What is it?
Rewind to 2012 – a year that saw both the London Olympic Games and the introduction of the Toyota GT86. Seems like ages ago, doesn’t it?
There was much to cheer about. At long last, a firm with so much sporting pedigree yet so little in the way of enthusiast’s products had pandered to the petrolhead with a real front-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car – even if it was designed and developed by Subaru.
The Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ twins were immediately hailed by motoring critics around the world, although many cried for a little more oomph from its 200hp Subaru boxer engine.
As the calendar ticks over to 2019, the GT86 remains on sale in pretty much the same form – minor 2016 facelift aside — and in typical Japanese fashion, it’s left a trail of special edition models that don’t actually change very much. This is the latest — the GT86 Club Series Blue Edition.
So, for this special-edition GT86, can you expect a more potent engine, overhauled driving dynamics and some stand-out visual differences?
Erm, no. Not really. The GT86 Club Series Blue Edition is available only in the one colour, called Electric Blue. To contrast the blueness, Toyota has gone and painted the wheels, mirrors and both front and rear spoilers in black. That’s about it, really. Oh, and the 17-inch wheels are a different design to the 17-inch wheels on the GT86 Pro.
You can pay an extra £1,460 for the optional Performance Pack, which gives you Sachs dampers and larger Brembo brakes with red callipers.
Otherwise, power from its boxer engine remains the same as before, while there’s little to change the way it drives — but that’s no bad thing.
How does it look?
It is very blue. Really, really bright blue. The contrasting black finish on the wings, wheels and mirrors does make the whole thing look rather sharp.
That, combined with the racier looks added by the car’s most-recent facelift, gives it a pretty mean look on the road – we’d even go as far to call it race car-esque – and the GT86 CSBE doesn’t struggle to catch people’s attention wherever you go.
Opt for the Performance pack, and that effect is heightened by red Brembo brake callipers that stand out brightly behind the black wheels.
What’s the spec like?
There’s a fair amount of equipment out of the box for the GT86 Club Series Blue Edition. It’s based on the GT86 Pro and priced at £545 more than that model.
Not coincidentally, choosing metallic paint on a GT86 Pro adds exactly £545 to the price, so in other words, they’re exactly the same. Which is not surprising, since they have basically exactly the same specification.
Standard luxuries include automatic LED daytime running lights, a reversing camera, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, heated seats and Toyota’s Touch 2 infotainment system displayed on a six-inch display — with DAB and Bluetooth support.
Adding the Performance pack brings the total to £30,440, though. That’s a fair heft over the base GT86’s £27,285 price tag, and throws it into the territory of another, more potent Japanese performance icon — the Honda Civic Type R.
Unless you’re desperate for the blue finish and the fruits brought along by the Performance pack, we’d suggest opting for the standard-spec GT86.
What’s it like inside?
The Toyota GT86, and perhaps more appropriately its Subaru equivalent, have always harked back to golden age of 90s Japanese performance cars in the interior quality — and that’s perhaps the one area it shouldn’t.
The GT86 is a little more h than the BRZ thanks to leather trimmings around the cabin and on the seats as well as a sprinkling of Alcantara, but it’s far from luxurious. The dials look straight from a Need for Speed game (and the digital display doesn’t quite fit the cluster properly), while controls are reminiscent of the remote for an R/C car.
As for practicality, there’s a fair amount of space — assuming you’re packing for two, as the rear seats would struggle to fit more than a young toddler in a child seat. It does boast a respectable 391 litres of boot space though, monstering the 130 litres on offer in the Mazda MX-5.
What’s under the bonnet?
Powering the Toyota GT86 Club Series Blue Edition is the familiar 2.0-litre, four-cylinder ‘boxer’ engine that can be found in both the regular car and its Subaru sibling, and is paired up to a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic (for an extra £1,355).
Power and torque remain the same at 200hp and 205Nm, allowing the Japanese machine to cover the 0-60mph dash in 7.6 seconds before reaching a 140mph top speed.
As for efficiency, Toyota claims 32.8mpg on the combined cycle with emissions of 196g/km — although you’ll struggle to achieve that kind of fuel economy if you drive the car with even the most delicate right foot.
Enthusiast may yearn for more power, but we’d argue the GT86 would better benefit from a boost in torque. Once the revs are built up to about 6,000rpm, the boxer howls and delivers a serious punch. But getting to that point can be a lot of work, with a dip in torque around 4,000rpm giving it an asthmatic undertone.
What’s it like to drive?
Toyota hasn’t changed much about the way the GT86 tackles a road, and that’s for the better. The chassis remains as composed as ever, while offering so much feedback that in the driver’s seat, you can almost feel it at work through your backside.
On the ragged edge, it gives enough grip to keep the car on the road but as a result of its economy-focus Michelin Primacy tyres, will bite hard if it’s not treated with respect.
As a result of the GT86’s performance-focused nature, town and motorway driving is somewhat compromised. Steering is heavy, which can make it a pain to park and navigate through tight spaces, while a harsh ride and lots of road noise make it tiring over longer journeys.
The Toyota GT86 Club Series Performance Blue doesn’t revolutionise the formula, meaning the Japanese sports car remains as fun to drive as ever — although there is a valid claim for more oomph from the engine.
That’s looking ever more unlikely to arrive now though, and with this generation GT86 looking a little long in the tooth at six years old, it remains to be seen if a successor will come – and if that will boast more fruitful performance.
Having said that, any new car would be some way off and the current iteration remains a solid alternative to the usual choice of a hot hatch — just maybe not in this exact specification.
Model: Toyota GT86 Club Series Blue Edition
Engine: 2.0-litre flat-four petrol
Power: 200 hp
Torque: 205 Nm
Max speed: 140 mph
0-60mph: 7.6 seconds
Fuel consumption (combined): 32.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 196 g/km