By on January 16, 2019

Gearheads are never satisfied, are we? After years of carping that no affordable and fun sports cars exist, Toyota deigns to grant our wishes with the FR-S 86 coupe. Lightweight and affordable with just enough power, the lively little scamp seemed to be the magic elixir that cures a case of the common car.

And what did we do? Criticize it, naturally. And then most of us refused to buy it. I sincerely hope the new Supra doesn’t suffer the same fate because – as a statement of intent – these cars are a couple of belters.

Base 86 coupes start at $26,455 for the 2019 model year, a sum exactly equal to that of last year’s car.

That 2.0-liter boxer engine that causes so many arguments at the pub produces 205 horsepower at a heady 7,000 rpm, with torque peaking 600 rpm earlier at 156 lb-ft. Fun fact: Toyota says the engine’s “square “ dimensions (equal bore and stroke) are 86mm. There’s a fact to stump all hands at trivia night. Standard-issue manual transmission models make 5 hp more than their slushbox brethren, further cementing the case for a stick in this car. Toyota does specify premium go-juice, so plan that into your operating budget. Seventeen-inch wheels appear on the base car wrapped in 215/45R17 rubber.

Count your author amongst the cadre of people who think the 86 looks better in person than in photos — one of the reasons why I’m willing to delay final judgement on the new Supra until I see it in person, despite the thing resembling an automotive tribute to the noble lungfish (based on images from the show floor in Detroit). Recall the A80 Supra for which all hands pine today was also crapped upon for its bug-eyed headlights and baseball-sized taillamps when it went on sale 25 years ago.

Color-keyed outside mirrors, dual chrome-tipped exhaust finishers, and LED lamps are all present and accounted for on the cheapest 86. Neato “vortex generators” and a diffuser-style rear bumper are dandy styling flourishes one can brag about at Cars & Coffee. Air conditioning and all that gear makes for a nicely equipped interior, available on the base car in any color you want so long as it’s black.

So appreciate this sporty offering (and its just-introduced brother) while they’re here. If we remain a bunch of ungrateful whelps, Toyota might make like a frustrated parent and send us all to bed without our supper.

[Images: Toyota]

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36 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2019 Toyota 86...”

  • avatar

    So, I guess we get this as an Ace of Base every six months?

    • 0 avatar

      Not every car has what it takes to be an Ace of Base.
      Some cars have what it takes to be one annually.

      • 0 avatar

        Or twice a year, apparently!

        I get that it’s an enthusiast car, and this is an enthusiast site that would like to see more enthusiast cars bought (the alternative being talking about the latest CUV, which is a one way trip to chronic depression).

        But one mention is enough.

    • 0 avatar

      Not only too often selected as an Ace of Base, but entirely too much coverage of this car altogether. Drop it!

      Yes, we know it’s called the 86, and the engine configurations referred to as square (as opposed to undersquare – stroke longer than bore, or oversquare – stroke shorter than square), and we don’t care anymore.

      It came out. Designer said it had enough power. Market said it did not have enough power, and crappy power characteristics, to boot. Failure in the market.

      Move on.

      • 0 avatar

        How is it a failure? Look at the numbers sold back to 2013 when the car came out. They are pretty respectable for a small RWD coupe. The 86 was never going to sell in Camry numbers.

  • avatar

    I still say the problem with this car is the price. 26k base is too high for what it is. At 20k starting price this would be much more of a hit. In that upper twenties range most people just go for the wrx or GTI and enjoy a little more practicality for nearly the same performance.

    This is an inexpensive toy that has been made too expensive to do well.

    • 0 avatar

      Can confirm I probably would own one if the Fiesta ST was not sold with a hatchback for 7K less and better financing terms. The driving experience on the Fiesta ST was more immediately exciting, too, probably because of the torque, induction note, and great steering.

      I still think about getting one from time to time, but I’d just be replacing a car I love with one that weighs the same, is less powerful, less practical, less fuel efficient, and more expensive to buy, only because I wanted RWD. If I’m going to spend money for base-price RWD, the MX-5 is hands down what I would pick (since I already own a car somewhat competing with this this and the hardtop 86 is far less practical than what I currently own).

      I think this car has become much more compelling now that Ford is leaving the fun small car game, though. If I were clean-slate shopping today, I might pick it over a Miata for the fixed-roof practicality.

    • 0 avatar

      At this price point, the killer app is an Ecoboost Mustang.

      • 0 avatar

        I tried that, damn are those things slow. I think the WRX is the real deal at this price point, or a GTI. Both are faster than this on the road, and WRX will keep up on a track.

        • 0 avatar

          I find the base Mustang way more than adequately fast – but it feels like a boat.

          I think it would have to be a really tight and twisty track for a GTI to not show it’s taillights to an 86. Maybe a go-kart track? Then there is the minor detail that it is trivial to add 75hp to a GTI, to an 86 not-so-much. The magic of turbochargers.

          But why the 86 didn’t debut with a 2.0l turbo is the mystery of the ages. Would have solved ALL of it’s issues, and I can’t believe for a split second that cost was really an issue. They just aren’t that expensive anymore.

