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A red 2022 Toyota GR 86 is shown from the side at a racetrack.

Drift, Drive, and Corner Better Than Ever in the 2022 Toyota GR 86

Sports coupes are a dying breed, but apparently, Toyota engineers didn’t get the memo. The 2022 Toyota GR 86 bucks the trend and defiantly occupies a prominent spot on the company’s diverse lineup, answering the call for track-ready speed and unapologetically aggressive road manners. Perhaps the trend favors big, boxy SUVs, but the GR 86 looks down its very slanted nose at all that bulk.

With echoes of the original souped-up Supra in its most energetic form, the GR 86 sports a Gazoo Racing Badge – hence the GR addition to the name – a soft endorsement from Toyota’s professional racing team, giving it plenty of street cred and affording buyers official sports performance bragging rights. What makes this demon arguably the most complete sports coupe in the category? The devil’s in the details.

The 2.4-Liter FA24 Flat-Four Engine

It’s not just the low range torque spread that captivates us, nor is it the white knuckle-inducing 228 horsepower just waiting to pounce on a hairpin curve: what we love about Toyota’s FA24 Boxer engine is its special horizontally-opposed architecture. Its flat design means a naturally low center of gravity and more efficient air cooling, leaving room for efficient access to power.

Coupled with its rear-wheel drive layout, the front-mounted flat-four engine gets its manners from low vibration operation and follows in the footsteps of legendary engine design, including flat-twelve of the Ferrari Testarossa and the flat-six of the Porsche 911. It’s that pedigree that sets the GR 86 apart from any other sports car in its price range. The engine also helps Toyota achieve an integral sports car goal: balance.

Toyota cites small engine improvements for the 23 horsepower increase between the 2020 Toyota 86 and the 2022 Toyota GR 86. These include sizing up the bore and tweaking the intake and exhaust systems. Additionally, the engine relies on dual injection technology to deliver fuel. That system, referred to as D-4S by the factory, sends fuel through port injectors and direct injection for optimal performance.

Given the thought and attention Toyota devoted to the GR 86’s power plant, it’s rather surprising that handling is equally fun on the race track and during normal everyday driving. The 2022 GR 86 is just fine as a daily commuter, despite its penchant for more aggressive driving dynamics. A 2+2 body style means more adaptability for real-world use, but we wouldn’t recommend shoehorning a passenger in the back for long road trips.

A red 2022 Toyota GR 86 is shown tandem drifting with a white 2022 Toyota GR Supra A91 CF Edition.

Performance-Oriented Technological Improvements

A bumper-to-bumper scan reveals countless small changes incorporated into the GR 86 for 2022, all of which contribute to its impressive performance and handling capability. Peak torque is now achievable at 3,700 rpm (a huge improvement from last year’s 6,600 rpm), resulting in long stretches of satisfying acceleration, and the new brake package (featuring front 11.6-inch and rear 11.4-inch vented rotors) counterbalance acceleration nicely.

The double-wishbone rear suspension is aided by the GR 86’s standard limited-slip differential, promoting better overall traction and confidence-inspiring cornering. Lucky GR 86 Premium buyers receive Michelin Pilot Sport tires mounted to 18-inch wheels, while owners of the base trim will have to settle for 17-inch wheels with Primacy HP Michelins. Regardless of the shoes it wears, the GR 86 grips corners and brakes admirably, just as a sports car should.

Toyota reports a feather-light curb weight of just a hair over 2,800 pounds, thanks in part to an aluminum hood and roof, providing a driving experience that is difficult to find in the modern world. Whether equipped with the manual or automatic transmission, road grip remains the same, but true gear heads will appreciate the former’s crisp short-throw gearbox. The six-speed automatic possesses intelligent adaptive controls that optimize gear choice and paddle shifters for manual control.

Safety is covered almost as extensively as performance features with the addition of the Star Safety System, a series of mechanical safety elements that work synergistically to improve traction and braking. It includes Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Smart Stop Technology, among other stabilizing systems. Driver-assist technology is also available with certain configurations. However, Toyota made sure that all of these systems are easy to disable with track mode.

Sports Car-Themed Interior and Technology

The word cockpit appears so often in car reviews that it’s lost the original meaning. In the same way that “awesome” used to refer to size or magnitude, the cockpit nomenclature used to be reserved for the driver’s seat in true sports cars. When it’s used to describe the interior of an ordinary commuter sedan, it loses its shine.

The 2022 Toyota GR 86 possesses a true cockpit. Described as “driver-focused” by Toyota, the setup includes bolstered leather-trimmed bucket seats engineered to hug in all the right places during cornering. Aluminum pedals harken back to the days of stripped-down, utilitarian race cars and match nicely with the copious silver cabin accents.

Even old-school sports car fans will welcome Toyota’s now standard 8-inch infotainment touchscreen. It puts the driving soundtrack within easy reach and pairs well with the digital 7-inch Thin Film Transistor (TFT) driver’s screen that displays key vehicle start-up and operating data. The TFT display is where drivers can choose from three aptly named driving settings: Normal, Sport, and Track, and watch the display change accordingly.

It’s just enough technology to integrate connectivity features without detracting from the GR 86’s utilitarian cabin. It’s also noteworthy that Toyota offers its Safety Sense driver-assist technology on GR 86 models equipped with an automatic transmission. It’s a big change that’s not unwelcome, especially given its track-oriented power. Toyota also throws in a one-year National Auto Sport Association (NASA) membership with every GR 86 purchase, as well as a High Performance Driving Event (HPDE) to hone your skills.

As for the +2 part of the GR 86’s 2+2 layout, forget getting too comfortable in the back, but the extra seating comes in handy at times and doesn’t detract from overall cabin aesthetics, nor does it subtract from its intelligent aerodynamics. Speaking of which, the “duckbill” rear spoiler puts a clever exclamation point on the GR 86’s exterior styling theme while adding useful downforce.

A red 2022 Toyota GR 86 is shown from the rear driving around a racetrack.

Improved in All the Right Places

In short, this newest iteration of Toyota’s GR 86 doesn’t disappoint. It’s well-balanced, aerodynamically sound, and boasts improvements in just about every standard of measure for performance. You’ll get from 0-60 faster, enjoy a better torque curve that favors low-end power, and enjoy behind-the-scenes systems – like Dynamic Rev Management – that optimize the powertrain for real performance.

The family of Toyota performance vehicles expands in its appeal with the launch of this 2022 GR 86. It earns a spot alongside its guttural cousin, the GR Supra, and welcomes buyers who deeply crave a throwback track-inspired driving experience. Though detailed pricing isn’t yet available, Toyota promises that the 2022 GR 86 will boast an entry price below $30,000, opening the sports car segment to a whole host of buyers.

We can picture the GR 86 parked alongside old school muscle cars with the hood propped open and curious onlookers gawking at its flat boxer engine. It’s sure to spark plenty of debate among aficionados for its uncommon design, leaving many with a sudden urge to head down to the local Toyota dealer to find one of their own.

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