Toyota 86 update:Spot the difference

MODEST styling tweaks and mild mechanical upgrades will distinguish the 86 in its crucial mid-life update – meaning it’ll take an expert eye to pick all the tell-tales.


First images of the freshened car, released ahead of its international debut at this week’s New York motor show, reveal Toyota has been extra careful to maintain strong ties with the original.

Not to worry. While Toyota New Zealand doesn’t seem to expect the update to spark a whole new wave of fresh sales for the car when it arrives in the last quarter of this year, it does think there will be a reaction from the fan base.

Says Spencer Morris, general manager of product: “We expect that the pending changes will stimulate a strong response from the large enthusiast base that this car has.”

Quite a careful comment, that one. Essentially, as translated by Motoring Network, we’re being told that the fanbase will appreciate and applaud what has been done, yet at the same token TNZ isn’t anticipating a sales explosion.

Fair call.  While the sporty coupe has an acknowledged pedigree and has achieved brilliant status as a driver’s car, fact is it already fits into something of a niche.

Just 553 have been sold since launch back in 2012.

Yet Morris isn’t too worried – it’s a fact that coupes tend to shine brightest early in their sales life then fall back. That happened with the 86: 251 of those New Zealand-new cars found homes in 2013 and, since then, the sales flow has slowed considerably.

That doesn’t make it an endangered species. It’s a car that owners love and, given it is also now firmly established as a one-make race series, it’d be foolhardly for TNZ to turn off the tap.

Comments Morris: “Demand remains strong but somewhat more modest which is to be expected with a sports car model. “

Differences between the current model and the new restrict to design tweaks. There’s a revised front bumper and foglight bezels, re-configured LED headlights and a larger grille. An updated rear bumper is also included, as are new-look 'sports' LED tail-lights.

The design of the alloy wheels has been refreshed, and the 86 logo has moved to a single badge on the front fender, as well as on the outside edge of the front headlights. 

Mechanically, the 86 receives a revised suspension tune that focuses on shock absorber and spring rates, while manual variants get a performance boost thanks to a gear ratio change as well as a 4kW/9Nm increase in power and torque, meaning 149Kw and 214Nm. Hill-start assist is also standard.

Being such a ‘hands-on’ car, you’re probably wondering if almost all 86s are three-pedal models. Not quite.

Morris says the manual/auto sales split so far is exactly 50-50.

The now discontinued entry level RC stripper model was predominantly manual – no surprise there, since this was the donor for the race series.

The next-up 86 has pulled a 67 percent manual favourability. It’s the top-line GT86 that goes the other way; here a whopping 56 percent of examples sold have been in auto format.

With the RC dropped from public sale, we wondered if the line might be further rationalized when the update arrives. Morris was a touch enigmatic on that point.

“The RC variant that we sold principally to motorsport enthusiasts is no longer available and therefore the range has already been rationalised.” However, he added “any further specific changes to the TNZ will be revealed at time of launch.”

Interestingly, the GT is the one that gets the most change to its interior styling … though that’s not much change at all.

The big revision is the introduction of a new ‘Grandlux’ material covering the instrument panel surround and door trims, new seating material with silver stitching and a steering wheel with integrated audio controls.