      • 0 avatar

        Not for me. Mustangs feel like boats.

    • 0 avatar

      More practicality and MORE performance in a GTI.

      This is a car I wanted to like, but didn’t. The engine is just awful. It’s not that it is slow, it is that it is just not much fun. It’s an engine that wants to be in an economy hatch bolted to a CVT, not a sports car. If you are going to make a torqueless wonder, at least make it WANT to rev. This boxer is the worst of all worlds, no torque, and it doesn’t want to rev either.

      And I agree it costs a little too much, but understand why they can’t sell it any cheaper.

  • avatar

    Damn it, I had just put this thing out of my mind.

  • avatar

    It’s nice—it’s just not where the market is right now, and probably will never be again.

  • avatar

    Supra at $50K over this at $26.5K all day long.

  • avatar

    I like these a lot.

    If I bought one and got a license plate that read “MAXWELL” if anyone would get the joke.

  • avatar

    This is an expensive car. I don’t care that “by today’s standards” it’s not expensive. Our salaries have not increased “by today’s standards” which is why this didn’t sell. You could go get a much faster WRX for slightly less money if you also got the base version, still can actually – which makes this car an even harder sell.

    Basically they missed their market with it costing too much and offering too little performance at that price point.

  • avatar

    Lets see, a somewhat pedestrian motor from a company that makes a cracking turbo mill. For 35k and turbo it would sell. If I want a handling car with just at best balanced power the miata is hard to beat. GT 86 needs power to stand out.
    Same witht he last gen Mr2. Im sure its limited power was all japanese zen, but here in the land of a 35k mustang Gt it was limp.

    Not that one needs extreme power to play, but these cars need something.

  • avatar

    I’m a fan of this car and I still just can’t justify it to myself at its “new car” price points. $26k is used-Corvette money in the US, or MkIV Supra money in Japan. $26k is brand-new Mark X RWD sedan money (base model, not the faster versions).

    Now if you wanted one to build as a project car, used ones are getting as low as $10k….throw in $10k of mods (twin-screw supercharger, brakes, wheels, tires, etc…) and you’ve now got something that would deliver smiles for days and still not be too expensive to maintain.

    I mean, I get it, even a Daihatsu Copen costs $18,000….it seems really difficult to deliver a decent-sized and decently-capable automobile at the $20,000 price point. But that’s what the 86 needs to get more people willing to experiment with it.

  • avatar
    Leonard Ostrander

    Great car! I’ve owned two of them and, for the price, I wouldn’t have anything else for my personal daily driver, coast to coast cruiser, autocross, fun car. Too slow? You haven’t a clue, don’t know how to drive, or have never driven one. Arm chair pretenders gotta pretend.

    • 0 avatar

      The guys who track these seem to love them.

    • 0 avatar

      I have driven one on track… and have to agree with everything that has been written about it. I wouldn’t call it slow but its not fast either. Thus autocross is perfect for it as its fun to flick around, however once you hit a straight section the tach moves but nothing else seems to happen.

      You could lap it all day long with no fatigue. Honestly its almost too easy to drive – the steering is light, the brakes are smooth, the shifter is snappy. Just the lack of torque means the car has no rush or surge like get with a turbo or V6 and doesn’t compare at all to the massive shove you get from a V8.

      It is a great car, it does exactly what it claims to do, but its weak points are well documented and you can’t ignore them. What makes no sense to me is that Subbie makes great turbo engines and if they had just put that in the 86 then most of the criticism would go away.

  • avatar

    Big problem for Toyota will be the $20K+ gap between the 86 and the new Supra.

  • avatar

    “the lively little scamp”

    Mr Guy, you have driven one I assume? I’ve driven three. “Lively” as a descriptor never entered my mind. The exact opposite did. That’s its major flaw. A Miata is lively, this ain’t. Unless you’re wearing a concrete driving boot to mash the accelerator to the floor, that is.

    The whole article is the kind of gush normally reserved for travel magazine articles. No more, please.

  • avatar

    The only thing wrong with the 86 is that it should never have been made available with an automatic transmission.

  • avatar

    “despite the thing resembling an automotive tribute to the noble lungfish” is one of the best lines i’ve read in the past few ….

    major kudos for that. and thanks for the laugh.

  • avatar

    Maybe if they could sell cars without airbags (the same way motorcycles are sold without any real safety features), they could cut several thousand $$$ from the cost? I think it’s just getting physically impossible to manufacture a finished performance-oriented automobile that meets all regulations any cheaper than ~$25k or so…

  • avatar

    I once owned a car with a steep torque curve that peaked only a few hundred rpm below the engine’s 7700 rpm redline. I had to constantly row the gearbox to achieve even halfway acceptable response to depressing the accelerator pedal. Was it fun to drive? Yeah, I guess, but what I wouldn’t have given for 50 lb-ft more torque that peaked about 2000 rpm lower. Living near the redline tends to make for ridiculously high oil consumption down the road.

    I’d buy this car with someone else’s money–but not with my own.

  • avatar

    Has the Subaru WRX ever featured on the AoB?

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