2022 Toyota GR 86 First Drive Review: Don’t Let This Sexy Little Sports Car Fool You: It’s Fun, Fast and Affordable

Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car
Photo: Jill Ciminillo

The Toyota GR 86 performs as good as it looks, and it looks really good.  

Sometimes I like to get behind the wheel and just drive. I turn off the music, open the windows, and listen to the rumble of the engine as it filters into the cabin. It’s “me” time, and taking it in a fun-to-drive car such as the 2022 Toyota GR 86, in your choice of manual or automatic transmission, soothes the soul.

To be clear: This two door four-seat sports coupe from Toyota, recently redesigned for the next generation, isn’t a family car. Frankly, it probably wouldn’t make a very good road-trip car with just 6.26 cubic-feet of cargo space.

But it scores high points when it comes to looks. The GR 86’s elegant shape and swooping roof makes it right at home next to the Ford Mustang, Nissan 370Z and Mazda Miata, and even the pricier and more sophisticated Toyota Supra. On a fun-to-drive scale, it would make a great daily driver for someone who wants a little zip in her day — without breaking the bank.

Proof? The base price of the GR 86 is $27,700, with the high-end Premium AT starting at $31,800. This does not include Dealership Handling and Processing fees.

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@jillciminilloReply to @21gmcterrain base vs premium interior #Toyota #GR86 #toyotagr86 #cardujour♬ original sound – Jill Ciminillo

Sassy and affordable

There are two two well-equipped, fun-to-drive trims — and both are available with either a manual or automatic transmission.
GR 86: includes 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-leveling dual-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, 6-way adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, passive entry, push-buttons tart, leather-wrapped steering wheel, brake lever and shift knob.
GR 86 Premium: adds 18-inch alloy wheels, duckbill rear spoiler, contrast stitching, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive front headlight system, two-stage heated front seats, front bucket seats with leather trimmed bolsters and Alcantara inserts, aluminum sport pedals.

Handling that Soothes the Soul

During our test drive, Toyota took us out to Monticello Motor Club, a members-only country club track in New York. It is a technical course with a few kinks, a nice straightaway, and a couple of hairpin turns, providing plenty of opportunity to get a sense of how the GR 86 handles.
It was somewhere around my 10th lap that I finally felt confident enough to let the tail hang out a bit on the corners, increasing speed and letting the vehicle slide, just a little.
There’s something cathartic in that moment as the laughter bubbles up, the tires catch, and the vehicle shoots forward. It’s like all my worries were left as tire marks on the pavement.
We had the opportunity to test both the 2020 models and the new 2022s back-to-back, as well as the manual and automatic transmissions of both.

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Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car

This sports car may not be your errand-runner, but it’ll absolutely have you smiling from ear to ear. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Gazoo Racing Gives the 86 it’s Track Cred

While the first generation 86 does a bang-up job on the track, the all-new GR 86 is tighter, faster, and sounds better. “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, Toyota’s partner in developing performance and race cars, and the team has had a hand in tuning the GR 86 for the track. You’ll feel it in the GR 86’s 228 horsepower and peak torque, which hits at about 3,700 RPM (versus 205 HP and a peak torque range of of 6,600 RPM in the 86), so in addition to a quicker throttle response, the GR 86’s engine doesn’t sound like it’s going to poop out at any moment under hard acceleration.
And, everything is just smoother. The manual transmission is easier to shift, and the automatic does a better job of shifting for optimal performance. So, whether you prefer to shift yourself or let the car do all the work, both transmissions are really good.

