The 2013 Scion FR-S brought driving fun back to the Toyota family after a several-year absence, and now the automaker isn’t letting go. The rear-drive sports car lived on even after the Scion brand passed away, rechristened the 2017 Toyota 86. And now, the 2022 Toyota GR 86 bottles up the same lightweight, 2+2 sports car attitude, adding a big helping of power befitting of its new Gazoo Racing branding (also found on the stellar GR Supra).
As we saw from the global debut of the sports car, the GR 86 retains the same basic proportions as its more simply named predecessor, with an impressively low hoodline thanks to a flat-four engine. A tapering rear roofline, upturned headlights, and gaping front bumper opening accomplish that look-fast-at-standstill mission, with a swoopier hood and ducktail rear spoiler setting the GR 86 apart from the old 86 – but not necessarily the nearly identical Subaru BRZ.
Unsurprisingly, the 2022 GR 86 takes its hard specifications from its twin. That means there’s a 2.4-liter flat-four with 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet (170 kilowatts and 249 newton-meters), with a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an optional six-speed automatic sending that grunt to the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential. The engine is larger than the 2.0-liter unit in the old Toyota 86, making 23 hp and 28 lb-ft (17 kW and 38 Nm) more than the outgoing vehicle, and its twist peaks at 3,700 rpm instead of 6,600, making it easier to drive in most situations.
That power gets put to use relatively effectively too, given the 2022 GR 86’s meager weight gains. Toyota hasn’t released specific numbers just yet, but the company says that aluminum roof and fender panels help keep the curb weight to just over 2,800 pounds. The outgoing Toyota 86 weighed between 2,776 and 2,835 pounds, depending on options and the choice of transmission. That adds up to a much quicker vehicle – the manual-transmission GR 86 sprints to 60 miles per hour in 6.1 seconds according to the automaker, or 0.9-second faster than its 86 predecessor, and the automatic takes 6.6 seconds to cross the same threshold (down from 8.0).
Even so, outright speed will never be the coupe’s strong suit. Instead, the Toyota GR 86 focuses more on handling dynamics and a fun driving experience. Its platform is much the same as the outgoing sports car, but there are new front and rear subframe reinforcements that bolster the body-in-white’s rigidity. Functional vents on the front bumper and fender enhance steering stability and response, according to Toyota, and the rocker panels and ducktail spoiler (standard on the Premium trim) smooth out aerodynamics. If the GR 86 drives anything like the BRZ we rode in last year, it’ll be a real treat on a winding road, autocross, or circuit.
Speaking of the track, Toyota will include a one-year membership to the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) with every 2022 GR 86, as well as one free high-performance driver education course and discounted admission to NASA events. That should be an attractive perk to most potential buyers, especially since the GR 86 should likely be lots of fun to wring out, preserving every last iota of momentum around corners. Making that job easier is the work of the Premium trim's 18-inch wheels wearing summer tires – the base trim's 17-inch wheels get all-season rubber.
When it’s time to turn away from the canyons and toward the interstate, the 2022 GR 86 offers more creature comforts and advanced technology than its predecessor. Both the base and Premium versions get a standard 7.0-inch digital instrument display and 8.0-inch center touchscreen – both a bit smallish by modern standards but still good enough for all but the most pixel-obsessed. The Premium gets eight speakers, to the base model’s six. Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
New front seats with a deeper design provide more support, and the GR 86 Premium’s chairs get Alcantara upholstery with leather accents. Both trims get a leather-wrapped wheel (with paddle shifters on automatic-equipped models) and a leather-wrapped shift selector. The auto also gets some advanced driver-assist technology: automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and automatic high beams come standard if you go shiftless, while the manual does without any of the above.
That’s perhaps the GR 86’s lone misstep in an otherwise impressive package – other automakers have cracked the driver-assist/clutch code, so why can’t Toyota? Even so, the small rear-drive Toyota adds enough of what the old 86 needed – power and low-end torque – without messing with its near-perfect weight distribution and commendably skinny weight. The 2022 Toyota GR 86, which goes on sale later this year at a price that isn’t confirmed (but shouldn’t be too much more than its predecessor’s $27,060 cost of entry), is just more proof that the automaker is committed to driving fun. Now, what about bringing that GR Yaris to the US?