First drive: Toyota 86 2012 at Yas Marina Abu Dhabi

First drive: Toyota 86 2012 at Yas Marina Abu Dhabi

Wait, it’s here? It took long enough, but the Toyota 86 has finally landed in the Middle East. In what has been hailed as the Japanese company’s game-changer, the 86 was officially launched in the GCC, at an event in Abu Dhabi.

This is probably the most lavish event we’ve ever been to for a Toyota. With a fancy 3D light show, all-expenses-paid hotel stay at the Yas Viceroy, and free Samsung Galaxy Tabs for all guests, they went all-out for what is pretty much a niche product. Not even the new Camry got this much fanfare.

The car itself is a looker, sort of like a smaller Hyundai Genesis Coupe, but cooler. With the Honda S2000 out of production and the Mazda MX-5 overpriced, the 86 is in a league of its own, unless one counts the Ford Mustang V6 and the VW Scirocco as competitors. It is a two-seater with two useless rear seats. The interior is largely hard plastics, but with strategic areas padded with stitched leatherette and a soft-touch upper dash.

We started off the afternoon with some ride-along drifting sessions with professional drivers. Watching the cars being drifted confirmed what we had suspected. With 200 hp and only 205 Nm of torque from the high-strung 2.0-litre four-banger, the drivers were throwing the cars into drifts by flicking the car in one direction and then the other to unsettle the rear, then piling on the power in second gear. The drifts don’t appear smoky or speedy by any means, but they manage. However, amateur drivers could never break traction as easily as they would with, say, a V8 muscle car. It takes a fair bit of advanced skill to get a low-powered car sideways.

We then jumped to the skidpad for some real drive-time. The setup involved driving through a mini-slalom course on a layer of water, and we got to try it first with ESC on, then ESC in sport mode, and ESC fully off. The car was unflappable with the electronic nannies on. With it partially off, the car actually went way more sideways, but it was easy enough to catch. With all the nannies off, the car was expectedly even more tail-happy, so we were going sideways at nearly 90-degrees, all at speeds of maybe 10 kph or less. Again, it was easy to catch the slide thanks to the sharp firm steering.

After everyone was done, we actually went back to the skidpad to try drifting the car around some cones. The last time we actually managed to do some half-decent drifts was half-a-decade ago with a 300 hp car, but have hardly tried since then due to it being, you know, illegal. So we took this opportunity to try again after so long, using a 200 hp car. After going through the water-slide many times, ESC fully off, it was again easy to catch the slide with quick steering, spinning out only once in several low-speed runs.

Coming out of the water, we then headed straight for some cones set in a very small circle and attempted to do some drifts on dry land around that. With the manually-shiftable automatic in first gear, we broke traction for the first 5 seconds with the wet tyres, but after that the rubbers dried up and the car simply turned and mildly understeered no matter how much we piled on the power. I didn’t yank the handbrake because there was a chaperone in the passenger seat watching over me, but it is safe to say it takes some solid momentum to swing that tail out.

The final activity was the much-awaited track session, where we drove in convoy, chasing an instructor-driven Toyota Aurion Sport around a section of the Yas Marina Circuit, that too with the ESC in sport mode. The 86 proved itself to be every bit the sports car that its creator claim. The engine sounds phenomenal, even with its puny Yaris-inspired exhaust tips. The steering is as firm and sharp as any other proper sports car we’ve driven. The brakes were surprisingly capable, even if they look small, with great firm pedal feel. The body roll, whatever there is of it, isn’t noticeable from inside the car. The grip seemed good, although it was still easy to reach the limit and squeal the rubbers, sometimes even wagging the tail by a few . The automatic gearbox was good at selecting the right gears, downshifting quickly by itself as we braked into corners, much better than the ignorant ones in Mercedes-Benz AMG cars we drove last month on the same track.

The car seemed to have good power for the track, but it only became glaringly obvious that it had “only” 200 horses when the 268 hp Aurion left us in the dust on the straights. It remains to be seen how obvious this is on the streets.

Indeed, the 86 has proven itself to be a proper track car, but the real test will be on public roads, where the terrain isn’t buttery smooth, and the corners aren’t always linearly curving. Don’t kid yourself though. It won’t win any street races, it won’t make drift champions out of novices, and it won’t outrun that Porsche Cayman that Toyota claims they benchmarked it against. This is just Toyota’s version of cars that already exist, such as the Honda S2000 and the Mazda MX-5. However, the fact that we’re even mentioned all these cars in an article about a Toyota product, and that too at a competitive price, is reason enough to celebrate.

