2023 toyota gr86 gts review

2023 Toyota GR86 Review

No affordable sportscar has come close to holding the Toyota 86’s crown in the last decade. And while a midlife price hike threw a spanner in the works for journalists at this year’s media launch, there was one thing that we all agreed on… it’s still one of the best driving experiences you can get for under $50,000 AUD.

It’s a car you’ll struggle to criticise in today’s day and age for a few simple reasons; it’s rear-wheel drive, has a limited-slip differential, manual transmission, and a naturally aspirated engine with revs and a decent note.

We recently had the chance to fly down to Melbourne and wring the neck of the 2023 Toyota GR86 in auto and manual varieties at the Phillip Island GP Circuit. While it was our first chance to put the cars through a significant test on the track, we also had a chance to drive the cars on the street through some of Melbourne’s best driving roads.

2023 toyota gr86 shoud you buy
Image: Toyota

2023 Toyota GR86 at a Glance

Let’s check out the highs and lows of the new car.

High Point Low Point Verdict
It’s as simple as this… you’re driving a rear-wheel drive sports car with a naturally aspirated engine, limited slip differential, and manual transmission. Compromises include road noise, general lack of space, lack of modern safety equipment on the manual, and an $11,000 AUD price increase over the last generation car. While the price has risen by a substantial amount, the fact we even have this car to buy in 2022 is such a blessing. One of the best driving experiences money can buy has been improved dramatically with the new engine.

The Toyota 86 nameplate has been around for the better part of a 40-years and the formula has stayed relatively the same throughout its history. Create a lightweight sportscar that’s less about power and all about the pure driving experience. At face value, it’s a rear-wheel drive sports car with a naturally aspirated engine, limited slip differential, and manual transmission. Subaru takes care of the engine while Toyota works on the chassis and handling, and they combine their genius to create one of the best cars for under $50,000 AUD.

New for 2023 is a larger displacement 2.4-litre Boxer engine, a shmick interior with refreshed infotainment, ultra-suede and leather seats in the GTS, and a host of technical changes that have refined the driving experiences. Gone is the affordable price point of $29,990 as the new 2023 Toyota GR86 is priced from $43,240 before on-road costs. The GTS model will run that figure up to $45,390 before on-roads and you’ll get 18-inch black alloys, Ultrasuede and leather seats, aluminium sports pedals, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.

Its new price point now pips it against the Hyundai i20 N, Volkswagen Polo GTI, Mazda MX-5, and sibling Subaru BRZ. The choice then is simple… if you need the extra space and doors, consider the Polo GTI. If you want a hardcore hot hatch for pennies, think about the i20N. And if you want a roadster, well, there’s the Mazda MX-5. You’ll then be stuck choosing between the Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 where availability, choice of styling, and badge games come into play. You’ll get the same experience in both.

Related: Toyota’s Specialty Tuner Throws Full Parts Catalogue at the New GR 86

2023 toyota gr86 on road
Image: Toyota

What Powers the 2023 Toyota GR86?

  2023 Toyota GR86 Performance Figures
Engine 2.4-litre 4-cylinder boxer
Power 174kW
Torque 250Nm
Acceleration 0-100 km/h in 6.1 seconds

The engine is where the new Toyota GR86 stands out from its predecessor. Subaru has increased the capacity to 2.4-litres (up from 2.0-litres) and removed the pesky torque dip that you’d get in the previous generation. The engine now sends 174kW and 250Nm to the rear wheels only via either a six-speed manual transmission or automatic at no extra cost (more on that later).

Related: Toyota GR Corolla ‘Morizo’ Track Special Unveiled

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2023 toyota gr86 on track 2
Image: Toyota

How Does the 2023 Toyota GR86 Drive?

What’s the New Engine Like?

We can’t underestimate how much this engine change has improved the driving experience, it’s ten-fold. We get excited about driving around in 500HP as much as the next person, but you can’t exploit the full potential of the vehicle without a lawyer on speed dial.

