TOYOTA has a long history of very competent sporting coupés, epitomised by the powerful twin-cam Celica and Celica Supra ranges of the 1970s and 80s.
Though there's been a bit of a gap lately, the company has recently put matters to rights – with something of a vengeance. The new GT86 coupé is in the time-honoured rear-wheel drive sports car tradition, thoughtfully engineered to warm the cockles of a keen drivers heart, well capable of delivering driver enjoyment in generous measure.
The GT86 is slightly unusual in using a two-litre, flat-four engine, the result of an alliance with Subaru for the car's development. The unit delivers a healthy, sweet spinning 197 horsepower, with an accompanying exhaust note that changes from a mere burble when not hurrying to a near blood-curdling growl as serious power is demanded.
Further acceleration from any sane speed is hard-hitting and in urgent sprint style, with a hair trigger accelerator pedal action that hurls the car off the line, complete with wheelspin, if a driver is slightly throttle-insensitive.
Quite relaxed motorway cruising is possible, but this power unit leaves the driver in no doubt its heart and soul yearn for altogether more interesting roads.
My car featured six-speed automatic transmission: from initial incredulity that it could remotely suit such a car I came round to thinking that actually, it certainly shouldn't be summarily dismissed.
Its super-sportily set up, with switch-action downchanges on flexing the right foot... and for the brave a sport setting, raises the game further. Manual changes are as quick – and easily made via the lever or steering wheel paddles. The suspension set up is understandably but not uncomfortably firm, with sufficient traction, good cornering grip, and roll-free traditional rear drive handling.
The set up can see occasional early stability control intervention: keen and experienced drivers might choose to enjoy the car's predictable and well balanced handling by use of a rare, switch-selectable sport VSC setting.
It's an intuitive, well balanced chassis, confidence inspiring, capable and controllable, though the well-weighted steering system seems dull in general use. Vestigial rear seats exist, but this is really a two seater, with a shallow but reasonably capacious boot, but a definite shortage of oddments space and hiding places.
The attractive, low-slung exterior style doesn't markedly intrude on visibility, though angled junctions can certainly present interesting moments.
Interior finish is tastefully efficient, with sporty styling themes, though overall ambience perhaps doesn't quite reflect the car's list price.
Equipment is very adequate, including an advanced safety specification, dual zone climate control, keyless entry and ignition with integrated alarm, bi-xenon headlights, cruise control and a trip computer. Alloy wheels are fitted, but absent friends include rear park assist and satellite navigation.