Toyota GT86 Heritage Edition: Driven


Call us juvenile if you will, but there was a great deal of excitement when the loud, lowered, stickered up Heritage Toyota GT86 was at PH. Doesn't it look fantastic?! Yes, as Gran Turismo and WRC nerds the original aim was for the Castrol car but there wasn't any disappointment when the Shelby inspired GT86 arrived.

That's some very pretty inspiration
That's some very pretty inspiration
This particular car is designed to evoke the look of the 2000GTs prepared by Carroll Shelby for the 1968 Sports Car Club of America production class championship. Shelby's work dropped 60mm (!) out of the ride height with new Koni springs and dampers and the engine was upped to 200hp through bigger pistons and a new head. The pair of GTs finished second and third in the championship that year. The winner? A pesky 911...

While all the Heritage GT86s have their own Motor Mode vinyl graphics and Rota wheels, the other modifications are identical; namely a Milltek Sport stainless steel exhaust and V-Maxx lowering springs, dropping the car by 40mm.

Yes, that Shelby
That drop is key to the entire experience with the car. The Heritage cars looked great as a collection at Goodwood but out in the real world of A6s, Qashqais and Golfs the Shelby seems impossibly low, hunkered to the ground and noticeably more aggressive than standard. The retro Rotas work a treat also, proving that Toyota really can pick good wheels for the '86 when required. For those aghast at the arch gap of a GT86 Primo, this more muscular and confident car will really appeal. It looks ace.

Yes the ride is stiff but look at it!
Yes the ride is stiff but look at it!
Then you'll hit the first speed bump and remember why people don't lower their cars this much. It's stiff. Really stiff. With the nose much lower too the car scrapes where experience of the standard car would suggest it wouldn't. Above walking pace it levels out a little and it becomes tolerable with time, but there's no escaping just how stiffly the '86 rides. It does look very good though... [Spotting a theme? - Ed.]

Furthermore, on the right bit of road the Heritage car changes direction with a sharpness that makes the standard car feel like an Avensis. Perhaps that's extending the point a bit far, but the combination of that much lower ride height and wider, grippier Conti SportContact 3 tyres means this '86 absolutely scythes through bends. All the weight feels below your ankles and so well controlled, the car egging you into ever greater entry speeds until it relinquishes. Which then highlights the lack of power...

Familiar refrain
On a dry road in the standard car it's difficult to adjust on throttle so it's damn near impossible in the Heritage car. It's more susceptible to being deflected by bumps as well. In this car it's much more about marvelling at the speed it will carry, then being left a little frustrated that there's not much to gain down the next straight. Even more than standard it's key to maintain momentum.

GT86 gets nasty. Sort of
GT86 gets nasty. Sort of
More positively, the Milltek exhaust is a welcome addition. It doesn't transform the car but it adds some voice to the hachi roku, giving big 'whooommps' on fast upshifts and the odd overrun crackle too. It doesn't boom at motorways revs or ever become intrusive, plus it makes the car feel more urgent; it revs more freely and seems to have released some additional power, though that could simply be the placebo effect of the noise. Sure, mothers with buggies will scowl at how loud it is around town but it's a price worth paying.

It's a mixed bag for the Heritage GT86 then, the incredible looks and boisterous soundtrack undermined by the fact a standard car might be more enjoyable to drive. But then this was never intended as more than a promotional vehicle so it seems harsh to be too critical. What this car does show is how well the GT86 responds to some light tuning; the car's character was significantly altered - and in few ways improved - by a few relatively minor changes. Imagine a car that looked like this with a supercharger and maybe some track upgraded brakes too. The tuning scene is buoyant for the GT86, BRZ and FR-S as more and more take the plunge, and will grow further as the first cars come out of warranty in 2017. Tuning is often a divisive issue, but on this experience it could easily make a very good car even better. Just be careful which suspension kit you pick...


TOYOTA GT86
Engine:
1,998cc boxer four-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive, limited-slip differential
Power (hp): 200@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 151@6,400-6,600rpm
0-62mph: 7.7sec
Top speed: 140mph
Weight: 1,275kg
MPG: 36.2mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 192g/km
Price: None quoted for car as tested; standard GT86 from £22,495





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Comments (36) Join the discussion on the forum

  • samoht 08 Nov 2015


    Aftermarket suspension feels like a complete minefield to me; there are loads of products, but no easy way to try before you buy; stuff that other people rave about can be very disappointing - many people want low and stiff, and think their car now has 'good handling' because it's so uncomfortable, whereas in fact that same discomfort is also throwing the tyres off the ground, compromising grip on real roads. Plus a lot of shiny stuff out there doesn't last long at all in the real world of wet, salted roads. The only hard numbers you typically get are spring rates, when it's the quality of damping that matters.

    When it comes to OEM setups, you can read reviews and learn that, say, Porsches and old Peugeots have good chassis tuning. What we need is a similar set of back-to-back reviews by credible journalists of the main aftermarket options for popular cars like the GT86, MX-5, etc. What say you, PH?

  • s m 08 Nov 2015

    Article said:
    .........and the engine was upped to 200hp through bigger pistons and a new head
    That seems a lot of bother to go to for an extra 3bhp?

  • SidewaysSi 08 Nov 2015

    s m said:
    Article said:
    .........and the engine was upped to 200hp through bigger pistons and a new head
    That seems a lot of bother to go to for an extra 3bhp?
    Think it was talking about the older car, not the '86.

  • s m 08 Nov 2015

    SidewaysSi said:
    s m said:
    Article said:
    .........and the engine was upped to 200hp through bigger pistons and a new head
    That seems a lot of bother to go to for an extra 3bhp?
    Think it was talking about the older car, not the '86.
    Ah, you're right.
    Skim reading to blame

  • Black S2K 08 Nov 2015

    samoht said:
    Aftermarket suspension feels like a complete minefield to me; there are loads of products, but no easy way to try before you buy; stuff that other people rave about can be very disappointing - many people want low and stiff, and think their car now has 'good handling' because it's so uncomfortable, whereas in fact that same discomfort is also throwing the tyres off the ground, compromising grip on real roads. Plus a lot of shiny stuff out there doesn't last long at all in the real world of wet, salted roads. The only hard numbers you typically get are spring rates, when it's the quality of damping that matters.

    When it comes to OEM setups, you can read reviews and learn that, say, Porsches and old Peugeots have good chassis tuning. What we need is a similar set of back-to-back reviews by credible journalists of the main aftermarket options for popular cars like the GT86, MX-5, etc. What say you, PH?
    Also, lowering a McPherson-strutted car by such a ridiculous amount will put the KPI/steering axis out by a long way and do odd things to the camber arc of the multilink rear suspension.

    Well-set up cars tend to respond well to subtle changes, not crass ones.

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