2019 Toyota 86
Formerly known as the Scion FR-S, the Toyota 86 is a dream come true for driving enthusiasts. It offers crisp, well-balanced rear-wheel-drive dynamic and precise steering at an affordable price tag. It's also well-equipped and easy on gas. The typical sports car drawbacks apply, including a firm ride and limited space, but they're a small price to pay for the 86's seriously fun driving experience.
Toyota recently expanded the 86 line-up with a TRD Special Edition model that gains Brembo brakes, Sachs dampers, a TRD exhaust, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires, and a full body kit.
To understand the 86, one must look at its sources of inspiration: the legendary Toyota 2000GT and the newer, much more affordable Corolla GT-S. The 86's exterior is highlighted by a long hood, a low-slung roof line, a flowing silhouette, and a wide stance. Toyota explains its design team's goal was to achieve "pure balance," which is exemplified by the car's 53:47 front-to-rear weight ratio and by its low center of gravity.
The 86 offers space for four passengers, though the rear bench is cramped and best left to smaller passengers. It boasts a simple, driver-focused cockpit with comfortable bucket seats, a sporty three-spoke steering wheel, and an easy-to-read analog instrument cluster. Trunk space checks in at 6.9 cubic feet, which is respectable for the segment.
Power is provided by a 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated flat-four engine that makes 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. The four spins the rear wheels via either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic with shift paddles and a rev-matching function. A limited-slip differential comes standard regardless of which gearbox is chosen.
86s with three pedals return 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. Selecting the automatic raises those figures to 25 and 34, respectively. The coupe tips the scale at approximately 2,800 pounds.
Standard and optional features
The list of standard features includes a 7-inch touch screen, an AM/FM/CD Pioneer sound system with eight speakers, a rear-view camera, an auxiliary input jack, a USB port, Bluetooth connectivity and HD radio.
Every 86 comes with front, side, and side curtain airbags, traction control, stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
Ironically, the 86's most direct competitor is the Subaru BRZ that it shares most of its components with. 86 buyers should also test drive the Mazda MX-5 Miata, which is widely praised as one of the purest and best-handling cars on the market today.
Finally, some will want to cross-shop the 86 with the four-cylinder variants of the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro, or with hot hatches like the Volkswagen GTI.