You can have just as much fun chucking the new GR86 through corners as any high-powered sportscar. We regularly found ourselves asking the question “how fast do you actually want to go?” and the answer will almost always land around the pace we travelled in the GR86.

It’s worth mentioning here that the car doesn’t ‘feel’ slow anymore. Ironing out the torque curve will do that, but the 0-100km/h time has been improved too with Car and Driver achieving 0 to 60 mph (96.5km/h) in just 5.4-seconds. For reference, they tested the previous car’s 0-60 mph at 6.2 seconds. The new engine makes more torque (184 lb-ft vs. 156 lb-ft) and it’s found 1700rpm lower than the previous car.

The engine sounds happier too, its new displacement means it’s throatier – we assume they’re plumbing that from the air intake as they did in the previous car – but it sounds good. There’s nothing coming out of the exhaust, but we’d be happy with the induction noise until we could get our hands on an aftermarket exhaust. Toyota 86’s are made to be modified after all.

Related: 2023 Toyota GR Corolla Revealed, Specs Confirmed

How Does it Handle?

It almost goes without saying at this point, but the steering is razor sharp, and the suspension is well-tuned for a shock and spring combination. Additions like an active suspension system would go a long way in managing street and track use as it’s not particularly comfortable during either, but we’d hardly expect a lightweight 2-door sportscar under $50,000 AUD to be.

Stiffer swaybars would be at the top of our list for aftermarket upgrades, and even though Toyota says the GR86 has a more laterally inclined setup than the Subaru BRZ,  it’s not particularly noticeable. The front end on the GR86 did lend itself towards some decent skids on the track as it would easily wake up the rear end after turning in, but these skids are easily caught with a slight adjustment of the leather-wrapped steering wheel. We do wish the column had more adjustment as we couldn’t quite get it where we wanted thanks to our 6ft frame.

Are There Other New Changes?

The new car adds an aluminium roof and fenders to help offset the weight where the previous generation could only muster an aluminium bonnet. There are new structural enforcements in the front and rear of the vehicle, and the manual is nice and notchy with precise shift points and clutch engagement. Our only gripe is with the lack of automatic rev-matching, it’s a part of manual driving, but you can’t be Colin McRae all the time and the pedal box is rather small for our bread loaf feet.

Related: 2022 Toyota LandCruiser 300 Sahara ZX Review

2023 toyota gr86 gts interior
Image: Toyota

What’s the Interior Like on the 2023 Toyota GR86?

There’s something exciting about jumping behind the wheel of a sportscar at any price point, but one that’s affordable is something else. The low sports seats, laidback driving position, and high centre console gives you a feeling of occasion in the new GR86. It’s something we miss when we jump into our daily driver VW Golf GTI and something that you’ll find in only a handful of cars under $100,000 AUD.

The interior of the new GR86 (that’s shared with the new Subaru BRZ) is well appointed in the GTS model. We love the Ultrasuede and leather-upholstered seats that have just enough support to keep you in position during some twisties, and the subsequent addition of Ultrasuede on areas such as the door cards add to that sense of occasion.

Space is a premium in a car this size, the rear seats aren’t useful for anyone with legs, and we barely squeezed our head into the cockpit wearing a helment – although, it still had more headroom than the Lamborghini Huracan STO we drove at Phillip Island a few weeks before. Toyota reassures us you can still fit four full-sized spares in the car for track day use.

Infotainment System in the 2023 Toyota GR86

One of the first things owners of the previous generation Toyota 86 would upgrade is the infotainment. We’re pleased to see wired Apple Carplay and Android Auto make their way into the 2023 model car alongside an 8.0-inch infotainment display and 7.0-inch digital instrument display – both are shared with the Subaru BRZ.

You won’t find this system in other Toyota models (sadly) and it appears somewhat aftermarket as it’s basically just a square screen with some buttons and knobs scattered around it. We can’t knock its effectiveness, nor can we knock the sound system that is adequate for a small sportscar. The general layout of the cabin is also effective at eye level, but the heated seat buttons and console, in general, appear as an afterthought. We like to have a few words with whoever designed the centre console bin, those flip-down sides aren’t great. On the other hand, the digital driver’s display is great and very customisable.

