By Eric Peters- Many people buy Toyotas because they are Toyotas, which have a reputation for being durable, reliable cars that depreciate less fast than cars with other badges.
But how about a Subaru with a Toyota badge? Does the mojo transfer?
What It Is
The Toyota 86 sport coupe is the only Toyota made by another car company — with another car company’s engine under its hood but a Toyota badge on its hood.
It’s functionally identical (and nearly cosmetically identical) to the Subaru BRZ.
Both are similar to the Mazda Miata — their primary rival — in terms of being rear-wheel-drive sports cars. But the twins have back seats, which the Miata doesn’t; aren’t convertibles (the Miata is); are powered by low-mounted/horizontally opposed “boxer” engines (Porsches are the only other cars that have these); and have large trunks for small, purpose-built sports cars (the Miata doesn’t).
As for why Toyota is selling Subarus …
At first, it wasn’t. Scion, Toyota’s small car brand, sold it as the Scion FR-S. But Toyota canceled Scion, leaving the FR-S (which was the one Scion that sold well) without a place to be sold.
Under the Toyota 86 label, it’s still a Subaru in all but name and price, the latter of which is slightly higher than it was under the Subaru label.
You can buy the BRZ for $25,795. The lowest-priced version of the 86 is $26,655. A top-trim BRZ Gray Series costs $30,140. The Toyota 86 TRD costs $32,420.
Toyota’s rep doesn’t come free.
A more firm-riding suspension and upgraded (Brembo) brakes package is now available. Otherwise the 86 is the same.
It seats four — not comfortably, perhaps, but it’s possible.
It isn’t a convertible. Not everyone wants a soft top.
It has a low-mounted boxer engine, just like a Porsche but without the Porsche price.
What’s Not So Good
The Toyota reputation adds to the price. Get the same car for substantially less at a Subaru dealer.
Some people want a soft top.
It’s not as light on its feet as the Miata because it’s 500 pounds heavier.
Under the Hood
All 86s, like all BRZs, are powered by the same Subaru-built 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, which has 205 horsepower when paired with the standard six-speed manual transmission and 200 when paired with the optional six-speed automatic.
Both cars get to 60 mph in the same 7 seconds with the manual transmission. Automatic-equipped versions are noticeably less speedy.
Mileage with the automatic is, however, slightly better: 24 mpg city and 32 mpg highway. It’s 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway with the manual transmission, which is also slightly different than the BRZ’s mileage. It has 21 mpg city and 29 mpg highway with the manual transmission, and 24 mpg city and 33 mpg with the automatic.
Given both cars are mechanically identical, it’s hard to account for this difference.
On the Road
The 86 isn’t very quick, even by family sedan standards (a V-6 Camry gets to 60 mph two seconds sooner). But quickness isn’t the measure of a sports car.
How it handles — and how it sounds and feels — is.
Using those metrics, the 86 (and its twin) more than delivers the goods. The boxer engine is both growly and revvy. It is fun to rev the tight-ratio six-speed transmission to the engine’s 7,000 rpm redline — and do it again.
At the Curb
The 86’s back seats are almost as tight as the Miata’s tiny trunk (4.9 cubic feet, for the record). But they are there. And they aren’t in the Miata, which means you can’t carry more than one person, which makes the Miata a much less flexible car.
The hardtop-only layout has its pros and cons. On the pro side, it doesn’t stain or tear and is less vulnerable to thieves. On the con side, you can’t lower the top on nice days, and visibility with a top that doesn’t drop is not as panoramic.
This Toyota will probably hold its value better over time, even though it’s a Subaru. That makes amends for its higher price tag.
The Bottom Line
If you like the idea of a Subaru sports car with a Toyota rep, the 86 ticks both boxes — regardless of the badge on the hood.