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Driven: Toyota GT86 TRD. Image by Toyota.

Driven: Toyota GT86 TRD
Our search for the perfect GT86 goes on – does this eye-catching Toyota TRD prove to be a contender?


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Toyota GT86 TRD

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Good points: We're convinced - bigger, grippier tyres make the GT86 a belting steer

Not so good: But it still needs more power

Key Facts

Model tested: Toyota GT86 TRD
Price: Toyota GT86 range starts from £22,995; TRD parts individually priced
Engine: 2.0-litre boxer four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: rear-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: two-door coupé
CO2 emissions: 192/km
Combined economy: 34.9mpg
Top speed: 140mph
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds
Power: 200hp at 7,000rpm
Torque: 204Nm at 6,400- to 6,600rpm

Our view:

In an age swimming with forced induction hot hatches, the normally aspirated, rear-wheel-drive Toyota GT86 continues to plough a lone furrow in a segment which has largely disappeared: that of the compact, affordable coupe. We love the fact that it exists at all, that it can be bought new for less cash than ever and that it'll out-corner most rapid hatchbacks going, but the GT86 still has a few compromises that preclude it from true greatness.

We've been trying a variety of examples lately, hoping to stumble upon the formula that unlocks the latent goodness within. Next to step up is the TRD, which stands for Toyota Racing Developments. Back in 2013, Toyota did 250 limited edition versions of the 86 called the TRD, which were more than 30 grand and had some TRD goodies added. Nowadays, you can do one of two things to achieve the same outcome: one, try and find one of the original limited edition cars, which command a marked used-price premium; or two, go and buy some TRD bits yourself for your regular GT86.

We'd advocate route two and this is the shopping list you'll need: a member brace set (strut braces, one of which is easy to spot if you pop the bonnet); a sports air filter; a sports oil filter; an oil filler cap; a radiator cap; door stabilisers; the TRD lower body kit and boot spoiler; a branded gear knob and red starter button; and, getting into the good stuff, a full-length, ride-adjustable suspension set; TRD's high-response exhaust; the monoblock brake kit; and 18-inch forged aluminium wheels.

After severely lightening your wallet with that haul, what you'll end up with is another glorious GT86 chassis that's crying out for more power, much more. Thoughts inevitably turn to the Cosworth supercharger kit for the Toyota, which in its most potent form leaves you with 284hp and 305Nm. That's enough for 0-62mph in less than five seconds, but it's not cheap. At around £8,700, if you fit that on top of all the TRD equipment, you'll be looking at a GT86 that costs as much as a decent Porsche Cayman.

It's a shame we're still searching for GT86 nirvana and we reckon Toyota ought to have used the TRD association (OK, TRD is not a great collection of letters here in the UK, where it inevitably invites rude scatological gags) to give its coupe more grunt. Because, in this format, it could sure as hell handle it. The TRD is beautifully balanced, almost preternaturally so, which means it is comfortably faster than a standard GT86, despite its on-paper stats being identical.

The reason for this is because it has so much more mechanical grip from those big, non-eco tyres at all corners. It has more stopping power from the superb TRD brakes. It must surely have a little more horsepower and torque, thanks to the air filter and big exhaust; that latter item, by the way, is even better than the Milltek Sport stainless pipes we tried on the Yatabe GT86 late last year, the TRD exhaust providing a really muscular soundtrack without ever booming on a cruise. So, you can corner harder, you can decelerate for bends later, you can rely on that wonderful Toyota steering wholeheartedly. You're therefore going 10-15mph quicker when you exit the bend than you would be in a regular GT86, which means you're higher up in the Toyota's peaky rev band as you hit the straights. Whereupon, the improved breathing of the TRD allows you to haul for the redline in a sharper manner.

It's a superb performance car as a result. Driven well, it would certainly keep pace with or maybe even embarrass some very powerful hot hatches. But you're still gagging for extra oomph on the longer straights, a bit more low-rev responsiveness from that flat-four. Rather incredibly, this is one of the few cars we've had recently that beats its quoted fuel consumption figures. Toyota reckons fitting the larger 18-inch wheels drops economy to 34.9mpg, yet we managed to achieve 36.4mpg from the TRD without really trying.

Great fuel economy or not, the time has come for Toyota to do something, to offer a more powerful iteration of its coupe. But the tricky balancing act will be to keep its price relevantly low in order to tempt people out of the likes of the Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS, both sublime cars hovering around the £30,000 mark. If Toyota can get to the 250-270hp bracket and still be in the mid- to high-£20,000s, there'd be a sound case for picking the GT86 ahead of ostensibly more practical rivals.

Of course, this particular TRD has another trick up its sleeve. Or rather, on it, as it wears full red-and-green Castrol livery like a WRC Celica GT-Four from the mid-1990s. This makes it somewhat less than subtle. Few, if any cars we've ever driven, at any price point and level of exotica, drew attention like this Toyota did in the space of 812 miles. And not one hand gesture was aggressive; everyone seemed to heartily approve of the motorsport colours. However, with its loud TRD exhaust, beefy bodykit and comprehensive racing paint job, it really is a case of all mouth and no trousers. Our most telling, er, duel was with a tidy MkII Toyota MR2 and the GT86 was hardly destroying the old boy.

Don't get us wrong, though, we love the GT86. We've said time and again that we love the fact Toyota (and, by extension, Subaru with its BRZ) has the chutzpah to continue building such a machine. But it is now swamped by cheaper rear-drive vehicles, comparable hot hatchbacks and even mid-power C-segment estates that drive in an interesting manner. The thing is, if you claim to be a petrolhead and yet you prefer, say, a 205hp Renault Megane Sports Tourer to a low, lightweight, rear-drive coupe with a fantastic chassis, then admitting as much among your car-loving peers will make you stand out like, well, like a middle-aged man driving a fully Castrol-liveried Toyota. The potential for magnificence is there in the GT86. Even with TRD's know-how, though, it remains tantalisingly just out of reach.


Mazda MX-5 2.0: UK Car of the Year winner and for good reason. The 2.0 MX-5 is a focused, engaging motor, with the bonus of open-top motoring.

Nissan 370Z: Reasonably inexpensive and old-school like the GT86, with a lot more power to play with.

SEAT Leon Cupra 265: We cited this car as a rival last time we drove an 86, as it's the cheaper version of the Leon Cupra and it's a three-door only. Much quicker than the Toyota in a straight line.

Matt Robinson - 12 Feb 2016    - Toyota road tests
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- GT86 images

2016 Toyota GT86 TRD Castrol drive. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota GT86 TRD Castrol drive. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota GT86 TRD Castrol drive. Image by Toyota.2016 Toyota GT86 TRD Castrol drive. Image by Toyota. 


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