December 11, 2023

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2023 Toyota GR86 review: Australian first drive

2023 Toyota GR86 review: Australian first drive

Ten years on from the original, Japanese manufacturer Toyota has launched the second-generation GR86 as a “true GR car”. Does the experience back up the claim?


What we love
  • Lively, raw driving character retained
  • Supportive seats cater to all bodies
  • Engine noise is better than its predecessor

What we don’t
  • Six-speed auto is slow to respond
  • Dramatic price rise
  • Misses out on key safety tech

Fans have been calling out for a more powerful Toyota 86 for the past 10 years, and while it’s not the turbocharged version of their dreams, the 2023 Toyota GR86 delivers more power, more technology, and fresh new looks for a second generation.

How much does the Toyota GR86 cost in Australia?

Yet, what they didn’t anticipate was a substantial price rise of more than $11,000 over its predecessor, and a starting price $2950 more than its near-identical Subaru BRZ alternative. Toyota says there’s enough difference under the skin compared to the latter – including changed springs, tweaked throttle response, and a tuned electric power steering system –  to charge more, and insists the pricing strategy reflects a “true GR car”.

But the GR86 has a starting price more expensive than all these options. This is despite the car missing out on important gear such as blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, performance tyres, and 18-inch wheels.

In any case, the GR86 GT kicks off the two-strong range from $43,240 before on-road costs with equipment including 17-inch machine-face alloy wheels, Torsen limited-slip differential, leather shift knob and steering wheel, fabric sports seats, keyless entry, and a six-speaker sound system.

Buyers keen on a bit more kit can upgrade to the $45,390 (plus ORCs) GR86 GTS model grade, which adds 18-inch black alloys, Ultrasuede and leather seats, aluminium sports pedals, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.

Common to both is a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine that sends 174kW and 250Nm to the rear wheels. Buyers have a choice between a six-speed manual transmission or an automatic, but it comes at no cost.

The Toyota 86 has always represented raw driving characteristics at a cut-rate price – whether it still manages to deliver on these core principles will be the focus of this review.

Key details 2023 Toyota GR86
Price From $43,240 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Ice Silver Metallic
Options None
Price as tested $43,240 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $47,973 (Sydney)
Rivals Mazda MX-5 | Subaru BRZ | Hyundai i20 N

How much space does the Toyota GR86 have inside?

The GR86’s cabin is as driver-focused and pared back as you would expect from a Toyota sports car. It all feels very familiar to the 86 of old in layout, feel, and presentation, though it does update the switchgear, some materials, and obviously the multimedia experience – though more on that soon.

Despite its entry-level sports car positioning, the GR86’s cabin feels well built and suitable for its price point. There’s not an overload of hard plastics, which is good to see in the entry-level variant, while upgrading to GTS spec gets you Ultrasuede and leather-upholstered seats and some nicer Ultrasuede trim on areas such as the door cards.

On the test loop, my passenger and I noted some quiet rattling coming from the passenger window – it’s very picky to mention on a short test loop, but definitely one to annoy if it were persistent. Here’s hoping it was a once-off on our tester.

The fabric sports seats feel nice and supportive – even for larger occupants – and there’s a snug amount of room to get cosy with. I’m 194cm tall and didn’t have too much trouble getting set up inside, though the heads of anyone taller might strike the roof, especially when wearing a helmet.

As before, the back seats are an emergencies-only-type scenario. There’s little to get excited about in the second row and passengers bigger than a child will find it a miserable time. That said, the rear bench does fold down to swallow up more stuff passed through from the boot cavity.

The 226L boot is popped open with a handy rubber nib under the badge, and according to Toyota you’ll be able to fit four spare wheels with the seats down (as long as you were skilled at Tetris).

2023 Toyota GR86
Seats Four
Boot volume 237L seats up
Length 4265mm
Width 1775mm
Height 1310mm
Wheelbase 2575mm

Does the Toyota GR86 have Apple CarPlay?

New for the 2023 GR86 is an 8.0-inch infotainment display that pairs with the 7.0-inch digital instrument display. Both screens are uniform across the two spec levels, which means budget buyers aren’t left out.

The system isn’t Toyota’s own, of which you might find in another Toyota such as the RAV4. It presents as more of an aftermarket solution, though functionality and ease of access are still easy to understand.

There are nicely spaced icons to switch between various menu systems and functions, and the screen doesn’t show any sort of lag in our experience. Toyota has stuck with physical dials and switches to control the air-conditioning and volume.

Wired Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is available for those keen on a familiar look.

Some settings and screens can be played with in the digital instrument cluster, but put the car in Track mode and the display changes to a linear tacho, which is a neat touch.

Is the Toyota GR86 a safe car?

Toyota has not had the 2023 GR86 ANCAP-tested and doesn’t intend to, citing its niche positioning as a barrier.

2023 Toyota GR86
ANCAP rating Untested

What safety technology does the Toyota GR86 have?

From the entry level, manual GR86 buyers make do with a paltry amount of active safety technology automatic buyers receive as standard. To add insult to injury, Toyota makes you pay the same for both transmissions.

What is there includes seven airbags, reversing camera, ABS, stability control, and hill-start assist.

Much like the Subaru BRZ, manual versions of the Toyota GR86 miss out on key advanced safety features, such as autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors, lane-departure alert and adaptive cruise control – which are standard on automatic models.

Available on GTS model grades is rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring.

Autonomous emergency braking will become mandatory in Australia for all newly introduced passenger vehicles from March 2023. The GR86’s launch this month means it will slide in by a matter of six months.

How much does the Toyota GR86 cost to maintain?

