First Drive: 2017 Toyota 86

– Ojai, California

As you head north from the sleepy, 7,500-resident town of Ojai on California State Route 33, the road turns into something out of a Gran Turismo fantasy. It whips left and right as it climbs up into the mountains, epic views of the valley just beyond the guardrail-free cliffs. There are off-camber and blind corners, sweeping high-speed bends and hairpins, tunnels filled with howls of exhaust, and dirt look-out points for when you need to take a break from the action and admire the scenic vista. It is the perfect test track for the 2017 Toyota 86.

The 86 is the Scion FR-S grown up. The Scion brand is dead, so the 2+2 car will now be sold as a Toyota in the U.S. It’s already a Toyota overseas, with a name that evokes both the classic AE86 coupe and the engine’s bore and stroke in millimeters. As it switches brands, the 86 also gets a redesign (just like its mechanical sibling, the Subaru BRZ). Highlights include a fresh suspension tune, engine revisions, and a visual facelift. Running up and down Route 33 confirms that all those tweaks have only served to make Toyota’s rear-wheel-drive sports car more fun than ever.

2017 Toyota 86: First Drive
2017 Toyota 86: First Drive

 

It tracks smoothly and confidently, with far fewer abrupt body motions when you dial in steering input.

The suspension modifications are intended to make the car feel a little less skittish. The front spring rates are higher and the rears are lower, the rear anti-roll bar is one-millimeter thicker than before, and the shock absorbers have ...