2020 Toyota 86 GT TRD Review

From good to great


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Suspension and chassis tweaks make a noticeable difference, silky engine and manual transmission, everyday usability, great seating position.
Negatives: Low rent interior and ergonomics, rear wing is too busy-looking, could use more power.
Bottom Line: This is the 86 version you want. The overall change to the way it drives thanks to the TRD package and upgraded bits changes the car from good to truly thrilling. If it only had more ponies and a better interior, it would be utterly desirable.
We love what the Toyota 86 represents. It's an enthusiast's sports car that just happens to also be affordable. Although we enjoyed the last one we drove in 2019, it was lacking the suspension and brakes that could've made it totally thrilling. For 2020, the brand adds the TRD Handling package to the options list. It includes Brembo brakes, upgraded shock absorbers, and special 18-inch wheels with better Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. We drove it for a week to see how the package improves the overall 86 formula. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

9.3

 

With the added bits from the TRD package, the 86 becomes a very exciting car to drive but not pulse-racing. It's more agile, more precise, and even more connected to the driver than before. We were surprised by how much the better suspension and brakes improved the overall driving experience. This is the trim level we would opt for, hands down.

Ride Quality: The 86 is firm but comfortable. Sure, you feel the road but not in a bad way that makes your insides hurt.

Acceleration: The 205 hp and six-speed manual work together to hit 60 mph in about 7 seconds. While it's no rocket, the connection you feel with the car and the road, along with the sonorous TRD exhaust (which is loud, so be prepared), make you feel you're going faster than you actually are.

Braking: The Brembo brakes are strong and just right for the 86. You can put it hard into a turn, exercise the right understeer with confidence, and come out smoothly.

Steering: The steering is direct with excellent feel. It has the right amount of effort and precision, as well.

Handling: The TRD package's Bilstein dampers give the 86 the right amount of taut handling it deserves. It manages turns like a champ, and it makes you want to toss it around all day long. The difference is transformative.

Technology

5.4

 

It's hard to get excited about the in-car tech because it's pretty low rent, as far as we're concerned. It's a good thing this car is really about the driving experience, but everything looks like it belongs in an early 2000s Japanese rental.

Infotainment System: The 7.0-inch screen isn't big or small, and the simple menus are pretty easy. There's just nothing good about its aesthetics. At least the system gets standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Controls: The lack of audio knobs is frustrating. Instead, you have to push shiny piano black volume buttons, which is annoying. The climate readouts are old-school digital orange, and the knobs look like caps were stolen off an energy drink bottle. The location of the ignition button is odd, placed on the center stack just above and to the left of the shift knob.

Styling

8.6

 

For some reason, when the 86 is clad in white, it looks better than darker hues. It gives the car a more sophisticated appearance, but it's obvious the 86 is in need of better styling that's more aggressive.

Front: The front fascia isn't bad, but we don't like the rounded look of the headlights and the catfish mouth lower grille. It could also use more creasing in the hood.

Rear: The taillights are decently styled, and the twin exhaust ports are a nice touch. We just wish the diffuser was more aggressive. The spoiler needs to be simplified, as well.

Profile: The 86 has good proportions from front to rear, but it needs more visual punch for rear-wheel drive sports car. The Supra does a much better job of this.

Cabin: The interior of the 86 just isn't that special. Sure, the seats hug you, and the faux suede is nice, but the overall styling is not commensurate with a fun sports car. The bulge in the dash is odd, as is the ridiculous faux metal trim everywhere.

Comfort

8.5

 

This is definitely a two-seater. For young folks, it could even be a daily driver, but there's not much overall comfort to be had for long distances or with cargo. That said, you might be too busy having fun to notice.

Front Seats: The well-bolstered seats are comfy, and the driving position is just about perfect. The GranLux suede keeps you from sliding around in hard turns. Just keep in mind that you can't upgrade to leather unless you get the pricier Hakone Edition.

Rear Seats: They're good for luggage but not for humans.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): We enjoyed the exhaust and engine working hard to deliver what the 86 focuses on, driving. For those who want peace and quiet, look elsewhere.

Visibility: Visibility out the front and sides is actually pretty good, but out the back, it's a challenge with the small glass, thick pillars, and the spoiler. You absolutely need the rear camera in parking lots. It's just too bad it's located in the rearview mirror, which gives you a weird sense of perspective. Plus, it's just way too small there.

Climate: The system works fine, and the round vents provide ample cooling during hot weather.

Safety

6.8

 

The 86 didn't nail crash tests, and it's missing some key safety features that the competitors have. It has no emergency braking, lane keeping assist, rear cross-traffic alert with pedestrian detection, etc.

IIHS Rating: It received an "acceptable" in the driver's side small front overlap crash, and a "marginal" for LATCH ease of use. Don't even think of cramming a rear-facing child seat back there if you have a front passenger.

NHTSA Rating: The 86 hasn't been tested for 2020, but for 2019 it received four stars from the feds with dings in both the driver and passenger frontal crash tests.

Standard Tech: The standard Staf Safety system is present (Traction Control, ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Smart Stop Technology, Vehicle Stability Control), but nothing else.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8

 

The 86 actually does really well in the small sports car category when it comes to loading gear for a road trip. Competitors like the Miata don't fare as well.

Storage Space: There's not a lot of space for small items, aside from the blended armrest/cupholder. The small rectangular opening in the center stack is useless since everything flies out of it when you mash the gas.

Cargo Room: The 86 benefits from a single fold-down rear seat and a large-ish trunk area. You can hold several bags of groceries or 2 to 3 carry-on luggage pieces with its 6.9 cubic feet of space.

Fuel Economy

7.4

 

We didn't do particularly well meeting the EPA estimates since we drove the 86 hard all week. The naturally-aspirated four-cylinder isn't bad in terms of overall efficiency under normal driving conditions, but the MX-5 Miata does way better with 35 highway and 30 combined, compared to the 86's 28 and 24.

Observed: 22.5 mpg.

Distance Driven: 193 miles.

Audio

6

 

The cabin of the 86 isn't exactly begging for a rich sound experience, and that's exactly what you get. The system is fine, but it lacks volume, fullness, and good bass. You're actually better off just rolling the windows down and listening to the engine and exhaust.



Final Thoughts

The new 86 is on its way, promising better styling, better interior appointments, and more power. Until then the 86 with the TRD package is the best iteration of the model. Definitely pay the extra money for it, as well as for the TRD exhaust and the sway bar. While it's not as attractive as the MX-5 Miata RF, it's just as good (if not better) to drive.
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