2020 Toyota 86

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Updated: March 24, 2020

2020 Toyota 86

The 2020 Toyota 86 (called “eight-six”) is a throwback to the time when sports cars were simple, fun, and affordable. Its hardtop proportions are traditional: a low, wide fastback coupe that’s sleek but not striking. The cabin is typically Toyota high-quality. 

For 2020, the 86 gets standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and adds a TRD handling package that improves the suspension and brakes for track days. There’s also a new Hakone edition named for one of Japan’s best driving roads.

The 86 uses a 2.0-liter flat-4 engine built by Subaru, the world’s leader (along with Porsche) in the past and current development of the so-called boxer engine, with horizontally opposed cylinders. It’s rear-wheel drive only. A 6-speed manual gearbox is standard, with an automatic transmission. 

Its 205 horsepower (200 hp with the automatic) is enough, but its 156 lb-ft of torque leaves drivers wanting for more. 

The handling is superb thanks to a short wheelbase, near-perfect weight distribution, and direct steering that balances response and ratio well. The ride is firm, but would or should you expect anything different?

For a small, light sports car with a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder, the 2020 Toyota 86 manages only mediocre fuel economy. With the automatic transmission, the 86 gets 24 mpg city, 32 highway, 27 combined on premium fuel with the manual it drops by 3 mpg to 21/28/24 mpg. 

The NHTSA awarded four stars for frontal crashworthiness and five for rollover prevention, while the IIHS rated it  “Good” (meaning the best) for the front, side, roof strength, and seats.

It got an “Acceptable” score for the front overlap test. Unfortunately the 86 has never been available with any active safety features. 

Model Lineup

There are two models, 86 and GT, as well as the new Hakone edition. For $28,015 with manual gearbox or $720 more with automatic, the 86 comes with LED headlights, sport seats in cloth, 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry, power features, faux suede trim, a fold-flat rear seat, and 17-inch alloy wheels. 

The new TRD handling package is optional for both models and adds stiffer dampers, Brembo brakes, unique 18-inch wheels, and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires.

The GT adds dual-zone climate control, heated seats with leather and Alcantara trim, a 4.2-inch information display in the gauge cluster, keyless ignition, leather and synthetic-leather touchpoints. For some reason, the automatic GT costs less than the manual: $30,865 for the auto and $31,145 for the 6-speed.

The new Hakone edition adds tan leather to the interior upholstery, a unique green paint hue, and bronze wheels. It costs $30,900 for the 6-speed and $31,620 for the automatic.

Exterior

The 2020 Toyota 86 design is classic, with a long hood and wheels pushed to the corners. It’s smoother than the Subaru BRZ that’s identical under the skin, and its grille is bigger. 

Interior

The instrument panel is simple, with climate controls under the infotainment screen, drive mode switches grouped around the gear shift, a clean cluster of gauges, and a nice round (not flat-bottomed) steering wheel. The quality of materials is good, but the cabin is dark, whether in black, black and gray, or black and red. Granted, some might call it racy. The Hakone Edition adds some visual flair with brown leather to go with its green exterior and gold wheels.

The Toyota 86 is technically a four-seater but it’s realistically just for two grownups. Two small children might be squeezed into the jump seats behind the front buckets. 

The front buckets are supportive and have good bolstering, as they should for cornering, and they’re quite low to the ground, as they naturally would be. At least there’s enough head and leg room. 

The trunk only offers 6.9 cubic feet, but the rear seats fold flat, which opens up the rear to allow a set of four tires to fit inside, for track days. 

Driving Impressions

The 2020 Toyota 86 is a bit short on grunt, but it makes up for that with exceptional handling and a perky attitude. The plan behind the BRZ and 86 was always to refrain from chasing horsepower and bring the fun without the stress of worrying about speeding tickets. 

Power comes from a 2.0-liter flat-4 Subaru engine making 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque. With torque that low, you have to work the engine hard by keeping the revs up. That’s easier with the slick 6-speed manual transmission than it is with the sluggish 6-speed automatic.

Rear-wheel drive gives the 86 a tendency to oversteer, especially with the narrow tires, while the perfect balance makes it controllable. The new TRD handling package adds stiffer springs, better brakes, and more handling-oriented goodies. 

The steering is excellent, and the handling is light and tossable with the perfectly-sized steering wheel. That nearly 50/50 weight distribution makes the 86 feel direct and natural, one of the most intuitive cars to drive that we know of. 

Final Word

The Toyota 86 has been mission accomplished from day one. And enthusiasts have been wishing it had more power since day two. But it’s only underpowered if you want it to be something it’s not. It’s about balance. It’s easy to pitch and it’s predictable. It’s fun. The 6-speed manual is the transmission of choice to drive it like it was meant to be driven.

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection