6. Toyota 86
Price as tested: $28,534
0-60 mph: 6.4 sec; EPA rating: 24 mpg city-highway combined
Hottest color: Hot Lava
New name. A nip ‘n tuck. Some mechanical tweaks. Same minimalist mission: provide value-conscious buyers a low-mass, modestly powered homage to sports-car simplicity. The 86 began life in the U.S. as the 2013 Scion FR-S (for Front-engine, Rear-wheel drive, Sport). With the demise of Toyota’s Scion youth division for 2017, it’s absorbed into the parent company’s brand and adopts the 86 identity used in other global markets.
The sole engine remains a 2.0-liter four-cylinder with Subaru’s center-of-gravity-friendly, boxer, or horizontally opposed, cylinder layout. Automatic-transmission versions stay at 200 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. For ’17, new intake and exhaust manifolds help models with the six-speed manual make 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet (at the same 7000 and 6400 rpm, respectively.) A Torsen limited-slip differential is standard, and stick-shift 86s get a final-drive ratio lowered to 4.3:1 from 4.1:1. That helps provide a small but helpful boost in midrange throttle response.
Suspension revisions are part of advancements that improve composure and underscore that maintaining hard-won velocity, rather than generating it, is this car’s forte. The BRZ and 86 are agile and are very deliberately fitted with rather narrow 17-inch summer tires. Their diffident lateral grip in fast cornering can introduce tail-out behavior and lessons in car control no book can teach you.
There are subtle differences in the way the two cars drive; the Subaru may be a little more eager to drift through corners, for example. They’re also separated by the automakers’ approach to features. An imbedded navigation system is unavailable in the BRZ, for example, while one’s optional in the 86 for a reasonable $900. And Subaru for ’17 introduces comprehensive chassis and suspension upgrades as part of a $1,195 Performance Package. Toyota compels drivers focused on track-type manners to scrutinize a list of port-installed options developed for the 86 by the automaker’s TRD racing engineers.
We’d advise clicking on these Toyota Racing Development upgrades: performance dual exhaust ($1,100), lowered springs ($639), sway bar ($550), and a performance air filter ($75). The Brembo brakes and SACHS shock absorbers that are part of the BRZ package aren’t offered. But the TRD stuff we spec is quite effective, and ordering it all nets a bottom-line sticker of $28,534. We’d understand, too, if you succumb temptation and find another $1,650 for gorgeous TRD 17-inch forged matte gray wheels for those same 215/45R17 summer tires.