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.
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 ...