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September 11, 2012

Review: 2012 Toyota 86 Aero

Photo by Ulysses Ang

Thumbs-up, catcalls, whistles, and snaps from cell phone cameras—this is what it’s like to drive the all-new Toyota 86 on public roads. No other car that I’ve driven, including other two-door sports cars twice or even quadruple the price gets and attracts as much attention as this. And this is just the first hour of a five-day love affair with Toyota’s dreamy coupe. Forget twisty mountain roads or race tracks, we all know how the 86 can easily beat the best of them, so you won’t hear any of that here. The mission here is to find out if the 86 is as good as any Toyota as a daily driver.

Let’s back track for a minute to tackle the 86’s design brief. Named after the Hachi-Roku, the 86 is the spiritual successor to the affordable Toyota sports cars in the 1980’s. Then, the AE86 was easily regarded as a daily driver, yet can give some spirited levels of driving when required of it. The new 86 is pretty much the same.

Despite the low-slung appearance, long hood, and arrow-shaped profile, the 86 can handle the main Achilles’ heel of sports cars: speed bumps and ramps. For one, it’s got a ground clearance of 130 mm. As a comparison, the Mazda MX-5 and Nissan 370Z both sit lower than the 86. It sits as low as the Hyundai Genesis Coupe and only looks lower thanks to a low, sweeping roof line and much more compact proportions.

The 86 that arrived in my care is the new top-of-the-line Aero model. Launched at the Philippine International Motor Show, the Aero is easily distinguishable thanks to the factory aero kit which include add-ons to the front and rear bumper, side skirts, and a badass rear wing. It’s also the only 86 available in the unique Brilliant Orange color. Typically having a factory aero kit isn’t something to complain about, but for some reason it fusses up the 86’s design simplicity. The regular 86 looks just right, but the Aero looks a tad too busy. And things aren’t helped by the 17-inch wheels (shared with the regular 86) which look too small next to the rear wing. Give the 86 Aero some aftermarket 18’s with an aggressive offset and we’re talking business.

Stepping into the 86 requires some careful maneuvering, especially in tight spaces, but once inside it’s an ergonomic dream. It’s a design that manages to blend both form and function, with heavy emphasis towards putting the fun back into driving. The first thing I noticed is the excellent sight lines with clear visibility from every corner of the car. The rear view mirrors may look small but are very well adept reducing blind spots to a bare minimum. And then you have the frameless rear view mirror which expands the rear visibility by precious millimeters.

Next, the 86 has large gauges and easy to use toggle switches to help facilitate precise operation, especially for the climate control. Plus, The Aero version (like the other 86 automatic) has a programmable shift indicator which beeps when up shifts are required. The interior is straight-forward and sporty with a repetition of carbon fiber-like prints and a splattering of red on the steering wheel and on the Alcantara-trimmed seats. The steering wheel is a meaty, three-spoke unit and devoid of any steering controls and anything of the sort. It seems Toyota is sending the message that you’re supposed to drive this car, not needlessly fiddle with the stereo. And speaking about the sound system, it’s perhaps the odd man out in the otherwise well-crafted interior. It glows a bright green and next to the white and red motif of the instrument and controls, it’s just out of place. Plus, the backlight is fixed and doesn’t adjust with the instrument panel dimmer knob. Thankfully, at least it provides the 86 with a proper USB input as well iPod capability.

On paper, the 86 has a 2+2 seating complete with seat belts and child seat anchors, but in reality, it’s hard to find anyone who’ll actually fit in the back save for small children. Those moving about with child booster or infant seats will also find it a burden to properly affix them to the backseat due to the limited wiggle room. But, the trunk is surprisingly huge for a sports car and can fit one 26-inch and one 22-inch rolling luggage side-by-side (I used the 86 for an airport run). And the rear bench can be folded flat allowing the 86 to swallow a set of four 17-inch alloys and wheels. It must be noted though that the full-sized spare is always showing devoid of any cover or matting.

The interior treatment of the 86 serves as the perfect reminder that this is equal parts capable grand tourer and excellent track day weapon. Unlike some of its rivals which rely on pure brute horsepower, the 86 relies on finesse. It’s engineered from the top down to be as pure as possible.

