What's in a name? Not much if we're discussing the 2017 Toyota 86. That's because this car is simply a rebadged Scion FR-S, the rear-wheel-drive compact sport coupe that debuted four years ago. Toyota dropped its youth-focused Scion subbrand last year and has gathered some of its models under the Toyota flag, the 86 among them. There's some full-circle symmetry to the name, however, as the 86 draws inspiration from an iconic mid-1980s Toyota Corolla widely known by its internal code name, AE86. Maybe there's more in a name after all.
Like the AE86 before it, the 86 is a back-to-basics sports car, a lightweight two-door with rear-wheel drive and an emphasis on handling over power. Designed as a joint project with Subaru, which sells its own version (the Subaru BRZ), the car shows obvious Subaru cues, including a horizontally opposed (a.k.a. "boxer") engine and liberal use of Subaru switchgear throughout the cabin. The differences between the two are primarily equipment offerings and suspension tuning.
The 2017 Toyota 86 remains largely the same as the 2016 FR-S, with no significant changes to the engine, transmission or chassis. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is spiffed with 5 more horsepower (205 hp total) when you choose the six-speed manual transmission. Models with the six-speed automatic transmission remain at 200 hp. The manual transmission also has revised gearing that Toyota says should improve acceleration. We have yet to test this year's 86, but we don't expect it to be dramatically quicker than before.
The 86's lack of substantial change from its Scion predecessor isn't a bad thing. On the contrary, the FR-S' light and nimble nature made it one of our favorites, a car that made you find excuses to take it for an aimless spin. Power output is modest, but the 86's handling is excellent, especially with light modifications such as stickier performance tires (the 86's from-the-factory tires are only modestly grippy). A second-generation 86 model could arrive for 2019, so it's likely any comprehensive changes — like more engine power — will have to wait until then.
The 2017 Toyota FR-S replaces the former Scion FR-S (Toyota has discontinued its Scion subbrand), but it's essentially the same car. There are several minor updates for 2017, including a slight power increase, revised manual-transmission gearing and suspension tuning, and restyled front and rear fascias. There's also a new 860 Special Edition, with exclusive paint, stripes, lights and aero trim.
The 2017 Toyota 86 comes in a single trim level, so the only deliberation is whether you want a manual or automatic transmission, a navigation system, or an array of other accessories and add-ons, some from Toyota's TRD performance catalog, that can be purchased through the dealer. Options include 18-inch wheels, LED foglights, a rear spoiler, and upgraded suspension and exhaust components.
The 2017 Toyota 86 comes in two trim levels: base and the new 860 Special Edition. Power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 205 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque when paired to a six-speed manual transmission. Power dips slightly to 200 hp and 151 lb-ft when equipped with the automatic transmission. The 86 is rear-wheel-drive only.
Standard equipment on base models includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlights, air-conditioning, keyless entry, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control and a rearview camera. Tech features include Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen, voice commands and an eight-speaker sound system with HD radio, an auxiliary audio jack and a USB interface.
Toyota offers more than a dozen optional dealer-installed accessories for the base 86, including larger wheels, upgraded braking and suspension components, and a navigation system.
The 860 Special Edition is distinguished by two exclusive colors (orange or white), body stripes, unique 17-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, LED foglights, an aerodynamic underbody panel, heated leather front seats with contrast stitching, push-button ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control and a 4.2-inch display that monitors performance driving parameters such as real-time engine power usage and cornering force. Only 860 units of each color will be made.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our Full Test of the 2013 Scion FR-S (2.0L flat-4 | 6-speed manual | RWD), the mechanically identical predecessor to the Toyota 86.
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the Toyota 86/FR-S has received some revisions, including a slight power increase, revised suspension tuning, and significant improvements in infotainment and connected technology. Our findings on performance, handling, comfort and overall driving experience remain broadly applicable to this year's 86, however.
The 86 has moves like Jagger but an engine that struggles to get the stone rolling. We love the way the 86 drives through turns thanks to its classic rear-wheel-drive balance and effortless steering. It just needs a more powerful and refined engine to keep up with today's best sport coupes.
The 86's Subaru-based flat-four is responsive, but it's not the easiest car to launch aggressively. Midrange power is noticeably lacking, and the top-end bump isn't enough to make up for it. In our testing, we had a 0-60-mph time of 6.7 seconds. That's OK, but other coupes are noticeably quicker.
Initial impressions of the brakes are very good. It's a firm but easy-to-modulate pedal. But when the 86 is driven more aggressively, the pedal becomes wooden and harder to judge how much effort to apply. In our emergency panic stop from 60 mph, the 86 needed 109 feet, a respectably short distance.
