So what do the lucky deposit-holders have in store? In essence, an evolution of the charming but rough-edged GT86, which was introduced in 2012 and enthralled anyone and everyone who drove one in anger (especially in the wet) but never did the numbers for Toyota. Only 7500 were sold over here in nine years, and even if it’s unlikely the car was loss-making, there’s no doubt it made scant profit. What it did for Toyota’s perception both of itself internally and in the eyes of enthusiasts was far more valuable. The GT86 paved the way for the eventual revival of the Toyota Supra, then the red-hot GR Yaris and now its own successor, the GR86, all under the aegis of the Gazoo Racing sub-brand whose initials have come to be widely respected and even revered.
As per the silhouette, the GR86 is front-engined and rear-driven, with 2+2 seating. The 1998cc flat-four of its GT86 predecessor has been reprised but only after major surgery. Because the architecture of the car doesn’t allow for an increase in the stroke, the bore has dramatically grown instead, so this unit is now oversquare and sits at 2387cc.
The extra capacity, along with stronger con-rods, thicker crankshaft pins, a redesigned intake manifold, larger intake valves, new valve-springs and a larger throttle-body all play their part in raising 197bhp to 231bhp and 151lb ft to 184lb ft. Turbocharging? Still nowhere to be seen, and while that may mean the outputs remain at the tame end of the spectrum, kerb weight for the manual GR86 also remains nicely low, at 1276kg – just 37kg more than the GT86, though Toyota claims that if you took two identically specced cars, GR would be 10kg lighter than GT.
With the exception of the tyres, the engine is probably the single biggest change to the package, and everything else is either unchanged or subtly evolved. The GR86’s brakes and electrohydraulic steering are carried over directly from the GT86, as is the Torsen rear differential (albeit with added cooling fins) and final drive ratio, though the gearsets are new for both the manual car and the automatic because of the changed nature of the 2.4’s delivery.
Inside the snug but not claustrophobic cabin, the firm but decently supportive and now 5mm-lower-slung seats feel very familiar indeed, as does the GT-style view out. It still works well, the driving position and the street-fighter ambience. But equally, while the material finishes have come on somewhat and the dashboard upper has a rubberised feel, the place still seems built to a cost. I suspect most owners (rumoured to be 430 lucky souls in the UK) will happily accept the compromises – plasticky toggles, scratchy plastics, Alcantara that looks aftermarket – and in fairness the touchscreen display can be loaded with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, so that’s a vast improvement on before. Still, a Mazda MX-5, while cramped compared to the larger GR86, is more sophisticated both in look and feel.