8 Oct 2018

2019 Toyota 86 TRD

The name may have changed but the car is still terrific.

When the Scion FRS originally appeared in 2013, it was a sporty machine with good looks and very capable handling. If there is one word that comes to mind to describe the car it was light: Lightweight. Light touch on the controls. Light on power. The little 2.0-liter four cylinder (205HP/156 lb. ft.) sports car is a delight to drive but it lacks in the power department. For the want-to-be-sporty crowd – it was perfect at making all the right sounds without the performance numbers.

So, in 2017 the FRS became a Toyota – the Scion nameplate shelved by the parent company. While the other Scion vehicles have gone the way of the Dodo, someone at Toyota realized that the FRS was really special. For 2019, the Toyota FRS has more horsepower while retaining the terrific styling and agile handling.

Our test car, we are happy to report, featured the new light shifting six-speed transmission that is geared just right for spirited operation (with improved gearing for cruising rpm from the past). The same Subaru-produced engine is used this year (thus the reason for the sister car – the Subaru BRZ). Those checking the box for the manual transmission will take advantage of five full horsepower. We are not kidding. What this means is that aftermarket companies like Edelbrock and Vortech who make bolt-in supercharger kits that will add over 100 horsepower will be all the more appealing. Oh, and for automatic transmission fans – there is no additional power.

We had a chance to drive the 86 for a week and found that the car is extremely comfortable on longer drives and features a nice array of electronic infotainment components, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The instrumentation is well laid out and the gauge package quite complete. The seating is snug but really great at keeping you in the seat for performance driving, such as local autocross competitions. Rear seat – well think of it as an expanded package tray – no one could sit back there – ever.

The rear hatch is very functional and is the best use of the rear seating with the seats flipped down. Visibility is good throughout and the mirrors are small but seemed fine for our usage. The visors are small and don’t do a great job blocking out glare – but again what sport car features decent visors, right?

Compared to the performance of cars like the Miata MX-5, the 86’s 0 to 60 times are slightly behind but the handling and feel of the car is much more sporty with the 86. In terms of the 86’s fun to drive quotient, the car is a win especially with the manual transmission, which put the brakes to the test. We are happy to report that these elements both came through beautifully. With a sticker price of under $30k for a nicely appointed vehicle, this is certainly a very attractive buy for those looking for a sporty vehicle with real ability.

While we may seem a bit somewhat hard with regards to the engine output, the 86 fills a key void within Toyota line up – one that has been lacking in fun to drive performance oriented cars since the departure of the Celica. If you are looking for a sporty vehicle that is affordable and good on fuel (we achieved 31 in highway driving), this is one to certainly consider.

Leave a Reply