By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 9.3
With Scion gone, its flagship FR-S sports car becomes the 2017 Toyota 86. The "86" name is an homage to the car's spiritual ancestor, the mid-1980s’ Toyota Corolla GT-S, affectionately known to fans by its internal model designation, AE86, or "hachiroku" in Japanese. The car is largely unchanged, with a few nods here and there to keep it current with newer cars like the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Improvements to the suspension and a slight bump in power keep the Toyota 86 fun to drive, and that's really the whole point, after all. The 205-horsepower 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission combine with the lightweight and nimble chassis for a driving experience that, while maybe not an every-day pleasure, is sure fun when you want it to be.
The 2017 Toyota 86 has two jobs. First, it's to be fun to drive, either on track days or your favorite mountain road, and at that it continues to excel as it has since its introduction. The second, unofficial role is to make Toyota a "fun" brand again.
The 86 isn't straight-line fast, so it's not for muscle-car fans. Also note that while it looks cool, this is not a car for the faint of heart; it's loud at speed, the suspension is stiff, and it's not a very enjoyable daily driver, unless your daily drive involves a racetrack.
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In addition to a bunch of "Toyota" and "86" badges, the 2017 Toyota 86 gets a new grille, new rear end, and a very slightly altered interior that includes a new steering wheel with audio-system controls. Suspension revisions and a slight horsepower bump for manual-transmission models round out the changes.
With an extra five horsepower in manual models and a new rear differential, the 2017 Toyota 86 should be a bit quicker than its predecessor FR-S, although you'll need a...
... stopwatch to tell the difference. The suspension changes are the same; on a mountain road, the new 86 didn't feel much different from the last FR-S. The good news is that it doesn't matter, as the 86 is still a quick, lightweight and genuinely fun sports car that should make any driving enthusiast happy. It has a tossability that's rare in today's cars, and although it's not very fast, the taut suspension lets you carry speed into a corner unlike nearly anything at its price point. Yes, it's still a noisy commuter, and yes, the manual transmission is a little balky. But for the enthusiasts looking for an affordable track-day superstar, the Toyota 86 is still a tough act to beat.
COMMITMENT TO FUN
Toyotas are known for their broad appeal, which enthusiasts say waters down the driving experience. So the fact that the 2017 Toyota 86 is fun to drive on a track or winding road, and something of a hassle the rest of the time, is actually pretty cool.
TORSEN LIMITED-SLIP DIFFERENTIAL
Handling isn't just the work of suspension, and the Toyota 86 must credit some of its tossability to the Torsen limited-slip differential. It sends power to the rear wheel that can use it the best in turns, ensuring extra grip and safe passage through sharp corners.
The 2017 Toyota 86 is not a roomy car, but as long as you ignore the rear seats -- as well you should, since they're tiny -- there's plenty of room for two. You won't have a lot of room to spare, but there's enough headroom and legroom, and just enough storage nooks to keep all your stuff from sliding everywhere. The stitching on the door panels is now silver, and it's on a faux-suede material as well that's pretty nice. The steering wheel is 3 millimeters smaller, but the bigger news is that it FINALLY has integrated audio controls.
Don't think of the Toyota 86 as "small." Instead, it's exactly as big as it needs to be, and no bigger. Under the long hood is a low-to-the-ground engine, sucking air through a redesigned grille opening. The extra-low stance is meant to recall the legendary Toyota 2000GT, as does the profile. But we mainly like the simplicity. There aren't giant wings or obtuse flares over the fenders. Instead, the low-slung shape, wide stance, and tidy proportions all convey the essence of the car's performance without ostentation. But don't worry; an ample aftermarket can supply those accessories if you're so inclined.
This may be the easiest car to buy in Toyota's lineup. The only trim level includes air conditioning, cruise control, one-touch power windows, power mirrors and door locks. There are also 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a touch-screen audio system that includes a rearview camera, plus auxiliary and USB inputs. The standard transmission -- and one you should stick with -- is a 6-speed manual. For safety, the Toyota 86 features stability control, traction control, six airbags and Smart Stop, a feature that cuts engine power if the brake and throttle pedals are pressed at the same time.
The only factory option, beyond color choice, is the 6-speed automatic transmission, a pretty good unit that includes steering-wheel-mounted paddles for rev-matching downshifts. Still, stick with the stick. Other factory options are listed as accessories, and include an upgraded audio system with navigation. For enthusiasts, the real news is the extensive list of TRD performance gear you can add, including lowering springs, a quick-shift kit, anti-roll bars and more, all while keeping the factory warranty.
The only engine is a 2.0-liter horizontally opposed 4-cylinder engine, putting out either 205 horsepower in manual-transmission cars, or 200 with the automatic. The upgraded engine in manual cars gets a flatter torque curve as well, helping improve responsiveness. "Horizontally opposed" means the cylinders are parallel to the ground, lowering the center of gravity and helping the Toyota 86 feel more nimble. Those thinking of the TRD shift kit may like the shorter throws, but we think it hurts the overall feel. And skip the 6-speed automatic; the paddle shifters are fine, and you get slightly better fuel economy, but the 86 is simply more fun to drive with the manual. Some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy numbers due to changes in EPA testing.
2.0-liter flat-4 (manual transmission)
205 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
156 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 mpg
2.0-liter flat-4 (automatic transmission)
200 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm
151 lb-ft of torque @ 6,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 24/32 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
Prices for the 2017 Toyota 86 jump off with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $27,500 when you include the $865 destination charge. Throw in about $900 for the navigation system, and note that the automatic transmission only adds $730 to the price, although you should still skip it. It makes the little Toyota sports car easily competitive with the Mazda Miata, and even low-end models of the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang, although the last two aren't nearly as fun to drive. Whatever you do, check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their 2017 Toyota 86. When it was called a Scion FR-S it held its value well, and we expect the Toyota 86 to do the same.