WHEN Toyota launched its GT86 sports coupe it was welcomed with open arms.
The motoring press loved its back-to-basics approach to proper driving enjoyment and were won over by its tail-happy handling and keen price.
In fact, one of the few complaints levelled at it was that it was lacking in power. But now there’s a new version.
So what have they changed? Not a lot. In fact, fundamentally, it’s now a little bit more expensive, slightly less tail-happy, and has the same amount of power as it always did.
It’s called the TRD which stands for Toyota Racing Development - a moniker that promises a lot but, when you weigh up the extent of its modifications it appears to deliver very little.
So it may sound like the TRD’s alterations have ruined what was, to some extent, the perfect sports car.
Adding grip but not power, while hiking the price should have eradicated the qualities of the original GT86 – but, trust me, it takes a lot more than that to sour this pudding.
Let’s start with the lack of a power hike. Due to the nature of the four cylinder, two litre boxer engine, it needs a lot of revs to get the best out of it.
It does feel slow if you pootle around and don’t take it above 3-4,000rpm but if you really give it a workout and rev it hard enough to light up the shift light and activate the beeper that indicates a gear change is probably the best course of action then it feels more than quick enough.
It’s a car that, when it’s driven on the limit, lives up to all the hype and promises it comes with.
In short, it’s at its best when it’s screaming for mercy and the tyres are struggling to keep traction on the exit of a tight right-hander.
Adding more grip was simple to achieve. The original GT86 came with the tyres from a Toyota Prius so designers had deliberately made it easy to slide around in. The TRD comes with much better tyres which now means you’ll need to be a lot more committed (or stupid) to get it sideways.
This all adds up to a car that is arguably less fun on the road, but more suited to the track.
If you did want to buy a GT86 as a trackday toy then you’d probably change the tyres anyway and the lack of low-end power wouldn’t be an issue because you’d drive the whole way round your lap with the engine screaming.
The TRD also comes with a few styling tweaks that give it a more aggressive look and it now comes with a quad-exhaust system that sounds slightly more raucous and looks much nicer – especially with the bodykit wrapping around it.
Save for a few stickers and badges that’s about the extent of the modifications your £6,500 premium affords you.
So while the suspension and engine remain unaltered – which is no bad thing – the bigger exhaust is slightly freer breathing and that makes for better throttle response. The bigger wheels, which are now 18in rather than the original 17in, make the suspension a tad more harsh, but it’s still a pleasant car to live with.
The interior has seen barely any changes either but, again, that’s fine because it was just about perfect to begin with.
In the main, it’s actually quite easy to soak up miles in a GT86.
The TRD might be a little firmer on the roads thanks to the bigger wheels but it’s still comfortable on long trips and there’s room in the rear seats for two adults, along with a fairly respectable boot behind them.
It has sat-nav, heated seats, Bluetooth, climate control and plenty of other things a proper car should have. It is, in many ways, the perfect sports car.
A cynic would tell you that the money spent on opting for the TRD would be better put towards trackday costs such as insurance and circuit access, with enough left over to upgrade the tyres yourself, but that ignores the ‘uniquness’ of the newcomer.
Fans of the GT86 – and there are many – will always make a beeline for the TRD if it appears in a line-up because it is the stand-out model.
Its limited run of just 250 in the UK assures its owner top bragging rights in the GT86 family tree.
Whether or not the modifications make it worth the extra outlay is immaterial.
Years down the line, when a handful of GT86s are on a stand at a classic car show, it’ll be the TRD drawing the crowds.
For that reason, it makes perfect sense as a special edition of one of the best sports cars ever built.
Even if it’s not quite the car we all hoped it would be, it’s hardly a disappointment.
Model tested: Toyota GT86 TRD
Engine and power: 2.0 litre ‘boxer’ engine, delivering 197bhp at 7,000rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 seconds
Max speed: 143mph
Efficiency (mpg): urban: 27.2; extra-urban: 44.1; combined 36.2
Boot space: 243 litres