What do you think?



  1. I believe Mazda RX-8 is more stronger and attractice than this Toyota crap.

  2. its a nice but not a racing car, and the interior sucks big time !

  3. Just a Copy of the SUBARU BRZ :S
    It’s the Fake one 🙂

    • @nabil: the car was jointly developed by Subaru and Toyota hence the car is the same as the brz. It will be sold by either Toyota or Subaru In any market.

    • For me i will go to get it from subaru rather than Toyota wish is now a chinese name for my and form many …. It’s subaru original idea not toyota and a boxer engine wish subaru owns 😀

      Subaru Subaru Subaru
      Guys plz before any one talk here about subaru and what subaru is try to drive both Impreza and carolla go drive legacy and camry or aurion and after you will know what subaru realy mean and what toyota realy is about

    • After doing so you will know who real made that car 🙂

    • I have driven the Legacy, the Impreza (manual 1.6), corolla, aurion and the Camry…Legacy will be anyday more likeable than any of the Toyotas, handles nicely, awd is great which can send all power to just one wheel if only tat has traction and ofcorz, the feel! Impreza is in the same league, but is slower than the running speed of an average human, Camry, Aurion and Corolla are all fairly fast for their league, but they are just meant to be comfortable and reliable family haulers and nothing more (not sure about the new Aurion btw). But the diff is when one of these break down and requires part replacement – thats when the Subaru guy cries and the Toyota guy will have the last laugh!

    • and btw, hav u ever heard of the Supra, AE86, Celica, Chaser etc etc?? so Toyota has a good history with sports cars too.

    • Man I’m Saudi that mean for sure i heard about that cars coz we are no.1 toyota fanz around the world and i droved a supra
      But also i’m big subaru fan and i own WRX non.STI 2009 and a 2008 legacy and i’m sure from what i;m saying yes there are big problems with spare parts in the middle east but also subaru is no.1 japens car over the world 🙂

  4. i like the styling..but performance wise..its no good.. if its a toyota it will sell.. but all in all.. im not impressed..they could have done better.. cant wait for the K9 Kia

  5. If it only had more power,it would’ve been a STUNNER.Good car though.

  6. Question is how does it compare to the Honda S2000?

  7. I like the rear of the car, it looks cool. But the front looks like hyundai coupe to me. Im not impressed by the design.
    I belive tha last model of Celica had more wow factor.

  8. Ok.
    Price wise it’s over priced around 10 – 20 % which is ok for Toyota they do this here for all models. Look at the presentation boys, they gave to pay for all these stuff.
    Driving Exp: handling is the first feature of the car.
    Style interior: it’s stylish if you buy full version otherwise a cabin made of hard black plastic for 95k AED. Yaris had better than this. Save 40k AED. For interior has more value because you will be inside and have to see it all the time.
    Style Exterior: very nice, kool, awesome even the alloys are nice, what if they could have put some cuts on front like new charger….
    Multimedia: is just ok, good thing is Bluetooth is there.

    Now with respect to UAE and me, you should have power for your cars because roads are more straight here, what you will do with this car, will not support you when a normal camry will cross you or some charger, mustang, camaro even the Golf GTI’s cross you and you still pushing the race paddle. Yes you need to call all of them to jabel hafeet to show them you stuntants. Although price wise it’s there in comparison with
    1. Mustang V6 – Full Option I think.
    2. Genesis Coupe – Full option
    3. Camaro V6 – Basic but has power
    4. Challenger V6 – Full classic
    5. Golf GTI’S – for Europe or neighbour countries
    6. This Toyota 86 – Thanks you can buy its full option

    Decide wisely or take test drive for all of these and see what car is for you.

  9. looks good except for undai front looks and why would they put extra horses in the over done ugly saloon aurion compared to this coupe?,anyways s2000 sill remains the top dog

  10. Well, toyota should be ashamed of itself on launching this car. They should’ve made the car themselves instead of borrowing technology from Subaru which in the end proves that the leader is Subaru in vehicle technology. What else, I just saw some amazing ads of Subaru XV in the newspaper. There is a huge difference in how Subaru markets it’s vehicles in comparison with Toyota. Subaru knows it’s loyals, unlike Toyota.

