The 2017 Toyota 86 is a two-door four-passenger sports car replacing the Scion FR-S. Slightly refreshed and with a little more power, the 86 takes the already excellent FR-S, gives it a modest facelift and adds a little refinement. Thankfully, it retains the incredible handling capabilities and fun factor of the outgoing model.
Introduced for the 2017 model year with a new name and what amounts to a mid-cycle refresh, the Toyota 86 is a two-door four-passenger sports coupe that favors agility over raw acceleration. The 86 arrives with a six-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters is also available. This rear-wheel drive coupe is powered by a four-cylinder boxer engine, and models with the manual transmission offer a little more power for 2017. Regardless of transmission, the 2017 86 also benefits from updated interior styling and revised suspension tuning.
The Toyota 86 draws inspiration from the classics, including the brand’s own 1967 Toyota 2000GT, with a low-slung body that features a long hood and short deck. The 86 is immediately recognizable as a purist’s sports car, and Toyota’s sports coupe is meant to favor fun over utility.
For the 2017 model year, Toyota has given the outgoing Scion FR-S a new front fascia with a wider, more aggressive grille. The mildly flared front fenders feature new 86 badging, but all in all the side profile of the 86 remains unchanged from that of the 2016 Scion FR-S and the related Subaru BRZ.
Out back, Toyota has revised the rear bumper. The rear diffuser is slightly modified for improved downforce. Redesigned 17-inch wheels complete the makeover.
The 86 is a great example of balancing form and function. The design’s low center of gravity provides an excellent platform for the car’s sport-tuned suspension and precise steering.
Standard features include LED lighting for the headlamps, taillights, driving lights and turn signals, as well as a roof-mounted shark-fin antenna, keyless entry and a chrome-tipped dual exhaust system.
The 2017 Toyota 86’s cabin complements the sport coupe’s purposeful exterior design. Moving away from the bolder contrasting stitching found in the FR-S, the 86 employs black, mostly monotone upholstery that is basic, but attractive. The form-fitting front seats are nicely bolstered and should work for the majority of drivers. Legroom is plentiful, and the large side windows give the cabin an open feeling.
Unfortunately, rear-seat passengers will have an entirely different perspective. Although the rear seats are more spacious than those in some of the sports cars we have reviewed, adults will find them too constrictive for anything more than a short ride around town.
For 2017, Toyota has added an attractive synthetic suede to the dashboard and door panels. The material limits glare from the sun and adds to the overall fit and finish of the interior. The 86 also features the smallest steering wheel that Toyota has ever fit to a vehicle. The tiny wheel looks great and adds to the sporty character of the coupe. Couple the race-inspired wheel with the easy-to-read gauge cluster and user-friendly instrument panel and the 86 proves to be a driver-centric enthusiast’s treat.
Cargo capacity is at a premium with only 6.9 cubic feet available. However, that number is about average when compared with other small sports cars. If you’ve already taken our cue and ditched the idea of using the rear seats for passengers, you’ll find these 60/40 split-folding seats much more useful if they’re lowered to provide additional cargo space.
When fitted with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the rear-wheel drive Toyota 86 is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder boxer engine providing 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. Buyers wanting the six-speed automatic will gain the convenience of having a computer do the shifting, but will suffer a slight loss in output to 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque.
Fuel economy is strong in real-world use. With the automatic transmission, the 86 earns 24/32 mpg city/highway. With the manual transmission, fuel efficiency dips to 21/28 mpg. Even with aggressive driving, the 86 turned out an average of around 25 mpg in our tests. Drive the little coupe conservatively and the EPA numbers are easily attainable, if not beatable.
Toyota’s little sport coupe is an absolute blast to drive. The low center of gravity, precise steering and finely tuned suspension make it easy to manhandle around aggressive turns. The brakes are sufficient to keep the lightweight car in check. We drove three different models over the span of two days, and each proved worthy on the winding mountainous roads just north of Los Angeles, California.
Becoming a Toyota also meant maturing the ride quality a little relative to that of the previous Scion iteration. Shock tuning and spring rates have been modified to keep the rear end from dancing around, something the FR-S was known for, and the overall structure has been stiffened. Fortunately, the standard lower-grip tires, which were chosen for comfort and fuel efficiency, still allow the 86 to slide around a tight apex with the proper steering-wheel and throttle input.
Toyota Racing Development (TRD) offers a nice selection of performance parts including a cold-air intake, lowering springs, anti-roll bars, larger brakes, upgraded wheels and a performance exhaust. We spent a few hours with a loaded 86. We found the suspension pleasantly firm, but the performance exhaust droned loudly at moderate highway speeds.
With a simple model structure that provides plenty of technology at the base price, the Toyota 86 offers above-average features. The 7-inch touch-screen audio system sounds great and is easy to use. Standard Bluetooth connectivity allows meaningful cell phone integration, even if Toyota doesn’t provide Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. An eight-speaker audio system, a USB port, an auxiliary input jack, voice recognition, HD radio and more also come as standard equipment.
The 86’s steering wheel includes audio and cruise control buttons. Toyota’s analog and digital gauges look great and are easy to read. We’ve always been fans of the FR-S’ instrument panel, and Toyota’s version keeps things familiar but adds a few nice touches.
The Toyota 86 comes with six air bags, including front and rear side-curtain air bags. Meanwhile, Toyota’s Star Safety System provides traction control, antilock brakes and more.
Additional standard features include hill-start assist – which holds the manual-equipped 86 in place while the clutch is engaged on hills – a rearview camera and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The 2017 Toyota 86 with the six-speed manual transmission starts at $27,515 including an $865 destination charge, while the available automatic transmission boosts the base price to $27,840 with destination. The 86 arrives with plenty of standard features, so the starting price is a fairly decent estimate of what many should expect to pay.
The available options are also affordable. Some of the pricier items include the $1,100 TRD dual exhaust system and $1,650 17-inch forged matte-gray alloy wheels.
The 2017 Toyota 86 has few direct competitors in the segment. The related Subaru BRZ, which shares more than a few similarities, is also worth investigating. You can also take a peek at the Mazda MX-5 Miata and its cousin the Fiat 124 Spider.
When Toyota announced that Scion would be shuttered, our immediate concern was for the survival of the beloved FR-S. We’re fans of Japanese sports cars, and the FR-S was one of the few, if not only, choices embodying many of the values that made the now-vintage models so successful. With good looks, excellent performance and great value, Toyota’s 86 picks up where the FR-S left off, adding a bit more refinement along the way.
While the 86 isn’t the perfect sports car for everyone, it should continue to appeal to a wide range of enthusiasts. If you prefer agility over sheer power and can live with two good seats (but need a couple extra for emergencies), the 2017 Toyota 86 might just be perfect for you.