2022 Toyota GR86 Review

Ron Sessions, Independent Expert | Jun 17, 2022

Introduction - Find the best Toyota deals!

The market for sports and sporty cars is nowhere as robust as in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. But some automakers with a motorsports presence want to maintain a few performance models to attract younger buyers and those young in spirit. With the design, engineering, and development cost of new-vehicle platforms easily running in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the smart way to slot a niche model into the brand is by partnering with another carmaker. Toyota's partnership with BMW to build the GR Supra is one example. The 2022 Toyota GR86, designed and produced in conjunction with Subaru, is another. GR, by the way, is short for Gazoo Racing, Toyota's go-to tuner for its growing lineup of sporty, sports, and hot-hatch cars.

What is now the GR86 was sold previously as the Scion FR-S from 2013 until the Scion sub-brand's demise in 2016 and simply as the 86 (a little-known internal nomenclature for the last rear-drive Corolla that's now become popular with the drifting set) from 2017 to 2020. Toyota skipped the 2021 model year and now offers a new-from-nose-to-tail 2022 version. It sits slightly more than a half-inch lower and is just over an inch longer than before. The bodywork is also sleeker, with a low, wide grille and functional air intakes framed by LED headlamps. The more exaggerated fender bulges sport functional side vents and contrast with a narrowed greenhouse and double-bubble-shaped roof. The top Premium trim puts an exclamation point on the profile with a natty ducktail decklid spoiler.

Top billing, however, goes to a larger, naturally aspirated 2.4-liter engine that makes the GR86 a much more enjoyable car to drive, every day and any day.

There are just two trim levels: the GR86 and GR86 Premium. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, with a 6-speed step-shift automatic optional. Toyota equips both with rear-wheel drive (RWD); all-wheel drive is unavailable.

What Owners Say About the Compact Sporty Car Segment - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Track bRED Front Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

The Toyota GR86 competes in the Compact Sporty Car market segment. According to data collected from verified new-vehicle buyers for the J.D. Power 2021 Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study, 57 percent of new Compact Sporty Car buyers are male (vs. 61 percent for the industry as a whole). The median age of a new Compact sporty Car buyer is 58 years (vs. 57).

As part of the APEAL Study, Compact Sporty Car owners rated their vehicles in 10 primary categories. Listed below in descending order, you'll find their preferences from their most favorite thing about the vehicle to their least favorite:

  • Exterior styling
  • Driving feel
  • Powertrain
  • Setting up and starting
  • Interior design
  • Feeling of safety
  • Infotainment system
  • Driving comfort
  • Fuel economy
  • Getting in and out

What Our Independent Expert Says About the Toyota GR86 - Find the best Toyota deals!

In the sections that follow, our independent expert analyzes a GR86 Premium equipped with the following options:

The price of the test vehicle came to $33,250, including the $1,025 destination charge.

Getting In and Getting Comfortable

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Track bRED Front Seats

Photo: Ron Sessions

It's the price of admission. You must get down low if you want to drive a road-hugging modern sports or sporty car. Lowering the center of gravity is critical. Also, sports cars generally have substantial bolstering to keep the driver and passengers planted in their seats during sporty driving on curvy roads. This affects ingress and egress, but in the GR86, even though the front buckets are firm, comfortable, and supportive for the thighs and thorax, there are no stiff lateral bolsters on the seat bottoms to slide your bottom over.

The Toyota GR86's manually adjustable body-hugging seats are nicely finished for a low-priced sporty car, especially in Premium trim that gains heated front cushions and faux-leather and velour coverings. With manual tilt and telescopic adjustment, the leather-wrapped steering wheel falls neatly into hand and feels solidly connected to the front wheels. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control ups the comfort quotient as well.

The digital driver display features a digital speedometer encircled by the tachometer at center stage flanked by configurable readouts for fuel economy, driver-assistive systems, coolant temperature, and more. In Track mode, the tachometer transforms into a linear graph for quick reads by the driver. Amenities include a dash-mounted pushbutton start button and, on Premium trim, aluminum-trimmed foot pedals.

Except for door bins, there's not much storage up front. Toyota reserves much of the console space for the leather-wrapped shifter, handbrake, and drive-mode controls. However, GR86 cars with an automatic transmission include a small open bin ahead of the center armrest handy for stashing the remote key fob and other small detritus. There are dual cupholders, but they live in a covered bin under the center armrest that includes USB ports for charging and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto data connectivity. This bin and the cupholders are awkward to access while driving because of the odd angle one must bend their arm.

No wireless phone charger is available, and some switchgear, particularly the toggles on the dash center stack, feel a bit chintzy. But then again, the money in this fun-to-drive coupe is in the driveline and chassis hardware. So, enough griping.

The GR86 has a 2+2 cabin layout, which means the rear seats, such as they are with seat belts for two passengers, are not suitable for transporting even one adult very far. You can gain a few inches for one rear passenger's legs and feet by sliding the front passenger seat forward a skootch, but for the most part, the rear seats are for small kids, pets, or shopping items you don't want to put in the also small trunk. Notable in the GR86 is a pair of child-safety-seat LATCH anchor points for the rear seats.

The rear seatback does, however, fold down, opening up space from the trunk for longer and bulkier items and, yes, weekend warriors, room for four mounted racing tires on track day.

2022 Toyota GR86 Audio System Review

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Interior Dashboard

Photo: Ron Sessions

More basic than many of the more advanced infotainment systems in other Toyota products, the one in the GR86 is appropriate for its low-cost performance driving focus. Standard elements include:

  • 8-inch color touchscreen
  • Wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring capability
  • Voice recognition with voice training
  • Bluetooth hands-free phone access and audio streaming
  • AM/FM audio system with six speakers (base GR86) or eight speakers (Premium)
  • HD Radio
  • 3-month Platinum Plan trial of SiriusXM satellite radio
  • One-year trial of Safety Connect, Service Connect, and Remote Connect services

Embedded navigation for maps and directions is unavailable. Drivers can instead defer to Google or Apple Maps using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Although the graphics look dated and Old School, the 8-inch infotainment display provides generously sized and easy-to-read on-screen tiles for successfully making selections on the fly, even in a firmly sprung sporty car traveling on less than glass-smooth roads. Large, analog volume and tuning knobs flank the screen. Also present are hard shortcut buttons for accessing the phone, third-party apps, radio, and other commonly used functions. There are steering wheel buttons for adjusting volume or station tuning as well. The only hiccup with the system is an FM channel screen tile that's too easy to brush against inadvertently because it's so close to the volume knob.

Pairing my Android Samsung phone was a quick and easy process following the on-screen prompts.

Despite the higher-than-average road noise over some surfaces, the 8-speaker stereo in the GR86 Premium trim offers good fidelity and separation. However, there was some secondary vibration in the test car's door panels during music selections with a heavier base soundtrack. The speakers in the GR86 also pipe in what Toyota calls Active Sound Control, which consists of enhanced engine propulsion sounds that blend with the car's natural intake and exhaust system soundtracks at wider throttle openings.

A dealer-installed, 200-watt, 10-inch subwoofer is among the few GR86 options.

What It's Like to Drive the 2022 Toyota GR86

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Track bRED Side Profile View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Before Gazoo Racing entered the Toyota vocabulary, there was a Toyota 86 (sans the GR prefix) from 2017 to 2020 and from 2013 to 2016 as the Scion FR-S. That model was also a RWD coupe, but one motivated by a 200-205-horsepower 2.0-liter (Subaru) boxer engine with 151-156 pound-feet of torque that had to be revved to near redline to develop said power and torque. Beginning with the 2022 model (Toyota skipped the 2021 model year), a second-generation car dubbed the GR86 gets a larger 2.4-liter version of this engine, pumping 228 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque. More importantly, the new engine is less peaky, and its increased output and grunt are now available over a broader engine speed range that owners are more likely to enjoy in everyday driving. It's available with a standard 6-speed manual or optional 6-speed automatic transmission, the latter equipped with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for manual control.

Acceleration times for zero-to-60-mph runs are in the low-to-mid-6-second range—about a second quicker than the first-gen 86. A rorty bark from the sizable dual-exhaust outlets above 5,000 rpm accompanies such blasts. Inside the GR86, enhanced propulsion sounds from the car speakers amplify those exhaust sounds.

The standard 6-speed manual gearbox brings some analog sports-car purity. It is a joy to drive with its precise, short-throw shifter and silky smooth clutch action, but it also means forgoing most of the GR86's advanced driving assistance systems.

Automatic-equipped examples of the GR86 come with a console-mounted, driver-selectable Sport mode that enables quicker downshifts with rev-matching throttle blips and keeps the transmission downshifted to a lower gear when cornering aggressively. Also selectable is Snow mode, which modulates the throttle for lower-friction launches, and Track mode, which turns off the car's stability control system for tail-out, closed-course driving.

The GR86 chassis is well balanced, with 53 percent of its weight on the front wheels and 47 on the rear, per Toyota. Curb weight is less than 2,900 pounds, benefitting from lightweight aluminum front fenders, roof, and hood. Extensive use of structural adhesives aids stiffness, making the Toyota coupe more responsive to its direct-feeling, fast-ratio steering.

