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Toyota 86: first impressions from Fuji Speedway

After the press days at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show concluded, our host, Toyota, took us down to Fuji Speedway to try out their new, affordable, rear-wheel drive sports car, the 86/GT 86. So, what's it like?

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Derek Fung
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1 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Mt Fuji, where are you?

After the press days at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show concluded, our host, Toyota, took us down to Fuji Speedway to try out their new, affordable, rear-wheel drive sports car, the 86/GT 86. So, what's it like?

Despite Toyota's planning, good weather failed to materialise, so our initial impressions are limited by the rather slippery track.

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2 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

For your safety!!

Given the wet track, a few extra edicts were issued. Although most of us resisted the urge to turn stability control off, the 70km/h speed limit was often, uh, forgotten.

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3 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Caveat city

The 86/GT 86 is due in Australia in the middle of 2012, with pricing and specifications yet to be confirmed. First impressions in this gallery are based on our time with the (presumably) close-to-Japanese market-spec cars seen here.

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4 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Same, same, but different

Toyota took Subaru's 2-litre boxer engine, and developed a direct-injection system for it. In the 86, it produces 147kW of power and 205Nm of torque.

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5 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Lowish power, lowish weight

The engine isn't a fire breather, but as weight is around the 1150kg to 1200kg mark, performance is more than spritely. In the same vein as Mazda's MX-5, the 86/GT 86 aims to provide driving enjoyment without having to break the speed limit.

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6 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Rev it

Apparently, Toyota spent time routing as much of the engine's soundtrack into the cabin as possible. The result is a pleasantly throaty grumble that encourages you to rev the engine towards its 7500rpm red line.

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7 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Point and go

On the wet Fuji test track, the steering pointed the car precisely and sharply.

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8 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Letting go

Instead of high-grip tyres, the 86/GT 86 is fitted with Michelin's low rolling resistance Premacy tyres, similar to the ones used on the hybrid Prius.

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9 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

No result

The track surface on Fuji's test circuit was smoother than a first-day WACA wicket run over by the heaviest roller. This made it impossible to judge either steering feedback or ride quality.

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10 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Grip and soothe

The sporty leather seats provided enough grip and comfort during our all-too-brief track time.

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11 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Snickity snick

A six-speed manual transmission is standard. It snicks between gears satisfyingly, while the brake and accelerator pedals are well positioned for heel-toe shifts.

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12 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Computer controlled

The other transmission option is a six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode, but no sport mode.

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13 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Warm and fuzzy

Traction and stability control are present, and heated seats can be had. On the wet track, it was unsurprisingly easy to provoke the rear end to slide away. With VSC on, the electronic nanny would let the tail step out of line before bringing things back in order.

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14 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

A stitch in time

The interior seems solidly built, and the controls are well laid out. It's nothing special, mind you. Good thing there's red leather stitching everywhere to liven things up.

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15 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Outback

There are two rear seats, although, given the less-than-generous amount of head and leg room, they're best suited to kids and short journeys.

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16 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Lying down on the job

Helpfully, especially for this class of car, the rear seats fold down and lie completely flat with the boot floor.

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17 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Confidence and compromise

If you want the piece of mind that the optional full-size spare tyre brings, be prepared to pack around it.

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18 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Warm cat

Some of the cars at the track came equipped with dual-zone climate control. Also note the flap hiding the USB and auxiliary ports underneath it.

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19 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Old school

We got the feeling that for these pre-production track cars, Toyota just slapped in whatever head units they had lying around. When the 86 (or whatever it'll be called) arrives in mid 2012, expect it to feature one of the company's latest range of head units. Possibly, even, the sat-nav system fitted to the new Yaris.

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20 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Stop!

Standard LED brake lights are a nice touch; should save the tuning set a few bob.

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21 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Squint

Not all 86s that we saw came fitted with LED driving lights, though.

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22 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Ground effect

A greyed-out diffuser, twin tail pipes and a combination fog and reversing light have been fitted to every 86 we've seen.

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23 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Wheely

Alloy wheels range from 16 to 18 inches (pictured) in diameter. We're likely to get the 17-inch version as a standard fit.

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24 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Rumours

If rumours are true, the car will be priced from around AU$35,000.

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25 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Do it yourself

With its mix of lowish price, spec and power, the 86 should be a hit with the tuner crowd. An aftermarket for custom parts is expected to flourish, but, if you're feeling lazy, you can just order this Toyota-designed rear wing.

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26 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

It's an 86, mmmkay?

An "86" logo positioned within a boxer engine is present on the front wings.

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27 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Air time

The very subtle boot-lid spoiler that you can (just) see here is said to improve aerodynamic efficiency ever so slightly.

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28 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Toyobaru or Subota?

Usually, when car makers share a car, every effort is spent on ensuring that branding is unique to each model. Not so with the 86/BRZ.

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29 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Playing dress-up

This left-hand drive 86 on display at Fuji also had Toyota's body kit fitted to it.

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30 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

More than meets the eye

The pace car that led us around the test track at Fuji Speedway looks like a regular Corolla dressed with flashing lights and decals, but it isn't ...

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31 of 31 Derek Fung/CNET Australia

Want. Now.

In fact, it's the Corolla's evil, Japan-only cousin, the Blade. It not only features some subtle styling changes, but it is powered by either a 2.4-litre four-cylinder or (wait for it) a 3.5-litre V6.

Derek Fung travelled to the Tokyo Motor Show and Fuji Speedway as a guest of Toyota Australia.

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