2022 Toyota GR86 First Drive Review: Old-School, Evolved

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick


Engine: 2.4L F4
Output: 228 hp, 184 lb-ft
Transmission: 6MT, RWD
US fuel economy (MPG): 20/27/22
CAN fuel economy (L/100KM): 11.9/8.7/10.5
Starting Price (USD): $28,725 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (USD): $31,750 (inc. dest.)
Starting Price (CAD): $33,280 (inc. dest.)
As-Tested Price (CAD): $36,280 (inc. dest.)

In the spirit of the season, let’s take a moment to be thankful this car even exists.

The 2022 Toyota GR 86 didn’t need to happen, at least from a bean-counting perspective. Last year Toyota moved 2,486 of the little sports car in the US; it sold nearly 200 times as many RAV4s in the same period.

Get a Quote on a New Toyota GR86

If there’s ever been a consistent message about the 86, it’s been that bald numbers aren’t everything. There are better-selling cars out there, just as there are more powerful, front-drive competitors. You don’t buy an 86 for headline figures, though; you buy one for its innate chassis balance, the communicative steering, and that sports car shape. The second-generation car now eliminates or minimizes some of the inherent sacrifices that choice comes with, resulting in an exciting, rear-drive coupe with all the magic of before, and less of the flaws. If Porsche made a front-engined sibling for its 718 Cayman, this would be it.

What’s new?

Along with the new name, the GR 86 sits on a modified version of the previous platform. The dimensions aren’t much different: an inch (25 millimeters) more height, length up slightly more than that, the wheelbase stretched a wee bit.

You see the clearest connection to the old car in the middle section, with a similar 2+2 greenhouse. Simpler headlights frame a cleaner front-end design, giving the GR86 a happier front-end, an eager puppy looking for fun. On the other end, the taillights are clearly from Subaru’s side of the project, looking very close to the triangular items found on the new WRX. A big duckbill spoiler balances the shape front-to-rear. The vents aft of the front wheels look fussy to these eyes, but overall, this is a more dramatic and cohesive design than the sometimes-awkward debut model.

Under the hood lies a new flat-four engine, punched out to 2.4 liters of displacement. Power is up a little over 10 percent, at 228 horsepower. Better than that, torque is up from 156 to 184 pound-feet, and peaks much earlier (3,700 vs 6,600 rpm). A six-speed manual is standard, with an optional automatic housing the same number of gears. The dash to 60 mph (96 km/h) drops to 6.1 seconds for the three-pedal car, and 6.6 seconds for the auto. The latter also comes with a suite of modern driver assists.

Even with all the added kit, safety features, and larger engine, the 2022 manual GR86 weighs just 22 pounds (10 kilograms) more than the outgoing model. Time to see how that translates on track.

2022 Toyota GR86 driving impressions

Canadian Tire Motorsport Park’s Driver Development Track is a tight coil of corners, a sharp contrast to the big course—and a perfect place to get to know the GR86. With 19 corners crammed into 1.79 miles (2.88 kilometers), it has just about everything: off-camber corners, heavy banking, tight hairpins, precise S-bends. The GR86 relishes them all.

It’s the balance that shines brightest. Toyota’s little sports car has a 53:47 weight distribution front-to-rear, and a center of gravity hovering around ankle height. Even with the digital nannies all active, the GR86 tears into corners, gently rotating around a point just behind the small of your back. The thin (215/40R18) Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires find impressive grip, but never so much that they drown out the delicacy. The GR86 still talks to its driver, feedback coursing through that thin rim. Dig deeper into the throttle and the GR86 stays neutral; ease off and the tail gently arcs wide, so playful yet predictable that a novice would feel at home in no time. It’s still a front strut, rear multi-link suspension setup, but Toyota has retuned the spring rates as well as the electronic power steering for sharper responses. It pays off.

It’s the spaces between the corners that the GR86 shows its evolution. Other than the tight hairpins, the ’22 car can handle the entire DDT circuit in third gear. That just wasn’t possible before, with a disappointing torque gap right in the meat of the powerband. No more: the GR86 builds power progressively, and the torque is available right out of corners, no waiting necessary. The six-speed manual feels tighter than before, rewarding quick, precise shifts. Puttering around pit lane, the clutch engagement is more positive, removing the vagueness I experienced with the 2020 car last summer.

I spend the rest of my short time with the GR86 on the local roads. It’s still a taut little toy on the road, stiffly sprung but feeling more purposeful than harsh. There’s still more road noise than average, too. The extra torque is handy here, allowing the new car to stay in one gear where the old one required a shift or two. It’s a more relaxed on-road companion, not resigned.

