The Toyota 86 is just one of those cars. It is a car that the RFD staff are simultaneously pleased about its existence, yet we easily find fault with it each time we drive it. And drive it we have. From the original Scion FR-S, which was part of the RFD garage early on thanks to Sean O’Donoghue, to our first look at the “86” in Detroit, to William Clavey’s track review, to my review of the TRD 86, to Jacob’s most recent review, we’ve covered the 86 quite a few times. But this time it’s got stiff competition – itself.
The 86 Lineup
All 2018 86 models come with the same powertrain. It’s the venerable Subaru-provided 2.0L 4-cylinder horizontally opposed boxer engine with 205 hp @ 7000 rpm and 156 lb.-ft. of torque @ 6400 rpm. At least that’s the spec with the manual, with the 6-speed auto, you only get 200 hp. Ha, take that automatics! All 86’s get a Torsen limited-slip diff. Here’s a quick rundown of what you get for your money across the 86 lineup.
Base model 2018 86’s come with:
- LED projector-beam headlights
- Daytime Running Lights (DRL) and rear combination lights with all-LED lighting
- Chrome-tipped dual exhaust
- Front fender-mounted vortex generators
- 17-in. twisted spoke alloy wheels
Ramp up to the GT and you add:
- LED fog lights
- Color-keyed heated power outside mirrors
- Rear wing in matte black with aerodynamic end plates
- Aerodynamic underbody panel
The Black model adds:
- Rear wing in matte black with aerodynamic end plates and supports in Raven (…not available with Raven, Oceanic and Asphalt exterior colors)
- Heated power outside mirrors in Raven (…not available with Raven, Oceanic and Asphalt exterior colors)
So no Raven on Raven. Here’s a quick graphic to show the differences. Looks closely.
Again, the base model 86 comes with:
- Sport front bucket seats with Granlux suede-like material
- Analog tachometer with programmable rev indicator
- Auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated backup camera display
- Display Audio with 7-in. touch-screen display
- Leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel
The GT adds the following to the interior:
- Heated sport front bucket seats with leather and Granlux suede-like inserts
- 4.2-in. TFT Multi-Information Display (MID) with vehicle performance information
- Smart Key System with Push Button Start
- Dual zone automatic climate control
- Leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with MID controls
And the Black adds:
So the Black is basically an appearance package, but it’s a pretty good one. The black accents look particularly good on the “Thunder” paint color of our test car. How much will all this cost you? Well the Black starts at $28,385 and our tester didn’t have any options added. That’s not too bad, it falls directly between the base EcoBoost Mustang ($26,395) and the Premium model ($31,410). However we’ve compared the two directly, with the Mustang getting the edge.
But this comparison is going to be a bit different. We are comparing this 86 Black to the original, the Scion FR-S.
86 vs. FR-S
So how is it then? We spent the afternoon with Sean and his FR-S and here’s what we came up with.
The interior updates are nice enhancements, especially over first model year. Specifically, this car has very good seats, better than the original, and something we have consistently concluded during the last few reviews of the latest 86. They hug you in all the right places, although I have to imagine that a heavier person might not be quite as comfortable. On that front, we wish the steering wheel allowed for a bit more adjustment. For a driver’s car, it needs to fit just right. Beyond that, Sean felt that the gauge cluster and steering wheel were big improvements over his Scion, but generally though the rest of the car “felt the same”.
Aesthetically, you can see for yourself, not a lot has changed over 6 model years.
Out on the street, it’s still a blast on the back roads. Josh noted that it’s arguably more fun than faster cars like his E46 M3 due to the driving engagement and lower limits. It’s widely known that the 86 is easy to slide around, something that’s been true of the car since the beginning. In reality, it’s actually slower than most other cars on the road and Josh felt that the engine note sounds like something is about to break. Not ideal, and nowhere near as good aurally than the TRD-exhaust equipped TRD model that we tested this time last year.
In the end we couldn’t help but feel that the Black edition, or perhaps a BRZ Limited, plus the TRD edition might make for a more perfect 86. Other cars in this class have more-perfected a mix of nice materials and comfort inside, and tail-wagging performance outside. Perhaps the 2019 86 TRD Special Edition, which comes with Brembos, SACHS performance dampers, 18-in. TRD wheels, TRD performance exhaust and an aerodynamic body kit might be the right formula? Well that plus more power, but that’s among the most cliché clichés in automotive writing. More power makes most cars better, within a limit obviously. 200 horsepower hasn’t been considered too much in a long time, at least since I’ve had my driver’s license. Until Toyota (and Subaru) decide that the new Supra’s little brother needs a bit of a boost, it’s still going to disappoint the enthusiast community. But we’re still happy that it exists!