If you’re looking for a simple and fun-to-drive sports car, you might find that they are becoming increasingly scarce. With the growing popularity of SUVs and EVs, most mainstream automakers no longer sell coupes. However, there are still a few great options available that won’t break the bank, and one of them is the 2023 Toyota GR86. Crafted in collaboration with Subaru, this rear-wheel-drive marvel offers a purist driving experience and comes equipped with a 4-cylinder Boxer engine.
For those in the know, comparing the GR86 to its near-twin, the Subaru BRZ, and the iconic Mazda MX-5 Miata is an exhilarating proposition. The GR86 shines brilliantly in terms of handling, value, and style.
While the 2023 Toyota GR86 may not have the boldest exterior styling, its clean and slick design perfectly complements its true calling as an exquisite handling machine. The latest iteration features a refined appearance with a lengthy front end, a low-slung roofline, and a sporty rear – paying tribute to the classic sports car aesthetic. Its proportions are a work of art, and functional elements like the mesh grille and vertical air intakes behind the rear wheels serve both form and function.
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But let’s focus on what truly sets the GR86 apart – its extraordinary handling. It leaves sports cars costing two, three, or even four times as much in the dust. The GR86’s appeal lies predominantly in its flawless handling and precise steering. And while the power may not be earth-shattering, it gets the job done. These cars are a pure embodiment of rear-wheel drive excellence, equipped with a Torsen limited-slip rear differential to optimize every twist and turn.
Under the hood, you’ll find a Subaru 2.4-liter flat-4 engine, producing 228 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual transmission allows the car to go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, while the automatic adds just half a second. With a torque peak at a low 3,700 rpm, which is unusual for a non-turbo vehicle, the GR86 delivers enough excitement to conquer any track. The manual transmission offers a brilliant driving experience, although it lacks driver-assistance tech. Opting for the automatic transmission rewards you with crisp shifts and handy paddle shifters to keep the fun going.
Of course, it would be nice to have a bit more power under the hood, but the GR86 is not just about 0-60 mph sprints or quarter-mile challenges. The engine provides just enough power to make it easy to drive around town and delivers a zippy coupe experience when things get twisty on the road.
But let’s be clear, power is just one part of the equation; the real magic lies in the handling. Thanks to its strut/multi-link suspension and narrow tires, the GR86 exudes sublime poise. Base models offer a slightly smoother ride compared to their 18-inch tire-clad counterparts, but all models gracefully transition into controlled oversteer with a flick of the steering wheel. The communicative and quick steering makes you feel entirely connected to the GR86, all without breaking the bank.
Safety is important, but it varies depending on your transmission choice. Those who opt for the automatic transmission will enjoy advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking, active lane control, automatic high-beam headlights, and adaptive cruise control. Regardless of the transmission, the Premium trim adds blind-spot monitors to the mix.
The 2023 Toyota GR86 is undeniably compact, with two doors, a low roofline, and a modest trunk lid. Stepping inside, you’ll find a cabin that is both simple and functional, with tasteful hints of metallic trim that elevate the ambiance.
The front seats are exceptional, providing impeccable support, ample legroom, and even enough headroom to accommodate a helmeted driver. And that’s by design. In the base model, the grippy cloth seats are a boon for track enthusiasts, although they lack heating.
As for the rear seats, they are best suited as additional storage space since there isn’t much legroom behind the front seats. Given the small trunk size of only 6.3 cubic feet, you’ll likely end up using the rear seats for extra storage.
Speaking of price, the 2023 Toyota GR86 offers an enticing combination of exhilaration and features, all for under $30,000. Priced at $29,495, including destination charges, it comes with a leather-trimmed shift boot and steering wheel, a 7.0-inch digital instrument cluster, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with seamless smartphone compatibility, power windows and locks, and comfortable cloth bucket seats. Opting for the automatic transmission adds an additional $1,500. The touchscreen and overall value each earn a resounding thumbs-up. However, it’s worth noting that the manual variant does not include the driver-assist features that are standard with the automatic.
The $32,095 GR86 Premium trim features 18-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. It also adds heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, an upgraded eight-speaker sound system, a rear spoiler, and the convenience of blind-spot monitors.
The 2023 Toyota GR86 is a rare gem. Thanks to the harmonious partnership between Toyota and Subaru, the GR86’s driving experience has been elevated to a razor-sharp track performance, complete with increased power, predictable and electrifying handling, and technology that invites you to unleash your inner driving enthusiast. In the grand scheme of things, the Subaru-Toyota alliance is a harmonious marriage of automotive excellence, and we, the fortunate enthusiasts, reap the extraordinary benefits. Buckle up and savor the symphony of power, precision, and performance that the 2023 Toyota GR86 delivers!
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