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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Point and go
On the wet Fuji test track, the steering pointed the car precisely and sharply.
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.
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.
Grip and soothe
The sporty leather seats provided enough grip and comfort during our all-too-brief track time.
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.
The other transmission option is a six-speed automatic with manual-shift mode, but no sport mode.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Confidence and compromise
If you want the piece of mind that the optional full-size spare tyre brings, be prepared to pack around it.
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.
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.
Standard LED brake lights are a nice touch; should save the tuning set a few bob.
Not all 86s that we saw came fitted with LED driving lights, though.
A greyed-out diffuser, twin tail pipes and a combination fog and reversing light have been fitted to every 86 we've seen.
Alloy wheels range from 16 to 18 inches (pictured) in diameter. We're likely to get the 17-inch version as a standard fit.
If rumours are true, the car will be priced from around AU$35,000.
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.
It's an 86, mmmkay?
An "86" logo positioned within a boxer engine is present on the front wings.
The very subtle boot-lid spoiler that you can (just) see here is said to improve aerodynamic efficiency ever so slightly.
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.
This left-hand drive 86 on display at Fuji also had Toyota's body kit fitted to it.
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 ...
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.