Toyota fits the base GR86 with 215/45R17 Michelin Primacy all-season tires, but Premium trim increases the fun with meatier and grippier summer performance 215/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber at the corners. Helping to keep rear tire spin in check is a standard Torsen limited-slip rear differential.

Toyota GR86 Safety and Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) Review

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium ADAS Menu

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2022 Toyota GR86 comes standard with dual front airbags, side airbags, overhead airbags, and a driver's knee airbag. Also included is a reversing camera with trajectory lines. However, a surround-view camera that gives a 360-degree overhead view of the car and its immediate surroundings is not available.

The GR86 Active Safety Suite is also standard but limited to vehicles with an automatic transmission. It includes:

  • Pre-collision forward braking
  • Pre-collision throttle management
  • Lane-departure warning with sway alert
  • Adaptive cruise control with lead vehicle start alert
  • Automatic high-beam headlight control
  • Automatic parking assist rear sonar
  • Reverse automatic braking

Choosing GR86 Premium trim with manual or automatic transmission adds:

One GR86 Premium feature that often gets overlooked is its adaptive headlamps that swivel a few degrees with steering input. In the inky darkness of desert nights on sparsely traveled Arizona back roads, it was confidence-building to better understand what was in store around the next corner.

The test vehicle was a GR86 Premium, which comes standard with blind-spot or rear cross-traffic warning regardless of whether it has a manual or automatic transmission. In a coupe this small, with prominent blind spots hiding behind the shapely roof pillars and with the Premium's ducktail rear spoiler obscuring some of the view to the rear, the systems were a major plus when sharing the road and crowded parking lots with large SUVs and jacked-up full-size pickup trucks.

2022 Toyota GR86 FAQ - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Cargo Area

Photo: Ron Sessions

How much cargo space does the 2022 Toyota GR86 have?

The GR86 has a small, 6.26-cubic-foot trunk—about enough space for two or three airport roller bags. While that's only about 1.5 cubic feet more spacious than the Mazda MX-5 Miata's tiny boot, the Toyota has one significant advantage. The rear seat of the GR86, which is not useful for transporting adults more than a few painfully cramped miles, folds flat and creates a surprisingly large surface for toting items such as golf bags, skis, a step ladder, or a bunch more luggage. Because the GR86 has an inflator kit instead of a spare tire, some of that space is also available as hidden storage for small valuables such as a tablet, camera, or purse.

Does the 2022 Toyota GR86 get good gas mileage?

The answer is, for a sporty car, yes. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the 2022 Toyota GR86 at 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined when equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission and 21 mpg city/31 mpg highway/25 mpg combined in cars with the optional 6-speed automatic transmission. In a week of driving 128 miles over a mix of residential streets, interstates, and mountain highways in 100-plus-degree weather in the automatic-transmission test car, the average fuel economy in the car's trip computer was 27.4 mpg. With the GR86's 13.2-gallon fuel tank, that would result in a cruising range topping 350 miles. Just keep in mind that Toyota recommends more expensive premium unleaded fuel.

Is the 2022 Toyota GR86 safe?

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has rated the crashworthiness of the 2022 Toyota GR86 as of the posting of this review.

How much is the 2022 Toyota GR86?

The Toyota GR86 is available in base trim at $27,700 and in Premium guise for $30,300. Those prices do not include the destination charge of $1,025. An automatic transmission is a $1,500 upcharge.

What are the 2022 Toyota GR86 competitors?

Competitors to the 2022 GR86 include the Hyundai Veloster, Mazda MX-5 Miata, Mini Cooper, and Subaru BRZ.

Independent Expert Opinion - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota GR86 Premium Track bRED Rear Quarter View

Photo: Ron Sessions

Almost singlehandedly keeping the low-priced 2+2 sports coupe alive and well for driving enthusiasts, Toyota introduces a second-generation 86 (now GR86) for 2022 with improved performance, road holding, infotainment, driver-assistive technology, and available manual-transmission fun.

As Toyota moves to electrify most of its lineup this decade, the carmaker is hedging its bets by offering a diverse selection of powertrain choices and vehicle configurations to keep the personal transportation flame burning. Fortunately for driving enthusiasts, this includes fun-to-drive sports cars that celebrate the passion of driving without breaking the bank.

Ron Sessions is a seasoned vehicle evaluator with more than three decades of experience. He has penned hundreds of road tests for automotive and consumer websites, enthusiast magazines, newsletters, technical journals, and newspapers.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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