Car News: Oversteer
Quick Take: 2017 Toyota 86
Toyota may have killed off the Scion brand and the FR-S name along with it, but Scion's sports car lives on as the Toyota 86. Along with the new name, the 86 as been given slightly refreshed exterior styling, a boost of 5 horsepower and lb-ft of torque and a revised suspension setup. I got the chance to drive the new Toyota 86 the other day, and I walked away both impressed and disappointed.
Like the FR-S, the 86 is still undeniably a fun car to drive, with a brilliant chassis, a light clutch and a shifter featuring short, crisp throws -- the manual transmission is right on the money. Furthermore, the steering is tight and communicative, while the car's 2,750-pound curb weight makes it quite spry.
The FR-S always had a reputation for being an easy car to drift controllably, but you really can intuitively understand how the car wants to move laterally around you. I'm not a seasoned drifter by any means, but while taking a tight turn at speed, I could easily feel the edge of adhesion and understand that a small amount of throttle would have caused the back end to step out.
While many people think the 86 could use a bit more power, I honestly think that 205 hp is completely adequate for the car. The 86 is supposed to be an accessible entry-level car that's easy and fun to drive at reasonable speeds, and that's what it does. If everyone who drives a Mustang started off with an 86, maybe we'd have fewer crashes at Cars and Coffee.
But there are drawbacks. The biggest is the interior. It's not exactly a place I'd want to spend any serious time in, and it's somehow a regression from the FR-S. The dashboard is just an uninspiring, flat slate of black plastic, the center screen looks like an aftermarket unit from Best Buy, and the key tumbler is clearly straight from the parts bin. There's also nowhere to rest your right arm and no real place to store sunglasses, and the center console is basically a plastic bucket. I think Toyota was trying to go for a retro look -- the car is something of a modern incarnation of the old 1980s AE86 Corolla -- but the art of automotive interior design has come so far in even the past 5 years that the current offering is pretty mediocre. That's especially true when you consider that the 86 costs $26,255 plus destination, which is about $1,000 more than the FR-S.
It's even more perplexing when you compare the single-trim 86 with the base-level Subaru BRZ. They're the same car, but the Subaru manages to make the cabin look far more upscale and inviting with only a few details -- like swapping out the 86's white stitching for red and visually separating the radio from the rest of the dash with some shiny piano-black plastic. On top of that, the entry-level BRZ starts at just $25,495, which makes it $760 cheaper than the 86.
In conclusion, the Toyota 86 is a great car to drive, but it's hard to justify spending $27,000 for its budget-grade interior. Do yourself a favor -- buy its Subaru twin instead.
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