    • the ignorance in this post is astounding. it’s like people just make up their own facts as they go along.

    • Man you are great and you got to the point i talked about on my last post here Toyota is now just doing like chinese technology
      I don’t know why the guys here in that web is so loved with Toyotas they remember me with the “Pedwan” guys over here in ksa :S

  11. Hi Mashfique,

    Can you please describe the ride quality of this vehicle. Where would you scale it 1 to 10? When 1 being comfy and 10 being sporty.

    Thanks for reading!

    • Author

      Everything rides smoothly on Yas circuit.

    • Thanks for answering! One more question if you don’t mind.

      Online reviewers have been raving about the automatic shifter giving quick response. And you drove both auto and manual at Yas Circuit.

      Which one did you find better? Auto or manual?

      Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury
      June 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Everything rides smoothly on Yas circuit.

    • Author

      Only drove the automatic. The pro drifters drove the manual. Didn’t bother shifting gears, although another journo said it was slow in manual mode.

    • Thanks for your replies. Great website. Keep up the good work!

  12. For those in denial (read: hating) on this car.

    Go ahead, read this article from start to finish.

  13. Its a basic platform for fans to go wild with… but to make it accessible to all they had to put a puny engine in it, keeps the price low, and yet inline with ‘most’ of its competition, mustangs obviously not included.

    But maybe in 4-5 years there will be such a variety of things to make your F/G/T-86 unique and faster… that would be nice.

    Someone already modded it and put an LFA engine in it… youtube it.

    • It is good enough for an entry level sports car. Very basic and simple; this is how I like a sports car to be.

      The power output is sufficient to get it going but not too powerful to the extent of sending you crashing on corners or wearing off your tires quickly.. This is an advantage many people disregard in a classical sports car. Not to mention the well balanced chassis.. I would say its affordable daily driver and a weekend track car.

      The styling looks a bit anonymous and conservative but I don’t really bother.

      If you are looking for straight line power then this car is not meant for you. This is more of a back to basics sports car.

  14. There is way too much ignorance on this page I agree with the previous post.. people need to educate themselves on driving, please read motor trend and car and driver online. Motor Trend has a great comparison of this and the BRZ, GTI, Mustang, and Genesis. The BRZ won with the 86 a close second (its a scion FR-S in the US).
    For anyone that loves driving, the following is a code of ethics:
    – Handling first.. ALWAYS!
    – I don’t buy it unless it has 3 pedals
    – Interior is not a top priority

    ..therefore this car is a true purists must have. For people who think straight line acceleration is the defining statistic, I feel sorry for you, you just don’t get it. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these!

  15. I am a big muscle car fan…but I have to admit…this does appeal to me very much!

    • Same thoughts over here. I was in line to acquire the 2013 Mustang. But I’d been a fan of the 86 from even before I’d know muscle cars. I wasn’t sure if the 86 would ever hit our shores.

      Much to my surprise it was in Dubai before its launch in UK/AUS and some parts of USA. It is a beautiful car. With the promise of economical tune ups and after market accessories. I settled myself with 86.

      Not to mention the 2013 Mustang is now 12K higher in price than the outgoing model. But comparing this car to Mustang would be like comparing apples to oranges. Two different leagues.

  16. Mohamed Nabil@
    mr its not copy of subaru BRZ
    toyota owns a 20%shares of subaru
    its designed by toyota n its having 2.0 subaru boxer
    engine in it same as in impreza sti
    its also named Scion FR-S in america
    toyota is the parent company of scion also

    • Man i’m not totally sure about what you are saying but my impreza WRX non.STI is 2.5T
      And the impreza WRX STI is also 2.5T
      so how you are saying “its having 2.0 subaru boxer
      engine in it same as in impreza sti” ??!!??
      Are you saying any thing you just want to do a comment !!

  17. Mohamed Nabil@
    first check da car bro
    then u understand my comment ok

  18. Hi Mashfique,

    As the price is similar, how it compares to the RCZ?

    Mostly on looks, quality and for an everyday car.

    Thanks! (nice new look for the website 🙂 )

  19. I wouldn’t pay around 125K for this crap.
    4 Cylinders 2 litres 200 hp is all what Toyota could do? If my budget is around 125K I would rather go with any American masterpiece, like the Mustang or the Charger.

  20. from all the toyota gt 86 reviews ive seen, this one has been the most rubbish.these guys are a joke.

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