in North America as the Scion FR-S — until now.
With the termination of the Scion brand, the FR-S has been brought in-house by Toyota and rebranded the 86.
This was not a shot out of the blue, the car has carried that name in Asia, South Africa, South America and Australia and is known as the GT86 at Toyota stores in Europe.
To mark its rebirth, the 86 has been given a new frontal appearance, LED headlights, revised seat and door panel trim and instrument panel.
The 2.0-litre engine has been upgraded resulting in five additional horsepower and five more lb.-ft. of torque (205 and 156 respectively) on models with a manual gearbox.
The 86 is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Those with the manual, get a lower final drive ratio for 2017 for improved acceleration and response.
Acknowledged as one of the best-handling vehicles available to those of us with less than six figures to spend on a sporty car, the 86 has been given some tweaks for 2017 to enhance that reputation.
There are new springs and shocks and the electronic stability control system has been recalibrated. It now includes a track mode for maximum feedback and driving dynamics.
Like many other 2016 Toyotas, the 86 gets the company’s suite of safety features. Dubbed Toyota Safety System (TSS) or Safety Systems Plus (TSSP) these systems will appear on more than 150,000 Toyota vehicles in the coming year.
TSS includes a pre-collision system, lane departure alert and automatic high beams.
TSSP adds dynamic radar-based cruise control system. Toyota says the main goals of the systems are improved nighttime safety, keeping drivers within their lane and moderating collisions.
The systems are meant to augment control, not to replace driver input.
The 86 is available in one well-equipped trim only. There are no options. It is priced at $29,580 with the manual transmission and $30,780 with the automatic.
Changes to other Toyota models here for us to drive at a multi-vehicle model year 2017 introduction included:
The world’s best-selling car gets a mid-cycle makeover for 2017 and the full slate of TSSP safety features described above, on all trim levels.
It also gets a new sibling — the iM hatchback.
Based on the Corolla and newly introduced under the Scion brand just before its demise, the iM has come full circle and becomes the Corolla iM.
They both get a new look front and rear. There are new wheels and the interior has been updated with a new instrument cluster and audio display.
The base price of $16,290 is up $300, more than offset by about $2,800 in additional standard equipment. The 2017 Corolla comes in CE, LE, SE and a new-for-2017 XSE trim.
The latter comes with alloy wheels, sunroof, navigation, power seats and leather trim, among other luxury features.
The 2017 Highlander gets a visual freshening for 2017 with a new head and taillights and grille on all models. The Safety Sense systems are standard and the 3.5-litre D-4S V6 engine gets direct injection and is mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission.
On all-wheel-drive models, the engine is equipped with automatic start/stop technology. There is a new SE grade.
There are few visual changes to the 2017 version of only minivan to offer all-wheel-drive. It gets Toyota’s Safety Sense features at all trim levels and the V6 engine has been updated with direct injection engine for more power. It is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission.