Toyota’s baby sports car has grown up. The Japanese automaker’s second-generation model, now known as the GR 86, is just rolling into showrooms and, while it doesn’t stray far from the look of the original model, it’s got a lot going for it, as TheDetroitBureau.com discovered during a day of driving at and around the Monticello Motor Club race track a couple hours north of New York City.
First introduced in 2012 as the Scion FR-S, the 2+2 was little more than a rebadged version of the Subaru BRZ. The two collaborated once again, a decade later, because, “If you’re going to be in a diminishing segment it’s important to find a partner,” explained Mike Tripp, the Toyota marketing vice president overseeing GT models. (The Japanese giant took the same approach, partnering with BMW to help bring back the Supra nameplate.)
With the original pair, you’d have been hard pressed to find much of a difference between them, beyond their brand logos. While they developed small but loyal audiences, critics found plenty to kvetch about, starting with a disappointing lack of power.
That’s one of the most important things Toyota and Subaru have addressed with the second-generation sports cars, though they’ve also taken steps to improve steering and handling — and to better visually distinguish what is now the Toyota GR 86 from the Subaru BRZ.
GR, incidentally, is shorthand for Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s performance brand. The automaker is clearly hoping that the 2022 GR 86 now will develop the same sort of following among club racers as has the Mazda Miata.
The 2022 Toyota GR 86 gets an evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, design makeover. The basic dimensions are all but the same, the wheelbase growing by a fraction of an inch, the height dropping by a roughly equal amount.
That said, the new GR 86 is sleeker and more modern looking than the gen-1 model. The sports car retains its long hood and aggressively raked windshield. There’s a new hood and a very subtle sort of double-bubble look to the roof. There are now LED lights, front and back, and the awkward rear wing available on the original car has now been integrated into the decklid of the GR 86 Premium trim.
Many of the changes are functional, including the air vents that frame the grille. And, while most buyers won’t notice, the car’s hood is now aluminum, as are the roof and fenders, helping bring weight down to an efficient 2,800 pounds. The center of gravity has been lowered, ever so slightly, as well.
Depending upon grade, you’ll get 17- or 18-inch wheels and tires. And a dual exhaust adds another sporty touch.
Like the original model, the 2022 Toyota GR 86 retains a 2+2 layout — with the rear seats able to fold down to give you some welcome additional cargo space. For weekend racers, in fact, you’ll find enough room to carry an extra set of tires.
The instrument panel has an appropriately driver-centric design, with a reconfigurable 7-inch digital gauge cluster that automatically changes its layout depending upon driving mode. There’s also an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen on all models.
Depending upon model you can get a leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The base model has fabric seats, the Premium offers leather trim with Alcantara inserts. The steering wheel and center-mounted hand brake, meanwhile, are leather-wrapped.
Here’s where the most important changes have been made to the 2022 GR 86, the sports car now getting a 2.4-liter Boxer engine. It replaces the original model’s 2.0-liter powerplant and bumps the numbers up to 228 horsepower — an increase of 23 — and 184 pound-feet of torque. While the basic engine is Subaru-derived, Toyota came through with a useful new fuel system pairing both port and direct injection.
Buyers will have the option of going with either an automatic or manual transmission, making it one of the last of a dying breed. With the 6-speed stick you’ll hit 60 in a reasonably quick 6.1 seconds, a full second quicker than before. The automatic shaves of a full 1.4 seconds from the previous model, hitting 60 in 6.6 seconds. That’s a surprise in today’s world where manuals are typically a bit slower but here it may be due to Toyota using only a 6-speed automatic.
The automatic retains the paddle shifters found on the original car, and the GR 86 rev-matches when you use them for downshifts.
Safety and Technology
Fittingly, much of the GR 86’s technology emphasizes performance. In Sport mode, the reconfigurable gauge cluster pops a G-meter that gives you a sense of how you’re handling turns, braking and acceleration.
There’s also an active noise system that subtly enhances the boxer engine’s exhaust note. It varies depending upon your driving mode.
The infotainment system offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as HD Radio and satellite radio. You get a choice of a base 6-speaker audio package, or an upgraded 8-speaker system and optional 210-watt subwoofer. There’s also a one-year trial of both Toyota’s Remote Connect and Safety Connect smartphone-based technologies.
There are seven airbags, and the GR 86 features a reasonably well-equipped standard version of the Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced driver assistance systems. These include active cruise control, pre-collision warning and lane departure warning. You can upgrade with features like blind-spot warning and rear park sensors.
Go back and forth between the old and new models and you’ll immediately appreciate the extra power the 2022 Toyota delivers. But it’s more than just better numbers. Torque comes on much more quickly, reaching its peak 184 lb-ft at just 3,700 rpm. Power, on the whole feels more linear and responsive to your right foot.
In true sports car fashion, the GR 86 directs power to the rear wheels, but it adds a Torsen limited-slip differential to help move power between the back wheels where you need it, something that became pleasantly apparent, both on the twisty Monticello track, as well as on a winding road course that featured a number of switchbacks and elevation changes.
The upgrades weren’t limited to the powertrain. The 2022 model features a number of chassis reinforcements that improve rigidity and that is apparent when you’re pushing the GR 86 to the limits. The front MacPherson struts and double-wishbone rear suspension keep you glued down, especially on rough pavement.
Another advantage is the layout of the Boxer engine which helps lower the car’s center of gravity. It drops another 16 mm, or about two-thirds of an inch, thanks to the increased use of lightweight aluminum for the hood and other body panels.
It also helps to have good tires. The base car comes shod with Michelin Primacy HP rubber, the GR 86 Premium with Michelin Pilot Sport 4.
As for fuel economy, you’ll get 19 mpg city, 26 highway and 21 combined with the stick, 20/30/24 with the automatic.
Toyota is clearly encouraging GR 86 owners to think about getting involved in motorsports. One of the benefits of buying the 2022 model is a one-year membership in NASA — no, not the space agency, but the National Auto Sport Association. That includes one high-performance driving program meant to give an owner the feel of what the 2022 GR 86 can accomplish on the track.
There are plenty of owners of the original sports car — whether badged Scion FR-S or Toyota GR 86 — who’ve tried their hand at racing. The 2022 model is likely to encourage still more. It’s a lot more fun than the first-generation 2+2. And that holds true on the street, as well as the track.
While the dimensions may be all but identical, the overall improvement in the 2022 Toyota GR 86 are obvious and enjoyable. Clearly, in this age of SUVs, the little sports car isn’t for everyone, but it seemed sure to find a niche market and more loyal fans.
The 2022 Toyota GR 86 starts at just “under $30,000.” Look for more specific pricing before it reaches U.S. showrooms in November.
2021 Toyota GR 86 — Frequently Asked Questions
How much is the 2022 Toyota GR 86?
The second-generation GR 86 hits showrooms in November. Official pricing hasn’t been released, but Toyota officials are saying it will come in “under $30K.” That keeps it well under the window sticker on Toyota’s other sports car, the Supra, which starts at about $44,000.
How fast is the new GR 86?
Well, Toyota officials say the 6-speed manual version races from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. The automatic makes the run in 6.6 seconds — making it the rare model these days where the stick is faster than the auto.
When did the GR 86 first come out?
First introduced in 2012 as the Scion FR-S, this is the second generation of the little 2+2 coupe.