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Review: 2023 Toyota GR86 - The 'L' license car for keen drivers

Shaun · Aug 6, 2023 10:00 AM

Review: 2023 Toyota GR86 - The 'L' license car for keen drivers 01

Learning is a never-ending process; this concept applies to driving too. Toyota embodies this culture through the philosophy of continuous improvement – kaizen. As drivers, so should we, given the number of cars we have and the amount of time we spend on the road.

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When it comes to driving, I’d like to divide it into two categories – street driving and performance driving. There are some overlaps between the two but they are distinct enough to warrant separate consideration, because excelling in one doesn't necessarily guarantee proficiency in the other.

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Review: 2023 Toyota GR86 - The 'L' license car for keen drivers 01

Street Driving vs Performance Driving

What do I mean by street and performance driving? Let's begin with street driving, which represents the fundamental aspect of operating a vehicle – the foundational skills taught in driving school.

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It involves understanding all the controls of the car and operating them smoothly, understanding the rules of the road, making judgments about road conditions and traffic, knowing when to exit a junction or change lanes, not to mention parking and manoeuvring around tight spaces, you get the gist.

Every driver on the road should already possess a reasonable level of proficiency in this skill.

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Performance driving, on the other hand, is a skill that may not be absolutely essential to master but can become a crucial asset during critical moments. It revolves around car control and comprehending the car's behaviour, particularly when pushing it to its limits.

This includes understanding vehicle dynamics as well as developing an innate sense of the car's actions and responses at all times.

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The GR86 hones both departments

How does the Toyota GR86 come into play? Well, it has the potential to elevate both street and performance driving to the next level.

For starters, the clutch engagement in the GR86 isn’t the friendliest, which means driving it smoothly and perfectly seamless can be a challenge. It’s not performance clutch and lightweight flywheel level of difficulty, but sloppy clutch control can give whiplash to the passenger.

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So, driving the GR86 involves practicing the skill of modulating the clutch and timing the revs to determine the appropriate moments for releasing the clutch and applying throttle.

Also, it doesn’t have any proximity sensors, front or rear. There’s a reverse camera, but it’s difficult to judge distance from it. Which means as a driver in the GR86, you need to rely on your assessment of the car’s dimensions and your spatial awareness must be on high alert at all times.

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These, however, don’t apply to the automatic variant as it does have reverse sensors. But short of medical reasons, why would you want an automatic GR86? You’ll be missing a chunk of the experience we’re about to get into.

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Once you start stretching its legs and open up the tap a little, any qualms you may or may not have about its clutch behaviour at low speeds disappear immediately.

Revving out the engine no longer feels as if you’re just watching and hearing the revs climb like in its predecessor, there’s now an almost tangible sensation of push when you put your foot down.

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Lift off, clutch in, slot into the next gear, back on the accelerator – nail these actions swiftly and precisely, and you'll be rewarded with a flawlessly clean upshift, free of any unpleasant sounds from clutch-throttle overlapping or jerkiness.

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A corner approaches. Brake, clutch in and simultaneously move your heel towards the throttle to give it a blip, let the clutch out.

Doing it right with the revs matching perfectly will result in one of the most satisfying feelings ever. The GR86’s firm brake pedal feel, mechanical-feeling shifter, and optimally-spaced pedals help achieve this pleasure.

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Once the speed is shed and you’re in the right gear, you turn into the corner. The quick steering, chassis balance, and low centre of gravity are felt right away.

You can feel the car moving laterally while the body rolls. And when you approach its grip limits, the tension from the steering and body can be felt.

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Being a rear-wheel drive car, the GR86 lets you enjoy "throttle adjustability," where you can use the throttle to steer and adjust your path while cornering, manipulating weight transfer and traction.

Apply moderate throttle too early in corners and you’ll push wide (understeer), too much throttle and the tail will step out (oversteer).

Also read: FWD cars always understeer while RWD cars oversteer? Evidence says otherwise

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The stability control allows a reasonable amount of slip before it steps in, which allows inexperienced drivers a generous window to explore while still having a safety net.

There’s almost no other modern car at any price point that can provide this level of communication while being this forgiving.

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The GR86 is more than just a driving tool

It’s even more impressive when you consider that the GR86 can serve as your sole daily driver. There’s a decent-sized boot and it’s equipped with modern amenities one requires like Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

The interior is a pleasant space, featuring supportive seats and the use of suede materials that add a premium touch. Its digital instrument cluster that’s designed after the boxer engine is also a nice detail.

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Overall refinement is a noticeable step forward from before and ride quality is remarkable, especially when it’s on 18-inch wheels with narrow profile tyres.

This is undoubtedly a better car to live with on a day-to-day basis than its predecessor. They’ve improved upon its predecessor in just about every way without ruining what was special about it.

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If you want to take your driving abilities to new heights, I can’t think of anything else on sale today that does the job better than the Toyota GR86.

It invites you to play along while exposing any deficiencies you may have in driving. But if you get it right and everything comes together, it’s pure automotive bliss.

Overview: Toyota GR86
Price RM 295,000 (MT), RM 305,000 (AT)
Engine 2.4L NA flat-four
Transmission 6-speed MT/AT
Power 237 PS @ 7,000 rpm
Torque 250 Nm @ 3,700 rpm
0-100 km/h 7.3 seconds (as tested)
Fuel Consumption 8.6-litre/100 km (as tested)
Origin CBU, Japan

Also read: 2024 Toyota GR86 gets ADAS for MT and Performance Pack - Brembo brakes, Sachs dampers

Shaun

Senior Writer

The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.

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