Related: Reminder: Don’t Do a Burnout In Front of a Marked Police Car Like This Aussie

2023 toyota gr86 on track
Image: Toyota

Should You Buy the 2023 Toyota GR86?

  Consider this before buying the 2023 Toyota GR86
Price Toyota GR86 ‘GT’ – from $43,240 (before on-road costs)
Toyota GR86 ‘GTS’ – from $45,390 (before on-road costs)
Warranty 5-year unlimited km, 7-year drivetrain
Servicing intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $840 (3 years)
$1400 (5 years)

How Much Does the 2023 Toyota GR86 Cost?

The 2023 Toyota GR86 range starts from $43,240 before on-road costs for the ‘GT’ model that’s equipped with equipment 17-inch alloy wheels, Torsen limited-slip differential, leather shift knob and steering wheel, fabric sports seats, keyless entry, and a six-speaker sound system. That price increases to $45,390 before on-road costs for the ‘GTS’ model that adds 18-inch black alloys, Ultrasuede and leather seats, aluminium sports pedals, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring.

Compare that to its main rivals who are all priced under $40,000 AUD.

  • Mazda MX-5 $37,990 (before on-road costs)
  • Hyundai i20 N $34,990 (before on-road costs)
  • Volkswagen Polo GTI $38,750 (before on-road costs)

You’d be hard-pressed to call the 2023 Toyota GR86 ‘good value’ off these prices alone, especially as the rivals are generally better equipped.

Is the 2023 Toyota GR86 Safe?

While it’s nice to see the automatic transmission priced the same as the manual, there’s no saving to be had from buying the manual and you’ll have a hard time trying to understand why when you see how much safety equipment the manual misses out on.

The manual misses out on the following (standard on automatic models).

  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Rear parking sensors
  • Lane-departure alert
  • Adaptive cruise control

The Toyota GR86 has not been tested by ANCAP and the brand says they have no intention of doing so, considering the car’s niche audience. It’s also worth mentioning that autonomous emergency braking will become mandatory in Australia for all new cars on March 2023, the GR86 scrapes in by the string of its teeth.

Related: 2023 Toyota GR Supra Plans to Save the Manual Transmission

Rear end of 2023 toyota gr86 gt model
Image: Toyota

Our Verdict on the 2023 Toyota GR86

While the price increase isn’t the easiest pill to swallow, it’s all relative. The fact this car even exists is one thing, but when you compare it across the board, it’s one of the cheapest ‘sportscars’ experiences you can have for the money. Bear in mind that folks like us used to compare the previous generation to the VW Golf GTI – and that’s now a $60,000 AUD car.

We love the changes Toyota has made with the new GR86 from the engine to the interior and it’s so good that we can’t wait to jump in it again. Give us $50,000 AUD to play with and we’re dumping it all in on a GR86 GTS manual in white, adding a Catback exhaust, wheels, and some suspension and calling it a day. This is the type of car you look back at after 8-years of ownership and pat yourself on the back for making the right purchase decision. It’s a gem.

Check it out

2023 toyota gr86 front wheel
Image: Toyota
2023 toyota gr86 boot
Image: Toyota
2023 toyota gr86 rear boot
Image: Toyota
Traction control
Image: Toyota
2023 toyota gr86 manual shifter
Image: Toyota
2023 toyota gr86 engine bay
Image: Toyota
2023 toyota gr86 digital drivers display
Image: Toyota

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Ben McKimm
Journalist - Automotive & Tech

Ben McKimm

Ben lives in Sydney, Australia. He has a Bachelor's Degree (Media, Technology and the Law) from Macquarie University (2020). Outside of his studies, he has spent the last decade heavily involved in the automotive, technology and fashion world. Turning his passion and expertise into a Journalist position at Man of Many where he continues to write about everything that interests the modern man. Conducting car reviews on both the road and track, hands-on reviews of cutting-edge technology and employing a vast knowledge in the space of fashion and sneakers to his work. One day he hopes to own his own brand.