BMW M135i vs Toyota GT86

Perhaps two of the most PH-worthy cars launched in 2012, the GT86 and M135i had to be compared on some level. Their bodystyles (and to some extent their respective prices) may not make them immediately obvious rivals, but both Toyota and BMW offer different takes on the (relatively) affordable rear-drive hero car that is so conspicuous by its absence in most modern showrooms.

Just what else is there at this price? Harris showed the 370Z couldn't match the Toyota, and would you rather drive a Camaro than either of these two? Exactly.

GT86 trumps the BMW on looks...
GT86 trumps the BMW on looks...
At the wheel
The GT86's interior just makes you want to drive. There's little in terms of surprise and delight but there is a fabulous seat to drop into and a real sports car feel that is lacking from the BMW. Which could, until you fire it up, be mistaken for an optioned up 116d both inside and out.

Ahead there's a tacho redlined at a fraction under 7,500rpm that also contains a digital speedo, all the info you need positioned centrally. There's one button to switch the display to km/h too, for the full JDM effect. Plus there's a change-up light AND buzzer. Lots of nerd cool there and anyone raised on a diet of 90s Japanese performance cars will feel very at home. So, yes, it's quite plasticky too. We've been told those rear seats can actually hold growing humans too, so the Toyota doesn't totally lose on practicality though the BMW is the only real option if you need 'proper' back seats.

But if you want to see where that extra money goes it doesn't take long in the BMW to appreciate the serious step up in quality and gizmos the 1 Series offers. It's just a far more grown-up car, for better or worse.

... but the M135i counters with a nicer powertrain
... but the M135i counters with a nicer powertrain
Feelgood factors
The styling. Toyota's latest coupe couldn't be anything but a Japanese coupe, with hints of the Lexus LFA and Nissan GT-R in its design. As inside, the GT86 nails the sports car vibe in a way the Beemer can't.

There's the history with the GT86; it puts you in mind of old Initial D-spec Corollas, and we love the fact Toyota and Subaru collaborated on producing a car solely for the purpose of having fun.

Bragging rights
If you want to brag then the GT86 isn't for you. Pretentious though it sounds, it's about the feel and the intangibles of driving rather than the raw stats. You want numbers? 200hp, 151lb ft, 7.6 seconds to 62mph and 140mph. The M135i driver wouldn't need to switch from Eco Pro to keep up.

But there's one vital figure for this comparison, and that's weight. The Toyota weighs 1,240kg, 260kg less than the porky Beemer.

Both RWD, both huge fun... it's a tough choice!
Both RWD, both huge fun... it's a tough choice!
Meanwhile, in the real world...
In the real world, the numbers become even more irrelevant than in the pub; the GT86 feels lithe and responsive in a way that only a light(ish) car can. The more thuggish BMW, wonderful though it is, simply can't match the Toyota for alertness and plain fun.

But the Toyota is far from perfect. That torque deficit can be frustrating when exiting corners (ok, trying to skid) and then there's the noise; in isolation, you'd call it eager to be nice but, against the BMW, it just sounds rather weak.

Do they compare on price?
With our particular specifications, not really. There's the best part of £10K (£9,685) between the GT86 (£27,995) and M135i (£37,680). Even with just the options we would choose (the auto 'box, the Professional media upgrade and the DAB), the M135i would still be £34,500.

Though, as we've seen, the reality in BMW dealers suggests it's worth haggling. Some GT86 owners are plumping for the £750 Touch&Go navigation system and optional paint, but there is far less to be spent on extras compared to the BMW.

Great car, but the BMW just edges it overall
Great car, but the BMW just edges it overall
Do they REALLY compare on price?
In reality, the gap is far closer. Comparing manual with manual (because the GT86 auto is as poor as the BMW's is great), both with no options, the price differential is just over £5,000 at list price. We've heard of GT86 owners negotiating around £1,500 off the list price, but paying anywhere closer to £23K appears to be a real achievement. PHers with M135is are reporting far more generous discounts, further reducing the difference.

The cheapest used versions of the Toyota have just dipped under £20,000, with the M135i now available from £26K secondhand.

It's a tough first challenge for the M135i, but there are plenty more to follow!

For a sense of occasion and just excitement, the GT86 is hard to match at the price. But then the BMW is ludicrously fast, sounds mega and also has great Q-car appeal. However the money saved by taking the Toyota over the BMW could be spent on a turbo kit...

In a tight first battle, the M135i just nicks it. The M Performance hatch may lack the visual drama of the Toyobaru, but the noise, pace and usability of the M135i places it ahead. But a £30K, c. 250hp GT86 could well swing the verdict the other way, that's how close the decision was.

Further reading...
BMW M135i vs ... the world!
BMW M135i vs Porsche Cayman 2.7
BMW M135i vs Renaultsport Megane 265
BMW M135i vs Audi S3
BMW M135i vs used Porsche 911 Carrera

1,998cc flat-4
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (6-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 151@6,400-6,600rpm
0-62mph: 7.6 sec (auto 8.2 sec)
Top speed: 140mph (auto 130mph)
Weight: 1,240kg
MPG: 36.2mpg (39.8mpg auto) (NEDC combined)
CO2: 181g/km (164g/km auto)
Price: £24,995 (before options) £27,995 (as tested inc. £750 for Touch&Go, £1,600 for leather/Alcantara seats and £650 for pearlescent paint)

BMW M135i
2,979cc six-cylinder, turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive (8-speed auto optional)
Power (hp): 320@5,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@1,300-4,500rpm
0-62mph: 5.1 sec (auto 4.9 sec)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,500kg
MPG: 35.3 (37.7 auto) (NEDC combined)
CO2: 188g/km (175g/km auto)
Price: £30,525 (before options) £37,680 (as tested inc. £515 for Adaptive M Sport suspension, aluminium trim, complimentary BMW Business Loudspeaker system, £295 for DAB, £360 for Driver Comfort Package comprising cruise and parking sensors, £90 for 'extended storage', £250 for dimming/folding mirrors, full black panel display, high-gloss black finish, £95 for 'internet', £200 for driver/passenger lumbar support, £1,995 for BMW Professional Multimedia, £515 for metallic paint, £235 for front/rear Park Distance Control, £265 for seat heating, £1,600 for Sport auto transmission, £290 for Sun Protection Package, £450 for Visibility Package inc. adaptive xenon lights)







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Comments (161) Join the discussion on the forum

  • JuanGandini 27 Aug 2013

    Nice win for the M135i. I can't help but think that if I had £30k burning a hole in my pocket then I'd want as much bang for my buck rather than as much slippy slidey fun in a coupe body shell. But fair play to Toyota and Subaru for giving it a go.

    However, having said that my uncle's bought a BRZ so I'll have to get a lift in it to see first hand what all the fuss is all about!

  • Amirhussain 27 Aug 2013

    BMW all day, do like the GT86 though, but for me no contest, only if the GT86 was a turbocharged 300 bhp car.

  • kambites 27 Aug 2013

    GT86 for me out of those two (unless I wanted to carry four adults regularly) by a substantial margin.

    I agree with most of the pluses and minuses of each car listed in the article, but for me the BMW's sum up just about everything that I dislike about modern performance cars.

    Edited by kambites on Tuesday 27th August 13:44

  • Boydie88 27 Aug 2013

    Toyota. Saw a black on on the road the other day, it looked absolutely fantastic. I'd take it every time over such a bland looking and common as muck 1 series.

  • BorkFactor 27 Aug 2013

    "Would you rather drive a Camaro than either of these two?"

    Yes. Yes I would hehe

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