Agent 86 used to be a bit fond of saying "missed it by THAT much." Don't expect to hear it repeated when Toyota (or its dealers) start talking about the coupe with the same number.
The dealers can't get enough and those they purloin are flying off showroom floors - thanks to a value-for-money equation that is unbeatable when the fun factor is involved in.
Rewind to be sure, but yes, we are talking about a Toyota ... with a fair chunk of Subaru in the mix as well, but sans turbo and all-wheel drive.
This is where the Toyota coupe lands the first punch and it's a solid right cross - the 86 GT automatic is priced from $32,490 or the six-speed manual starts from $29,990.
The GT sits on 16in alloys (with a full-size spare) and has halogen headlights, cloth trim, sports front seats, a six-speaker USB and Bluetooth equipped sound system including Bluetooth phone link, power-adjustable and folding external mirrors, air conditioning, reach and rake adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer, power windows (front only) and a folding rear seat-back through to the little boot.
The most obvious evidence of the tie-up with Subaru is the two-litre flat-four "boxer" engine, producing 147kW at 7000rpm - just before the limiter at 7450rpm - and 205Nm of torque between 6400 and 6600rpm (on the pricey 98RON PULP).
The flat-four get's the Toyota dual-injection system - which combines direct injection into the combustion chamber as well as injection into the intake port. More aural input is provided for the drive experience by a system that amplifies the engine induction sound in the cabin, as well as a damper, to allow the good noise to be heard within the cabin.
The six-speed automatic borrows from the Lexus IS-F's transmission, giving it a Sport mode with torque-converter lock-up from lower speeds, giving more direct acceleration and shift feeling in Sport and Manual driving modes. The transmission electronics allow for a genuine manual shift mode with a big throttle blip on downshifts, down changes and flex lock-up to save fuel.
With more than a hint of the Lexus LFA supercar from the front, and perhaps even a little bit of the old Supra at the back, although the 86 gets a rear diffuser and twin-pipes . But it's nowhere near as lardy as those supercars - it's shorter in overall length and wheelbase than a Corolla hatch, 225mm lower in overall height than a Yaris three-door hatch yet wider than a Rukus.
The bonnet seems impossibly low and sleek, a benefit of the low-set flat-four engine. Inside it's all sports-coupe, with a low "behind the wheel" seating position, but not uncomfortably so. At a pinch the back seat can be used for adults, but for the kids it's a little less cramped. It's easier to get a child's booster seat set in the back than it is in a Porsche 911, but the seat's occupant didn't want to give either car back.
Given it's Subaru BRZ twin scored five stars in the most recent round of ANCAP tests the 86 would be a good bet for the same rank. There's anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and emergency brake assist, stability and traction control, dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and a driver's knee airbag. Toyota says the cabin is protected by reinforced roof side rails and B-pillar, as well as a roof centre brace all made from high tensile steel.
The company's slogan at the Tokyo motor show - where the 86 was officially unveiled - was Fun To Drive. Again. There were snorts, snide remarks and cynicism - how wrong we were. I haven't had this much fun in a Toyota coupe since delivering pizzas in a 1970s rear-drive Celica in the Adelaide Hills.
The 86 - even in automatic guise - is a genuine giggle-fest, with chassis balance, pointy steering and a soundtrack that purports the myth of speed. You can hunt along a twisty tight back road and the 86 laps up the corners and in Oliver Twist's best tones comes back for more.
It's not supercar fast - it feels as though it could cope with considerably more grunt - but it's a lively machine, although the manual is probably going to be the weapon of choice. Toyota says the manual hits 100km/h in 7.6 seconds, while the auto takes an extra 0.6, with top speeds just the other side of 200km/h.
The auto does a good job but is not a sharp as a good double-clutcher, with big-blip downshifts that feel a little drawn out, but the noise is better than any previous flat-four from Subaru. The cabin is easy to live with - the manually-adjustable sports seats are more comfortable than first impressions suggest and they keep you well located during harder cornering.
The tacho is centrally located within the instrument panel, which is reasonably clear and easy to read at a glance. Everything is where it should be, the six-speaker USB and Bluetooth equipped sound system is a good unit and there's reasonable centre console storage.
The joint venture between Toyota and Subaru has produced a crackerjack machine and, having driven it, I am not surprised they have sold all they can gather and have waiting lists (with motoring journos among the impatient) up to six months already. It undercuts the yardstick for value-for-money fun, Mazda's current MX-5, by nearly $8,000 - throw Subaru's BRZ into the mix (price-pending) and the new MX-5 and it could be an interesting battle.
Toyota 86 GT automatic
Price: from $32,490
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale: 60% (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety rating: five star (predicted)
Engine: 2-litre 16-valve direct and port injection flat-four, 147kW/205Nm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic; RWD
Body: 4.2m (L); 1.8m (w); 1.3m (h)
Thirst: 7.11/100km, on test 10.7, tank 50 litres 98RON; 164g/km CO2