Take a spin in the redesigned-for-2022 Toyota GR86, and you’ll find out why it may just be the most fun-to-drive new car you can get for under $30,000. The GR86 has always been about “pure balance,” and that’s now easier to appreciate with its new, more powerful engine. With better engine output and agile handling, it’s a great all-rounder. I recently took a 1,300-mile road trip from Chicago to northern Wisconsin and put the GR86 through its paces. It didn’t disappoint – smooth acceleration, tight cornering, and an enjoyable ride made it one of the best small sports cars. Sure, it’s not the turbocharged four-cylinder we’ve been dreaming about for the past decade, but at this price, it does have the balance of performance and fun factor you’d expect.
So, if you’re looking for an exciting and entertaining ride without breaking the bank – the Toyota GR86 is the car for you.
The GR86 is a true sports car, offering exciting performance and great driving enjoyment. With two trim levels available, base and Premium, the latter adds a suite of features for an additional cost of $2,600.
When you choose the Premium trim level, you’ll gain access to various features and technologies, such as the rear duckbill spoiler, blind spot warning system, adaptive front headlights, and 18-inch wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 summer tires. The interior features simulated suede-trimmed seats with leather accents, an eight-speaker sound system, heated front seats, and aluminum sport pedals and footrests, making driving a truly superior experience.
The GR86 Premium trim offers great value and impressive performance – a sports car designed to take your driving experience to the next level.
The all-new GR86 delivers on the promise of the sports car driving experience with a 2.4-liter flat-four-cylinder engine, delivering impressive gains of 23 horsepower and 28 pounds-feet of torque. While these figures may sound insignificant, they make a huge difference considering its lightweight design of around 2,800 pounds. This means that each horsepower has less weight working against it.
The torque increase also kicks in at lower engine speeds, making the car feel much more responsive and lively than the previous generation, which required higher revs to achieve the same level of acceleration. This can easily be felt when driving on backroads, where the GR86 can maintain 3rd gear through winding turns between 3,500-4,500 rpm with effortless power and no need to downshift. For drivers looking for an agile and stirring sports car experience, the GR86 is a perfect choice.
The all-new GR86 is quicker and more responsive to the gas pedal than its predecessor, with improved tail wiggling when taking off from a standstill. And holders of the redline will be delighted to know that the engine still reaches its peak power of 7,000 rpm, providing an exciting driving experience. All this without compromising fuel economy – our calculations from a 1,300-mile journey with a manual-transmission GR86 averaged an impressive 29 mpg – a 2 mpg better figure than the EPA-estimated highway mileage of 27 mpg.
The GR86 remains true to its heritage, with a firm, uncompromising ride that offers no flexibility for comfort. We’ve experienced this before in our 2013 Subaru BRZ and, most recently, in the 2020 Toyota 86 GT with the TRD Handling Package. The road and wind noise are also notable, and even the optional sound system in the GR86 test car can’t completely silence the noise levels. While it may lack the fancy adjustable shock absorbers of models such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Hyundai Elantra N, the GR86 is an ideal choice for those searching for a traditional, no-frills driving experience.
Those familiar with the GR86’s previous incarnations will find the redesigned interior fittingly consistent with the economy-minded features of the car. Materials quality and fitment remain unchanged and provide great value for the sub-$30,000 price tag. The new digital instrument panel incorporates two views according to the selected drive mode, both of which have a classic, retro feel and display information necessary for quick gear changes. The adjustable rev indicator is also an extremely useful feature.
The all-new GR86 is finally offering advanced driver-assistance systems – an impressive feat. However, most of these life-saving systems are only available with the optional automatic transmission costing an additional $1,500. This package includes a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. If you’d prefer a manual transmission, cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Si offer lane departure and forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking. At the same time, the Hyundai Elantra N has the same features but not adaptive cruise control. Thankfully, a blind spot warning is also available with the manual transmission GR86.
The new 2023 GR86 brings a competitive price point to the sports car market with its $28,995 base price (all prices include destination) for the manual transmission, nearly $5,000 less than the Elantra N’s starting price of $33,745. Even more, savings are available by looking at what’s available in the marketplace: according to houstondirectauto.com’s November 2022 national inventory report, the median price of a new Elantra N was $3,227 higher than the Toyota GR86, coming in at $35,366 compared to the GR86’s $32,139 – or a difference of only $64 per month based on a 60-month loan with 7% interest.