2023 Toyota GR86 Premium - Is it Grrrr-eat?


There may be some out there who, after watching me get in or out of the '23 GR86, might ask "What is that old fool doing in a kids' car?" Well I have a few choice words for you that I'll keep to myself. I will tell you that yes getting in or out of a low-slung car is not the most graceful thing to watch. I will also tell you that once behind the wheel this old fart becomes much, much younger. I'm mature enough to stay within the law (mostly) but brash enough to get to the posted limit as quickly as I can. On-ramps often become drag strips, and long, looping ones become skid pads.

I would imagine that everyone who is into cars knows the GR86 has a cousin, the Subaru BRZ. I don't have the luxury of side by side testing, and even if I did I might not pick one over the other. I am a fan of Toyota and Subaru so that's all I'll say.

The only engine is a OHC flat four that makes 228 hp at 7,000 rpm, and 184 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm. Yeah I know that doesn't sound like much but the GR86 weighs less than 3,000 lbs. 

A GR86 Premium like the car reviewed has a 6-speed automatic transmission. Toyota says it will go from zero to sixty in 6.6 seconds and has a top speed of 134 mph. A manual 6-speed would cut 0.5 seconds from that and add 6 mph to the top speed. The automatic does get better fuel economy with 21-mpg city and 31 highway compared to the manual's 20 and 27.

The automatic was okay but I felt that in its normal mode it felt a little lazy. In Sport it was much better but for once I'd prefer a manual transmission. 

I have a soft spot for blue paint and Trueno Blue was awesome. 

I'll skip the part about getting into the GR86 and go straight to the driving environment. It was just about perfect. I have come to really like heads up displays so that would have been nice.

Everything you need to know while driving is right there in front of you, and make no mistake this is a driver's car. The rest is available in the center stack and console. Two knobs for the sound system, twist dials for the climate control, some buttons, and a gear shift lever. If you put it in Sport there are paddle shifters on the steering wheel that work fine. 

The front seats are sport oriented with "Ultra Suede" with leather side bolsters. They are heated for those cold mornings. 

Toyota says the GR86 is a 2+2. In what world? The picture above shows the leg room in the rear seat. You could put a baby seat back there I suppose but that's about it. It would make more sense to me to just make that space an upholstered package shelf or maybe lockable bins.

I had no problem with the stiff suspension; the GR86 felt solid and the front seats were comfy. On the other hand the road noise was horrendous. I think most of it was tire noise - on certain road surfaces there was a speed related noise that sounded like wind rushing through a partially open window. 

I don't have the means to swap tires to prove it but my money is on the 215/40 R 18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. Car companies need to stop vying for the best skid-pad and track figures and focus on the real world. The real world has potholes, broken roads, curbs, bumps, and all kinds of things that aren't on a smooth skid-pad or race track. The standard tires on the GR86 are better than most drivers! By the time these tires lose grip it is well past the skill of most to survive. Years ago the great auto writer and race drive Patrick Bedard wrote an article that said the same thing about tires of twenty or thirty years ago.

The trunk is generous for a two-seater, much wider than the opening would have you believe. Throw in your soft-sided bags and there's still room to bring home gifts or trinkets.

Now let's get down to price. My choice would be the base GR86. It weighs the least, has the manual transmission, and fewer frills. It starts at $28,400. Same engine, 17" tires instead of the 18" on the test car. Next up is the Premium like that tested starting at $32,500. Some dealers may have a 2023 but the 2024s may be available in some markets.

Is the GR86 Grrrr-eat? What's your definition of great? I think the GR86 is a fun car. You could buy one for your kid but why? Get one for yourself.


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