First Drives

2019 Toyota 86 TRD First Drive: Fair ’n‘ Balanced?

Toyota Designs the Ultimate Off-Roader … for a Mission on the Moon – Technologue

Toyota Racing Development has prepared a special TRD edition of the 2019 Toyota 86. Don’t get excited, though: The upgrades are visual and chassis-related only. Sigh.

The Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S/Toyota 86 has never held me in its thrall the way it does most of my colleagues. Sure, I love its purity of mission, its rear-drive chassis dynamics, and its available manual transmission. But I’ve never been crazy about its air-cooled-Beetle boxer engine noise, the auditory assault of which makes the 14.8-to-15.9-second quarter-mile time seem seconds longer. My reaction has always been: “Wake me when the turbo/supercharger/displacement bump arrives.”

Spoiler Alert

It ain’t comin’. I’ve grilled everybody from product planners to chief engineers to dyno-cell janitors (I may have made that one up), trying to get to the root of why the H-E-double-toothpicks none of the three brands to market this car has ever seen fit to add a single milligram of vitamin-H to a platform that can clearly handle it. The aftermarket has amply demonstrated the engine structure to be sturdy enough to withstand turbocharging, supercharging, or performance-enhancing chips so why does the factory cede those profits to the aftermarket?

What gets me here is that the experts I’ve questioned generally offer some variation on the old saw “it’s perfectly balanced now, and adding power threatens to upset that delicate balance.” Well, you know what also upsets the balance? Adding even more chassis grip and poise.

Chassis Mods

That’s mostly what the TRD trim level delivers for a $3,635 premium over a GT manual (the TRD package can’t be had with the even pokier automatic). Working from the road surface up, the base car’s 215/45R17 Michelin Primacy HP or Bridgestone Turanza EL400-02 tires are replaced by a much more aggressive set of 215/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4s on new 7.5 x 18–inch rims. Then there’s a nice set of Brembo brakes, upsized from 11.6-inch front/11.4-inch rear to 12.8/12.4. Capping off the dynamic enhancements is a set of quicker-reacting Sachs dampers all around. (Springs and bars remain unchanged.)

Model T Color Palette

You can have any color you want, as long as it’s Raven, albeit accented by a TRD tricolor graphic flourish on the flanks. The package also includes a full TRD body kit, consisting of front bumper, side sills, rear bumper/diffuser, and spoiler. Oh, and there’s also a cat-back TRD exhaust that includes brushed stainless steel tips. It manages not to sound fart-canny.

The Drive

I first sample the 86 TRD on some twisty West Virginia country lanes near Summit Point Motorsports Park and verify that, yep, it’s even tougher to generate wheelspin in the dry now. Corner grip is impressive, even in a few corners dampened by mild flooding that followed excessive local rains earlier in the week. Over a stretch with some little humps and jumps, the Sachs dampers demonstrate remarkable poise and comfy landings that the stock suspension struggles to match in a back-to-back drive. The GT model’s Primacy tires give up their grip at much lower cornering speeds, but a widening line can occasionally be tightened with the throttle in a sharp bend. This doesn’t really happen much with the PS4s.

On Track

Finally I strap into a bright blue 86 GT for a hot-lapping session of the tight, technical Summit Point circuit and start to see what everybody loves about this car. With no oncoming traffic or laws to flout, this thing is just big, silly, slip-n-slide fun. Switch on Track mode to dismiss much of the stability control system’s oversight, and you can easily summon as much or as little oversteer as you like with power, with a Finnish flick, with judicious trail-braking, or with any combination of the above.

Then I strap into the TRD version and suddenly find myself working way harder to conjure drifts and slides. Pitch it hard into an off-camber corner, and, sure, it’ll let go, but it latches back on way quicker. Yes, my lap times probably dropped a bit. So did the corners of my mouth.

Bottom Line

I have yet to devise a reliable method of measuring power-to-grip ratio, but the seat of my pants suggests that 205 hp/17-inch Primacy probably equates to roughly 280 hp/18-inch Pilot Sport 4. So if you’re scheming to scrape together the $33,350 it takes to get one of the 1,418 TRDs Toyota plans to build, I recommend you budget another $3,402 plus installation for a GReddy T518Z turbo kit.

2019 Toyota 86 TRD
BASE PRICE $33,350
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe
ENGINE 2.0L/205-hp/156-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve flat-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT 2,850 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 101.2 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 168.8 x 69.9 x 50.6 in
0-60 MPH 6.4 sec (MT est)
ENERGY 160/120 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.82 lb/mile
ON SALE IN U.S. Currently

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