SEE ALSO: How Driving the Current and Original Miatas Has Me Excited for Its Electrified Future

2022 Toyota GR86 interior and comfort

This is an office, if the work is dissecting the road ahead. The GR86 I drove was a pre-production model, so some of the plastics were shinier than the ones you’ll find on showroom floors starting next month. But the driver-focused layout will be the same.

Toyota nails the basics right away: an ultra-low hip point, grippy Alcantara-shod seats, a thin-rimmed steering, and tightly-spaced pedals. A new 7.0-inch digital instrument panel sits ahead of the wheel, providing clear information on the vitals. A row of rotary dials handles climate functions, though the old-school LCD displays can disappear in direct light (or with polarized sunglasses). Below that are more toggles. Premium models like this gain heated front seats, with the toggles dropped right in the middle of the center console.

There’s helmet-friendly levels of headspace up front: Toyota knows its audience. The rear seats are about the same as before: heavily scalloped to make the most of the space, but distinctly lacking in legroom for all but the smallest of adults. Want second-row space? Get a Mustang… er, Challenger… uh, hot hatch.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Ford Mustang GT Convertible California Special Review: Cloudy with a Chance of (V8) Thunder

2022 Toyota GR86 technology and features

The GR86 dips its toe into the modern tech pool. There’s an 8.0-inch touchscreen in the dashboard for instance, with full Apple and Android phone projection support. It’s not a pretty or particularly quick user interface, however, and being so low on the dash makes it less safe to operate on the move. Better is the smaller display behind the steering wheel: it’s crisp and easy to read, with myriad data available. There are even different layouts: a Track mode switches to a minimal tachometer, and even displays track times.

Automatic-equipped GR86s include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, auto high beams, and lane-keep assist. They also see a fuel economy advantage: 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway combine for 25 mpg. Manual figures are 20/27/22 mpg, respectively. Canadian figures are 11.9, 8.7, and 10.5 L/100 km for the manual, and 11.1/7.7/9.6 L/100 km for the automatic.

Since the GR86 lets in more road noise than the average car, the upgraded eight-speaker sound system is a desirable setup.

What’s the competition?

You mean beyond the related Subaru BRZ, right?

In the purity stakes, only the Mazda Miata compares. It’s a classic formula of its own as a two-seat roadster; lighter still, and with a better shifter, but lacking the practicality advantage of the Toyota’s 2+2 layout. Not to mention the coupe shape; you won’t be fitting a second set of tires in the the Miata’s trunk.

From there, your choice is to go big and rear-drive—think Ford Mustang EcoBoost, or low-spec Chevrolet Camaro—or smaller and front-drive. Hyundai has a trio of fun-loving N cars, and the new Elantra N is genuinely thrilling on the track. It’s a different sort of experience though, pull versus push.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Hyundai Elantra N First Drive Review: Big Grin Machine

Pricing for the 2022 GR86 kicks off at a reasonable $28,725 ($33,280 CAD) for the base manual. That includes the Torsen limited-slip differential, 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, 7.0-inch digital instrument panel, and 8.0-inch touchscreen. Premium models like this add the leather-and-Alcantara seating, upgraded stereo, 18-inch wheels, and cool rear spoiler, from $31,750 ($36,280 CAD). Opting for the automatic transmission is another $1,500 ($2,400 CAD).

Final Thoughts: 2022 Toyota GR86 First Drive Review

I’m not kidding around: the 2022 Toyota GR86 gave me a lot of Porsche vibes during our time together. This is a car that so clearly prioritizes not just driving enjoyment, but the purity of the experience. A naturally-aspirated, rear-drive setup has an inherent rightness to it, and it’s a small wonder Toyota offers this for such a reasonable price.

By sanding over its flaws—but not its talents—Toyota has made its old-school sports coupe better. The GR86 is still a unique joy on a backroad; without sacrificing anything about that experience, it’s now better as a daily driver, too.


How much does the 2022 Toyota GR86 cost?

The new model starts from $28,725 ($33,280 CAD).

When can you buy the 2022 Toyota GR86?

Toyota says dealerships will have the GR86 starting in December 2021.

Does the 2022 Toyota GR86 only come with a manual transmission?

No, there is a six-speed automatic available as well as the standard six-speed manual.

Discuss this story at our Toyota GR 86 forum.

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  • No more torque dip!
  • Delicious chassis balance
  • Modern safety on A/T model


  • Noisy
  • Back seats are kid-sized
  • Thirsty
Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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