Review: 2019 Toyota 86 TRD is the enthusiast’s enthusiast car

Toyota 86
With the TRD model, Toyota concentrated on under-skin upgradesAaron Turpen/New Atlas

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When it comes to sports cars, there are few that engender the kind of enthusiasm or sense of purpose than the Toyota 86 and its Subaru twin, the BRZ. Few cars of this caliber have found the sweet spot of capability, affordability, and style. In the Toyota 86 TRD Special Edition, though, notches get taken up.

When we reviewed the Subaru BRZ tS last year, which contains most of the upgrades found in the 86 TRD, we found a lot to love. With this model, though, Toyota concentrated on under-skin upgrades and left off the fancy carbon fiber spoiler. The look is simpler and more genuine as an enthusiast’s car.

Changes to the 86 in the TRD model start with the chassis. Upgraded SACHS dampers improve the wheels-to-the-ground feel while 18-inch wheels add bling. Brembo brakes add more aggressive slow-down for dynamics control and high-performance tires finish the job for crisper rubber-to-pavement grab. Stiffening throughout the chassis gives the car added dynamism.

The little 86 TRD isn’t perfect, its low price comes at the cost of refinement and amenities
The little 86 TRD isn’t perfect, its low price comes at the cost of refinement and amenities Aaron Turpen/New Atlas


For aesthetics, the 86 TRD has more aggressive bumpers, a new rear spoiler, and an upgraded exhaust for a better note. Inside, it gets a little extra pizzazz with red and black contrast stitching, red seat belts, and TRD monikers.

Our week in the Special Edition was made even better by the well-tuned six-speed manual transmission in the car. An automatic is available, but three-pedal goodness is tough to beat in a car like this one. With a hand brake, precise steering, and a rear-wheel-driven nature, this car loves to fly around curves and go sideways on demand. The factory 205 horsepower (156 kW) of the car doesn’t seem like much on paper, but the light weight and tiny size means that every ounce of its naturally-produced HP results in action.

All of these things come together as reasons for a driving enthusiast to love the 86 in its TRD package. The already strong handling characteristics of the little car are enhanced by the sport-tuned additions made with the Special Edition package. Throwing it into gear, the little car will fly, glide, and move as the driver commands. More so than many sports cars, it has the kind of driver focus and enthusiasm that doesn’t just engage the driver willingly, but demands that engagement as part of the package.

The little 86 TRD isn’t perfect, of course. Its low price comes at the cost of refinement and amenities. Safety equipment, infotainment, and driver’s aids are at a minimum in this car. So are ride comforts and cushioning. It’s a streamlined, to-the-point car that focuses on only one goal: the drive. Extras are not available.

The factory 205 horsepower (156 kW) of the car doesn’t seem like much (on paper)
The factory 205 horsepower (156 kW) of the car doesn’t seem like much (on paper) Aaron Turpen/New Atlas


As such, this car is definitely not for everyone. There are other coupes with more muscle, more luxury, or more technology. There are others that have convertible roofs or better fuel economy. We’ve driven many of those alternatives. Yet as a true enthusiast’s car aimed entirely at driving and driving alone, there aren’t many matches in its price range – the 86 starts at US$26,600 with the TRD package beginning at $32,470.

Therein lies the point of the Toyota 86. This is not a “livable daily” sports car or a track monster that happens to be street legal. It’s somewhere in between the two, being mostly livable as a daily drive, but not quite so comfortable that it loses its weekend track appeal. That’s a sweet spot for many and we can understand that.

Product Page: 2019 Toyota 86

Aaron is an automotive journalist living in Wyoming, USA. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Outside of New Atlas, Aaron is a prolific writer, father of two, and would-be chicken farmer.0 COMMENTS Sign in to post a comment.There are no comments. Be the first!LATEST STORIES