Quick and precise steering rewards smooth driving, and well-damped feedback from the wheel communicates how much grip you have at the front wheels. It's the kind of steering you'd hope to get from a back-to-basics car like this.
The 86 delivers that classic rear-wheel-drive behavior, but does it at lower and more accessible speeds. It's a blast to drive on a twisty road. The 86's suspension tuning allows more chassis movement than the BRZ, but it is still fun in its own way. Track mode loosens the stability control a bit.
The clutch engagement zone is narrow, so it takes practice to shift smoothly. At midrange rpm, the engine falls flat on its face when you need it most. Longer highway grades can't be pulled in sixth gear. Listening to the motor moan and thrash takes a lot of the enjoyment away from revving it out.
The interior stitching and embroidered 86 logos are nice touches, but this is no touring car. To the casual enthusiast, the 86 could be considered noisy and stiff, but it'll feel just right for the sport coupe aficionado. Toyota puts performance ahead of the the 86's day-to-day usability.
A limited range of adjustability makes finding a truly comfortable position difficult. While the seat has firm padding and excellent bolsters, perfect for dynamic driving, they quickly become uncomfortable when you're just statically sitting in them, like in traffic.
Thanks to a stiff chassis, you can feel each corner of the car keeping its respective tire on the ground. Wheel motions are a little too quick to be considered comfortable, and the 86 will shimmy along on high-speed roads with undulations. You'll feel all the bumps and road imperfections.
Noise & vibration3.5
These tires bring the noise on coarse surfaces. Keeping the weight down means keeping the sound deadening to a minimum, so the 86 is definitely on the loud side. Wind noise becomes quite noticeable at higher speeds. It's never too much for the enthusiast, but passengers might disagree.
With a small cabin and big vents, this purely analog system easily cools things down quickly. The controls are easy to use and self-explanatory.
The interior of the 86 is purposeful and minimalist. There's also plenty of space and good outward visibility. Every control is right at your fingertips. Just don't consider this a four-passenger vehicle. Rear-seat space is laughable.
Ease of use3.5
There are no hidden features, no secret Easter eggs, no hidden menus. Everything about the 86 is clearly visible from the moment you get in.
Getting in/getting out3.0
It's low, but the wide door opening and unobtrusive seat cushion make it easy to drop into the 86. Use the rear seats for bags and cargo since the aperture to get in or out of them makes it virtually impossible for a human to do with any sort of grace.
While you sit low in the car, the driving position is surprisingly upright. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you start enjoying the handling characteristics, the seating position fades away. We would prefer more telescoping range from the steering wheel, as well as seat bottom tilt.
There's ample room for the front passengers. Nothing with feelings can sit in the back. But if you're looking for an expansive back seat, this probably isn't your type of car anyway.
With a tall and wide windshield and a low hood, forward visibility is pretty good. The view out the back is a bit compromised, but the rear quarter windows do help when changing lanes. A fairly high-resolution backup camera aids in the tightest quarters, but we wish the displayed image was larger.
There were no squeaks or rattles in our test car, even when driving aggressively over bumpy surfaces. No panels felt loose or insufficient. Tasteful touches of simulated suede contrasts with hard plastics, but touch points are thoughtfully faux leather-type materials.
With a folding rear seat and trunk designed to hold a full set of wheels and tires and a small tool set, the 86 doesn't have to be reserved just for weekend duty.
A small, hard plastic door pockets and a center console tray with removable cupholders are about all you get in the 86. That said, items stored are truly out of your way while driving vigorously.
The trunk opening isn't gigantic, but it can hold a decent amount of shorter-sized items. The narrow backseat aperture can make it difficult to slide wider items through. Lowering the rear seatback is only possible from the trunk, by pulling two lanyards simultaneously. It's not easy.
The 86's technology package is like the car itself: minimal. While we don't specifically mind the lack of functionality, we'd rate this system higher if Toyota would include Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration.
Audio & navigation2.0
The audio system is adequate, although even with eight speakers, it lacks the power to deliver any semblance of fidelity when the car is actually in motion. There's no standard navigation system, but a dealer-installed unit is available, even after purchase of the vehicle.
Neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is supported, but there is a USB port, an auxiliary jack and Bluetooth. Pairing is quick, and album cover art is displayed.
Along with standard ABS, the stability control has been retuned to allow a bit more traction loss before intervening; there's also a Track mode that loosens the reigns ever further. The advanced driver will still prefer to defeat the system entirely, which can be done easily.
Voice recognition is commendable, never missing a word, but the voice that speaks back is unnatural and dated. The system is a bit slow to access music and playlists, and despite the clumsy manual interface, it's simply faster to do it yourself.
Edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.