Compared to its predecessor, the Toyota GR86 has risen in price by a significant margin. It’s also worse equipped than its Subaru BRZ cousin, and disappointingly costs more as well.

It’s very difficult to construe this as good value. Compare it against the $37,990 (plus ORCs) Mazda MX-5, the $34,990 (plus ORCs) Hyundai i20 N, and $38,750 (plus ORCs) Volkswagen Polo GTI, and it also stacks up poorly in that company.

Toyota offers capped-price servicing for the first five years, with intervals every 12 months or 15,000km. Each of the first five services costs $280, taking five-year servicing costs out to $1400.

Toyota’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty applies, and extends to seven years on the engine and driveline.

Quoted insurance for the 2023 Toyota GR86 GT costs $1309 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2023 Toyota GR86
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $840 (3 years)
$1400 (5 years)

Is the Toyota GR86 fuel-efficient?

According to Toyota, an automatic GR86 GT returns a fuel consumption rating of 8.7L/100km on a combined cycle. On test, our car recorded an 8.5L/100km rating and beat Toyota’s claim.

There is a 50L fuel tank that requires a minimum of 98-octane fuel.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 8.7L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 8.5L/100km
Fuel type 98-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 50L

What is the 2023 Toyota GR86 like to drive?

While Toyota claims the 2023 GR86 is a vastly different car to the previous generation, it doesn’t feel as much behind the steering wheel – but that’s a good thing. Engineers have kept the aspects that make the GR86 driving experience so unique and enhanced areas that needed improvement.

Key above all – the driving engagement and character from the hot seat are still raw, uncomplicated, and continue to put a smile on your face.

The boost in outputs is more than welcome – power is bumped more than 20kW over the old car, and you no longer experience that dreaded mid-range torque dip as you rev the car out to its 7400rpm redline.

While you wouldn’t call it strong, there’s a perky pull to the GR86’s powertrain that’ll shoot the car between corners. It’s still not a fast car by today’s turbocharged standards, but that’s not what the GR86 experience is about. Its approachable outputs are easily deployed onto the bitumen, even with the entry-level car’s 215mm-wide Michelin Primacy tyres.

GTS owners get Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres that offer more grip, but there still remains a finite level of grip. For those really keen on getting the most out of their car on a track day, wider wheels might be in order.

In-gear acceleration is quick to respond to sudden throttle prods, though the six-speed automatic we drove isn’t the easiest transmission to gel with. You’re much better placed to shift yourself using the steering-wheel-mounted paddles than leave the gearbox to its own devices.

In any case, the manual transmission is the one you want. The shift experience is nice and notchy, and results in a satisfying clunk when you slot it into gear. The throw is also short.

Chief engineer Yasunori Suezawa stated there were three main differences between this car’s driving experience and the Subaru BRZ’s. This includes tweaked suspension with new springs, a refined acceleration response, and a new tune for the electric power steering system. According to Toyota, these enhancements make the GR86 feel like a true GR car.

While I can’t say I’ve driven a BRZ as yet, I find it hard to believe there’s that much difference between the two in these minute changes – perhaps it calls for a comparison between the two to explore the differences.

On-track, the GR86 feels lively and fun no matter your skill level. It also offers an excellent test bed for both your own abilities, as well as any modifications you may add. The brakes offer strong bite coming into corners, and the light rear end rotates around playfully as you progress through the corner and out the other side.

The steering feel is just the right amount of twitchy and results in a quick change of direction. You also get a good feel of the grip levels, and the tactility of the surface underneath.

On the road, the GR86 delivers a firm ride, with occupants jumped about inside the cabin over sustained dips. It doesn’t stoop to the levels of feeling uncomfortable, though, and the impacts of road imperfections aren’t hard-edged like you might experience in some hot hatches.

Like its predecessor, the rear end does feel flighty and skittish when going over mid-corner bumps, but there’s little experience of body roll as the car stays nice and flat through bends.

Unlike its predecessor that piped laughable fake induction noise through to the cabin, this GR86’s aural character better pairs with the engine and adds to the overall experience.

No matter what setting you drive the GR86 – on-road or on-track – the GR86 still delivers a sharp driving experience that places fun over all other factors.

Key details 2023 Toyota GR86
Engine 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power 174kW @ 7000rpm
Torque 250Nm @ 3700rpm
Drive type Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Six-speed manual or six-speed torque converter automatic
Power to weight ratio 135–133kW/t
Weight (kerb) 1287–1308kg
Spare tyre type Tyre repair kit

Should I buy a Toyota GR86?

In all, the 2023 Toyota GR86 is as fun as it ever was – perhaps even more so with beefier outputs and updated tech.

But whereas the previous generation was a sports car for the everyman at a bargain-basement price, this new generation will only come in limited numbers (over the first 12 months), pinches on equipment, and charges a substantially higher price than before (and its rivals).

It’s a joy to drive both on-road and at a track day, and is comfortable enough every day with all the niceties you’d want in a daily driver.

However, you’d have to really want a Toyota badge on the bonnet in order to pick this over the Subaru BRZ.

Ratings Breakdown

Toyota 86

7.4/ 10

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Infotainment & Connectivity

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned that journalists got the better end of the deal. He began with CarAdvice in 2014, left in 2017 to join Bauer Media titles including Wheels and WhichCar and subsequently returned to CarAdvice in early 2021 during its transition to Drive.

As part of the Drive content team, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

He understands that every car buyer is unique and has varying requirements when it comes to buying a new car, but equally, there’s also a loyal subset of Drive audience that loves entertaining enthusiast content.

Tom holds a deep respect for all things automotive no matter the model, priding himself on noticing the subtle things that make each car tick. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t learn something new in an everchanging industry, which is then imparted to the Drive reader base.

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