Five days with a modified GT86…


Being a motoring journalist is a funny old thing. Sometimes you get asked to drive cars you’d never expect, a modified Toyota GT86 being one of them. But what was this unexpected machine like?

“There are three Toyota GT86s, but we need a driver for the third to bring it to Japfest at Silverstone. You’ll get the car for five days if you’re up for it?”

An intriguing proposition, and given that I’d never before driven a GT86, I jumped at the chance. However, I jumped at it without really thinking about anyone or anything else. But you would, wouldn’t you? Much-lauded sportscar for a week? No strings attached. Yeah, you know you would do as I did and blindly answer with a somewhat overenthusiastic yes.

The GT86 in question belongs to Toyota UK and as you have probably guessed by looking at the pictures, it is not exactly standard. It’s not full on Fast and Furious, mind. I won’t be robbing any trucks of their DVD players anytime soon.

It’s actually one of three Le Mans tribute cars, hence the Casio livery/wrap. This appealed to me greatly, as I collect Casio watches. The nerd in me giggled like an anime schoolgirl at the prospect of driving a car emblazoned with said logo. It’s not just a wrap though. It’s also been lowered via a set of springs, and it’s running on 18-inch Rota alloys. Well sick, as the kids say. Oh, and there’s a full Magnex exhaust system, too.

What did I make of it then? At first, I was utterly besotted with it. Some people would look at the graphics and immediately retreat. Not me. I like a visually loud car, so this watchmaker special is right up my strasse. It’s also audibly loud, too. The Magnex exhaust is the perfect fit for this car, and if you have an ’86, I would be more than keen to suggest you get one. There are no pops and bangs, but there is a great, sporty note as you push through the six gears. I was worried I’d get Subarutinnitus what with this being a Subaru boxer engine, which comes from prolonged motorway drives and a droning exhaust. Happily, that wasn’t the case. The Magnex shuts up on the motorway.

By the time I got home after 120 miles, I was still enamoured with it. Even more so when I picked my daughter up from her comp and became the coolest dad ever. Some serious bonus points for me there. However, the shine started to wear off ever so slightly.

This is very much an isolated complaint, as you won’t buy one that’s wrapped in such a way. And you shouldn’t, because every berk in a hot hatch tries to race you. Every. Single. One. Or they nearly crash into you while trying to get a shot for the ‘gram. Cretins.

A few days in, I got to put some proper mileage on the GT86 and the love returned. The power delivery is so smooth, the progression through the gears is a delight and even a big lump like me can find a decent driving position. I was driving along genuinely pondering on whether or not I should get one. Then I’d hit a bump in the road and immediately decide that no, I didn’t want one.

Again, this is an isolated complaint, but also a warning to other owners or potential owners. Do not, for the love of god, drop it on lowering springs. The shocks clearly don’t like it, and they tell you as much by compressing your spine every time you hit a bump. And also, don’t put it on 18-inch wheels with rubber-band tyres. They look good, but they only serve to amplify the suspension’s complaints.

A friend, Lee, brought his GT86 out to play. It sits on proper coilovers and 17-inch alloys, the tyres boast ample sidewall. It’s so much better. The GT86 needs a bit of give, a bit of lean, a bit of flex. To have that, the car comes alive even more and the driving experience becomes all the more richer.

Despite the foibles of this particular car, the GT86 was handed back to Toyota with a sense of sadness. It is a tremendously fun car. For me, it had just the right amount of power, it wasn’t horrendous on fuel (44.5mpg avg for my week), it was an absolute hoot to throw around and it made me smile every time I was in it.

And what’s most impressive for the GT86 is that fact that even though one has been, in my opinion, modified to its detriment, the car at the core of it still shone through and won me over. And that’s special.