The Toyota 86’s roots stretch way back to 2013 when the Scion FR-S hit showrooms. In 2017, Scion folded, and the FR-S became the Toyota 86, which was the most significant change the model has seen since. Yes, it’s had a few mild stylistic and performance tweaks, but it’s been mostly a carryover for eight model years. Though there are reports of a more exciting redesign coming for 2022, we expect the 2021 Toyota 86 to remain a carryover model.
When it arrived as the FR-S in 2013, this model boasted classic Japanese performance coupe styling borrowed from the long-forgotten Toyota 2000GT. Toyota nipped and tucked a few things here and there over the years, but the basic design process has prevailed: long hood, short tail, cab near the rear axle, and near-perfect weight distribution. The design is as much about preserving Japanese sports car history as it is about delivering sheer driving excitement, which is why it’s gotten a pass for eight years and will get another pass as a carryover in 2021.
Inside, the design simplicity remains, as the cabin is more about simplicity, keeping weight low, and minimizing distractions. You’ve got three HVAC knobs, a simple 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (finally), Alcantara and synthetic leather touchpoints, and grippy seats. There is beauty in its simplicity, and this beauty will remain the same in the 2021 Toyota 86.
Under its hood is where the Toyota 86 disappoints some, as its Subaru-sourced 2.0-liter boxer-four engine delivers an acceptable 205 horsepower. However, its 156 pound-feet of peak torque at 6,400 rpm leaves it feeling sluggish off the line. The standard six-speed transmission helps you keep the revs in the happy zone, but the optional six-speed automatic saps that excitement.
The real fun in the 86 is thanks to its rear-drive setup and razor-sharp, flick-of-the-wrist steering. Its 215-series tires are too skinny for a true performance car, but they add a sense of danger in the corners that help keep the blood flowing after its underwhelming engine leaves your right foot a little chilly. We expect the creasy bits to remain the same in the 2021 Toyota 86.
Advanced safety tech? Nonexistent. Crash tests? Very limited, as the IIHS completed just five crash tests. In these tests, the Toyota 86 received “Good” marks in all but the small-overlap driver’s side, which is received an “Acceptable” rating. We expect no changes to its safety gear or ratings in the 2021 86.