|Photos by Ulysses Ang|
As the 86 arrives for its mid-cycle refresh, the question beckons: how do you perfect perfection? What can you absolutely tweak to make it better while keeping with the same winning formula as before? Welcome Toyota’s answer. This is the 2015 Toyota 86—a car so subtly modified that you’ll be forgiven for not telling it apart from the 2012 model, unless you put them side-by-side.
Cutting to the chase, the one and only exterior modification done for this year is found near the rear-end, specifically, the roof. Swapping the old bee-sting type antenna, the 2015 Toyota 86 gains a shark-fin antenna. This minor change doesn’t drastically alter the appearance nor does it add power or aerodynamic efficiency, but it does lend a sportier flair.
Personally, I was daydreaming about getting an 86 once and at that time, the only thing I wanted to change was the antenna. I wanted to swap that long pole for something shorter; like one of those aluminum shorty types. It’s something I’ve installed on my Subaru and I know that the added style comes at the expense of radio reception. Toyota’s solution is actually better. It’s sportier and doesn’t compromise radio reception at all. There’s just something satisfying listening to Love Radio while darting in and out of traffic.
Inside, the changes to the 2015 model are equally minor though much more noticeable. The “Space Invaders” pattern on the dashboard is now gone and in its place is a new carbon fiber motif. And it’s not the shiny kind either (I’m referring to you, WRX), but matte. It certainly adds a touch of premium-ness while still keeping some of the racy characteristics such as the red patches on the steering wheel, gear knob, seats, and door handles.
Singlehandedly, the most important change is in the radio system. The Toyota OEM radio system finally bids bye-bye and is replaced by a new Kenwood 2-DIN system. Thankfully, it forgoes any sort of touchscreen interface and instead relies on good, old-fashioned buttons. They’re small, but at least they can be operated by tactile feel once you get used to the layout. The screen is large and displays audio track names but looks somewhat pixel-starved. And speaking about Bluetooth, yes the 86 finally moves to the modern era by having hands-free. Not only does the Kenwood do audio streaming, it does telephony as well. It can even sync with your phone book if you want it to. An interesting note is that the mic though is located where the USB/Aux jack used to be (it moves to the head unit itself), so shouting may be necessitated at times.
Despite all the rumors, nothing has been changed with the Toyota 86’s drivetrain. It still has the Toyota/Subaru FA20 horizontally-opposed four-cylinder engine with 200 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque. Like before, it produces a nice, throaty note without being overbearing. It feels very civilized whether for traffic or long-distance touring use. The experience is never tiring to say the least. It’s well-behaved in city traffic achieving up to 10.52 km/L. But the engine’s revver too with a 7,500-rpm redline and for more spirited driving, you do need to capitalize on that since it only comes alive at higher engine speeds. Mated to the engine is a 6-speed manual with an easy-to-module clutch and precise throws. The clutch’s engagement point is a bit high, but it’s forgiving to use. There’s even a programmable shift indicator if you wish to be reminded when to upshift, whether by visual or aural cue.
Though everything under the hood is left unchanged, engineers worked to enhance the suspension aspect of the Toyota 86. The old model is known for its tail-happy attitude, especially at the limit. For 2015, this has been dialed down for the sake of improving stability and steering feel. The foundation is actually in the new rear shock absorbers with better damping ability and improved friction control. And to fully exploit this change, the front-end sub-frame is also strengthened.
From memory, this suspension tweak has changed the Toyota 86’s handling compared to three years ago. It’s not a fundamental one since it’s just as pointable and delightful as it was before. However, the tail happy attitude has been somewhat dialed back. Where the rear-end always felt like snapping out mid-corner, the 2015 model just happily digs into them. There’s more understeer going into corners, but is balanced out by a crisper, more linear steering feel and less body lean. There’s also better progressiveness in the way the suspension behaves, giving the driver a much better understanding of the car’s limits. It’s also much more compliant on less-than perfect roads. In other words, it behaves very much like a Subaru BRZ now, a fact confirmed since the Toyota 86’s twin sister has indeed ditched its unique suspension tuning for 2015 as well. In other words, the 86 loses its tail happy attitude while the BRZ ditches trying to emulate an all-wheel drive vehicle. Both cars now tread on the middle ground, perhaps for the sake of production simplicity?
Regardless of the reason behind the suspension change, it’s a welcome one. It makes the Toyota 86 less of a handful at the limit while still retaining its role as a lovely, affordable sports car. The same goes for the other minor revisions such as the sharks-fin antenna, the carbon fiber interior trim, and the Kenwood sound system; they’re all welcome changes and evolve the 86 without messing up with the tried-and-tested formula. I’ve been asked countless of times what sports car I’d get for less than P 3-million, and in a heartbeat, I always say, Toyota 86. It may not be as fast in a straight line as a Ford Mustang or as roomy as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, but there’s just something I prefer in its rifle-like precision. No other car can put a smile like that on my face, and that experience makes it all the more priceless.
2015 Toyota 86
|Ownership||2015 Toyota 86 M/T|
|Year Introduced||2012 (Refreshed: 2015)|
|Vehicle Classification||Sports Car|
|Body Type||2-door coupe|
|Engine / Drive||F/R|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||Flat-4|
|BHP @ rpm||200 @ 7,000|
|Nm @ rpm||205 @ 6,400-6,600|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 98~|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,275|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Independent, Double Wishbone|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Vented Disc|
|Tires||Michelin Primacy HP 215/45R17 W|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes|
|Power Door Locks||Yes|
|Power Mirrors||Yes, with Fold|
|Climate Control||Yes, Dual|
|No. of Speakers||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||No|