For starters, the engine is an all-new horizontally opposed engine co-developed with Subaru. Incorporating Toyota’s direct-injection technology, this engine pushes out 200 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque. These figures may seem pedestrian, but considering the low 1,275 kilogram curb weight, the 86 has good power-to-weight ratio. Next is the 6-speed automatic developed by Aisin. Normally, you don’t associate performance with a slush box, but this one’s lighting quick. After all, what do you expect? This gearbox is lifted straight from a Lexus IS-F (minus two forward gears). Then, despite the 130 mm ground clearance, you actually sit very close to the ground in the 86--right smack at the center line of the wheels. This gives a great road feel and makes you feel one with the car. Lastly, the weight distribution is kept at an ideal 53:47 ratio giving this car impeccable balance.

Pushing the starter button just forward of the gearshift wakes the “boxer” engine to life. At idle, there’s a noticeable raspy note. Bleep the throttle and it’s replaced by a deep and pronounced bark. Some found it “lacking”, but the throaty exhaust becomes addictive without being too overbearing. It’s actually quite satisfying after some days of driving. Slotting the shifter through the gated slot, the 86 responds almost immediately to any throttle input. Even without shifting into the Sport mode or operating the paddles, the 86 shifts up and down with urgency and smoothness. It also allows you to bounce off the rev limiter if you wish.

In the city, the 86 surprises with its amazing agility. The quick steering and fade-free brakes provide the best, unadulterated driving experience of any car bar none. It’s playful yet obedient. Plus, it’s got a tight turning a radius--just 5.1 meters, allowing the 86 to scoot through U-turn slots without difficulty. Once you swap city roads for highways, the 86 shows yet another facet in its persona: comfortable long-distance tourer. The steering may be quick and the throttle eager, but you don’t get tired driving this car. It’s an absolute gem not requiring too much concentration on our uneven roads. In fact, the BMW 3 Series equipped with 18-inch wheels and sport suspension feels more draining to drive than the 86.

Thanks to the 86’s combination of a light-weight body and a small displacement engine, it actually returns some amazing fuel mileage. On the highway, at a constant 100 km/h, this car can actually return close to 20 km/L while a more city-oriented driving returned 10.10 km/L. Indeed, those figures best most “practical” compacts as well as all executive sedans. But owners are reminded that the 86 requires a diet of 98 RON octane. It works on a minimum on 95, but with some power loss. Still, if you can afford to load up on Petron Blaze every week, who says you can’t have fun while saving the earth?

At this point, it’s perhaps worth answering this question: how much Toyota is the 86? Well, other than funding the project and designing the sheet metal, not much actually. After all the driving, after the dust has settled, I took very close notice of the 86 and noticed it’s more Subaru than Toyota. For one, it’s built at Subaru’s Gunma plant. Second, all the body stamping, body codes, and even color codes are internally Subaru. Then, parts such as the oil filter, alloy wheels and the like are stamped or labeled as Subaru. Even the owner’s manual doesn’t make any reference to Toyota’s typical internal engine designation or electronics certification. It’s clearly marked as the Subaru FA20. In short, aside from the badges and trimming, the 86 is for the most part, a Subaru.

Still, do I care? Of course not. Whether it’s a Toyota or a Subaru, the 86 is priced stunningly at P 1,860,000. This actually makes it cheaper than a Camry or for that matter, the Mazda MX-5 and even the Subaru WRX STI. Personally though, I find the extra P 210,000 for the aero kit a bit too steep. But give me the P 1,650,000 base model with six-speed automatic, and you’ve got me signing my soul away. In the end, the Toyota 86 does it all: head-turning good looks, handling, fun-to-drive, fuel economy--as long as you don’t have a family, or don’t plan to have one, this is the perfect car to drive every day of the week. Forget high-tech compacts and sporty Euro whatchamacallits, the 86 stole my heart. The first ever Toyota to do so.

2012 Toyota 86 Aero
Ownership 86 Aero
Year Introduced 2013
Vehicle Classification Sports Car
The Basics
Body Type 2-door Sports Car
Seating 2+2
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration NA
Layout / # of Cylinders Flat 4
BHP @ rpm 200 @ 7,000
Nm @ rpm 205 @ 6,400-6,600
Fuel / Min. Octane Unleaded / 98~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,240
Width (mm) 1,775
Height (mm) 1,425
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,253
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Vented Disc
Tires 215/45R17
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 7
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Alcantara/Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 6
Steering Wheel Controls No


  1. The spoiler is exaggerated. ugly looking car :/

    1. its not that bad,its cool because of that spoiler,its not much exaggerated in fact it A-D-D-S
      more beauty on that car

  2. I agree with the anonymous user who says it adds beauty. It's so awesome! If the laws of nature allowed it, I'd marry an 86 Aero. It comes in paddle shift, exactly what I want! Forget manuals and forget automatics, paddle shift is the new thing.


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