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Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car

The Toyota GR 86 infotainment system doesn’t add any frills it doesn’t need. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Comforting Interior Details That Let You Focus on the Drive

The GR 86 isn’t a luxury car, so you won’t see Nappa leather or etched details around the cup holders. But what you do get is intuitive simplicity and all the functionality you need.
The interior is completely revamped for 2022, and though some might call it basic, it’s functional and attractive if you look at it from the perspective that this car is more focused on what you need for your drive than posh details.
The command center is intuitively laid out with a larger touchscreen infotainment system. There are hard buttons and dials for audio as well as the climate control system, and the dials have patterned edges, which sparkle in the sunlight.
The toggle switches for climate control look great, and the GR emblem on the push-button start is a nice touch. The seats – whether you opt for the base trim with cloth or the Premium with a suede-and-leather mix – are attractively stitched, well bolstered, and really comfortable.
Another nice detail: Toyota made sure all the frequently touched points, such as steering wheel, shift knob, and brake handle, are ensconced in leather.

A Bit of Tech Fun Enhances the Experience

One of the coolest tech features on the GR 86 is something you’ll notice after you hit the push button start – it’s the spinning welcome animation on the behind the wheel gauges. The digital gauge cluster itself is simple and well done, changing slightly depending on whether you’re in normal, sport or track modes.
Though the infotainment system doesn’t have the latest graphics or look like a cool new video game, it’s functional, relatively fast, and has standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto – which is something the previous generation didn’t have.
Another great tech feature on the GR 86 involves the climate control and what I like to call a marriage saver: Should you ever decide to let your significant other ride shotgun, you can rest assured he won’t mess with your ideal temperature environment too much because he’ll have his own set of controls with the dual climate control feature. While there aren’t cooled seats in the GR 86, there are heated ones on the Premium trim, and, well, I tend to use those year-round.
The only thing missing to make me completely happy: a heated steering wheel.
There’s one more new item worth noting on the tech side. In addition to LED front and rear lights, the Premium trim now comes with adaptive headlights, which means they move as your steering wheel moves – a nice feature for navigating curvy roads at night.
Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car

The interior may not be anything to write home about, but Toyota added leather to all the touch points: aka, where it matters most. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

A Few Words About Safety

Like all other Toyota models, the GR 86 comes with a whole suite of standard safety features. Kind of. I say that because most of the safety tech is only available on vehicles with the automatic transmission. So, things such as adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are not available with the manual.
Similarly, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available on all vehicles, but reverse automatic braking is only available, again, on vehicles with the automatic. I find that to be a little weird, but that’s how it is.

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Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car

Classic Toyota looks with a classic Toyota price. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Toyota 86: A Collab with Subaru

This sporty little coupe is possible because of a collaboration with Subaru, who builds a similar rear-wheel-drive number called the BRZ. The collab gives both companies a way to provide a beautifully shaped, fun to drive sports car amid lineups of popular sedans and SUVs, and, in Toyota’s case, trucks. And we’ll be clear here: A lot of the underpinnings in the 86 are from Subaru, not Toyota – that includes the outdated infotainment system as well as the 228-horsepower 2.4-liter Boxer engine.
However, you’ll see visible differences in the areas of badging, grille, side mirrors and the duck bill spoiler. The not-so-visible differences include different springs and steering tuning.
Collaborations aren’t new in the automotive world, and if they make fun vehicles more accessible from more brands, I’ll consider that a win. But, if you have a thing against Subaru, you should know the GR 86 is basically a Subaru with some Toyota tweaks thrown in.
Toyota Gr 86 Sports Car

Short girls, rejoice: the compact nature of the GR 86 means we can fit inside, no problem. Photo: Jill Ciminillo

Summing It Up: The 2022 Toyota GR 86 Shines

The tough thing about a first drive is you don’t have enough time to learn all the nuances of a vehicle – good and bad. So, right now, the impression is overwhelmingly favorable because Toyota put the GR 86 in an environment where it would shine: on a racetrack.
I can’t tell you how it performs on the road or how it handles over potholes, but I can tell you it looks good, feels comfortable to sit in and handles incredibly well under aggressive driving maneuvers.
In essence, it’s my kind of car. And if you get a thrill passing slow cars in traffic or taking off quickly from a stop light, it could be your kind of car, too.
Disclosure: Toyota invited me to drive the 2022 GR 86 for the day; travel and accommodations were provided. All opinions are my own.

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