I’ll say this up front, I was never a massive fan of the original FR-S/BRZ/86. Conceptually, sure I was all in. A light two door RWD coupe, yes please. However, in practice I just never came to love any of them, and it came down to one reason. Power. Sure, you can have massive fun in a car that is light but not particularly powerful. In my experience that enjoyment is typically limited to a curvy back road with no traffic, or out on a track. In a daily driver, I never found 205 horsepower and 156 ft-lbs. of torque (available at a pretty high 7,000 and 6,400 rpm respectively) to be all that inspiring or enjoyable. Rejoice, because Toyota and Subaru added some power to the second generation 2022 GR86 and BRZ. Let’s see if this newly named GR86 I just spent a week with finally wins me over.
2022 GR86 Overview
The last Toyota I reviewed had seven trim levels, the GR86 simplifies things a bit. You can get the base model…or the Premium. That’s it, pretty easy to decide if the price difference is worth it.
Said price difference of $2,600 gets you extra bits like:
- Ultrasuede/leather-trimmed and heated front seats
- Aluminum pedals
- 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires (215/40R18) instead of the Michelin Primacy HP summer tires (215/45R17) on the base
- Heated front seats
- Eight-speaker audio system
- Safety stuff like blind-spot monitor rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive headlights
Options are minimal, you can choose between an automatic vs. manual tranny, one of seven exterior colors (two of which add $425), and…that’s it. There are no packages available, only a host of floor mats, wheel locks, and the like. Out test car had no other options, as you can see below. You’re looking at $31, 325 out the door for a Premium 6-speed GR86.
Well, not including any adjusted dealer markups (ADM) which has definitely been a thing at some local Toyota dealers around DC.
Either trim you go with, you’ll get the same “FA24” 2.4L naturally aspirated horizontally opposed 4-cylinder boxer-four engine. Power is up to 228 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and, perhaps more importantly, 184 lb. ft. of torque at a more accessible at 3,700 rpm. That’s only 23 more horses at the same rpm level as the old engine, but that’s 28 more torques available at drastically less rpm than the old car (6,400).
Let’s get into the details to see if the GR86 should be on your shopping list.
2022 GR86 Inside & Out
While the the old car looked decent, the second gen is a real looker. The proportions look more purpose-built and stand out in traffic much more than the original. Here is a 2017 TRD model that I reviewed back in the day vs. the new one.
The extra scoops and slats, while just making some cars look busy, add a sense of drama and excitement to the new 86. I was sold immediately when the loaner was dropped off, that Neptune blue paint helps. It’s a good looking thing.
I always found the interior of the first generation car a bit of a challenge to like. Back in 2017 I noted that much of the interior “feels cheap, with lots of hard plastics and dated-looking materials”. The new car is certainly an improvement, but isn’t perfect. I dig the cool chunky HVAC dials, they have a nicely textured surface and sit prominently next to the large start-stop button. The round theme continues with the two large vents flanking the dashboard.
The seats are phenomenal, with just the right amount of bolster and comfort during hard cornering. Oddly the headrest is surprisingly hard but how often do you feel that? You get a great driving position with the wheel and shifter falling easy to hand. The rest of the ergonomics are a mixed bag. There is a small cup holder on drivers side and a large bottle holder in the passenger door. I didn’t like how far back the other cup holders are set, it feels like the GR86 is trying to be an ND Miata. Also, you get an armrest or cup holders, but not both. I couldn’t really find a spot to keep my phone, a small tray or cubby ahead or behind the shifter would have helped.
The infotainment system, controlled via an eight-inch touchscreen is functional and pretty easy to use. However with pixelated icons it looks quite dated already.
The rear seats may as well not be there, but I know…something…something…insurance. From an interior space perspective, things didn’t really get any more spacious vs. the last gen car. Headroom (37 in.), Front leg room (41.5 in.) front shoulder room (53.6 in.), and rear leg room (29.9 in.) are all pretty close to the original. However, taller drivers shouldn’t have much of an issue in the GR86, between the headroom and seat adjustability it’s big guy friendly. However, it is actually down a bit on cargo space (6.3 cu. ft. vs. 6.9 cu. ft. for the old car) and rear head room (33.5 in. vs. 35 in. for the OG). Not that anyone larger than my eight-year-old can fit back there. And even he had to have the front passenger seat moved forward to fit.
Still, for day-to-day stuff (without any more than one passenger), it’ll do just fine. Ya’ll want to hear how this sucker drives, let’s get at it.
I’ll start with the elephant in the room, the GR86 finally has pretty solid acceleration. The car mags have pegged it at around 5.8 second to 60 mph, which a full second quicker than the old version. The old torque drop is gone, and good riddance, the power now comes through in a nice linear fashion.
It has a super light clutch, so it can be a little hard to smoothly get started. Once I got used to it, it wasn’t an issue, plus it has hill start assist so you don’t look like a total noob. You can drop down into first gear, and without touching the clutch, let it ride to a pretty low speed before having to re-engage. With a bit more power, and that torque bump available at a lower rpm, it’s super easy to drive out on the highway, particularly in 3rd-6th gear. Ride quality is fine, it gets a little jittery over uneven surfaces.
Visibility is first rate, the center of the hood drops low and the fenders peek up at just the right height so you can see where everything is. I have to imagine that would make it great for an autocross course or out on an open track.
Interesting foible, the turn signal stalks work like an older BMW, you hold it briefly in either direction and it doesn’t click into place. The gauge layout is fine, it’s all very digital looking, if a little pixelated. When you press the race button, the driver’s screen changes to show temperatures and a gradually rising tachometer that reminded me of the Honda S2000.
I didn’t get a chance to work it that hard, but I can attest that the rear steps out just enough with traction control on. The aforementioned eight-year-old accused me of “drifting” in front of his mother. That went well. Suffice to say, it’s super controllable and one of the easiest to drive performance-focused cars I’ve ever been in.
Basically, most of the crap I didn’t like about the old car is gone. What’s left is an incredibly engaging driving experience. At 2,833 lbs. (only 16 lbs. more than the last 86) it’s light and playful. Competitors like the EcoBoost Mustang have a lot more power (310 horsepower) but weigh in at near 3,500 pounds. From a price perspective, the base Mustang is just over $27,000 but the Premium version starts at $32,225 which is a bit more than the Toyota. So that means the GR86 (and BRZ) take up a unique spot in the market. Other than the Miata, which is priced similarly but doesn’t have nearly as much interior space, there really isn’t much in the way of affordable performance out there.
The GR86 is a very good car, I’m looking forward to seeing the Spec GR86 racing. Have any of you hoons been shopping for a GR86 or BRZ? Curious to know how the ADMs are looking these days, I’d hate to see bargain performance ruined by markups.