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Toyota 86 T86RS 2017 review

EXPERT RATING
7.6
If you want to make a small pile of money, take a big pile and start racing cars. You'd be surprised how quickly dollars disappear into mist!

If you want to make a small pile of money, take a big pile and start racing cars. You'd be surprised how quickly dollars disappear into mist! Despite that, there are people whose sole ambition is to make it onto the big stage of motor racing – and it's not always about the money.

One-make racing has come and gone over the years in Australia, with brands like Nissan, Ford, Alfa Romeo, MG, Lotus and even Triumph hosting nationally run racing series with a fleet of ostensibly identical cars.

The latest brand to take on the daunting task of servicing a squadron of race car drivers is Toyota, which spent two years planning its 86 Racing series before its debut in 2016.

Now in its second year, the series sets out to provide a pathway for passionate racers to step up to greater things – all while not spending drug-runner money to do it.

  • 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS 2017 Toyota T86RS
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson) 2017 Toyota T86RS (image credit: Tim Robson)
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS 2017 Toyota T86RS
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS 2017 Toyota T86RS
  • 2017 Toyota T86RS 2017 Toyota T86RS
Toyota 86 2017: GT
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.8L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$25,880

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

It's obviously different from a road-going 86, thanks to a lower ride height and those awesome 18-inch OZ Racing wheels. A small NASCAR style duckbill spoiler is also added to the bootlid, and teams are free (and encouraged) to add their own personal touches to the livery.

It feels every bit like a proper racer.

Inside, it is a tight fit. The combination of the roll cage's upper bar and the deep winged seat makes getting in a contortionist's dream job, but getting out is thankfully easier.

Once inside, the driver sits almost on the floor behind a small racing wheel, with the tiny MoTec digital dash right in line of sight. It feels every bit like a proper racer.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

So obviously you're not getting the kids from school in it, but as a race car the T86RS is surprisingly practical, especially for, say, a parent/sibling team to easily run the car.

It's light, so it can be easily towed by a dual-cab ute, and it retains all its weather sealing so it can be towed on an open trailer. It's not too low, so it can be driven onto most trailers, and it's largely production based, which means parts can be found at pretty much any Toyota dealership.

It's relatively low powered for a race car, too, so it's not as hard on consumable as a more grunty, more bespoke machine, too.

In fact, one of the season front runners in 2016 spent an average of just $4500 per round. "In motorsport terms, that's petty cash," says series rights holder Neil Crompton.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The series uses the 'first generation' Toyota 86 as its base, in six-speed manual guise. With the release of the updated 2017 version of the car, the series has placed a ban on using the newer, stiffer bodyshell for at least a couple of seasons, simply because there isn't enough out there in circulation yet.

A Toyota official told CarsGuide last year that the company waited a couple of years in order to ensure a ready supply of second hand cars to use as race machines.

A base car can be purchased new, second hand or – the most preferable, and cheapest, way – as a statuary write-off, before it is turned into a series racer.

A $25,000 box set of parts from Canberra-based Neal Bates Motorsport is then added, which includes a full roll cage, race seat and harness, new clutch and flywheels and larger brakes.

Victorian company MoTec supplies the new engine computer and digital dash, while Wondonga-based suspension specialist DMS Shocks provides a set of adjustable shocks and springs. A set of 18-inch rims shod with Dunlop Direzza tyres finishes off the package.

Turn-key T86RSs can be had from as low as $40,000 if you install the parts yourself, or can stretch to double that number with a newer donor car and labour costs.

Other costs to consider are entry fees, which are capped at a low $1500 per round, and tyres, which cost less than $1200 a set per round.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The stock 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine and six-speed engine is retained for the race car, but there are a couple of small tweaks added to improve reliability and liven things up.

A less restrictive exhaust system is added from the standard manifold, while the MoTec engine computer ensures parity throughout the field. An engine oil cooler and a baffled oil pan (the pan is at the bottom of the engine block, and baffles, or dividers, help to keep the oil from sloshing from one side of the engine to the other in long corners) help with engine life, too.

All cars are not only identical in power and torque output, but are mandated to weigh no less than 1285kg including driver.

The car makes about 20kW more than the stock 147kW of the road car, and the torque curve is stronger and comes on lower in the rev range.

The gearbox is standard, too, save for a revised clutch and flywheel for 2017 – the only mechanical change from the series' debut year in 2016.

All cars are not only identical in power and torque output, but are mandated to weigh no less than 1285kg including driver.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

We were too busy eyeing apexes and pinning the throttle to get a real world figure, but if we had to guess, it'd be around 18 litres per 100km. The T86RS uses normal 98RON Premium fuel, too, rather than an exotic rocket fuel blend.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Once pinned into the tiny, low-slung racer with five wide straps, the T86 starts to feel like a racer... though turning a key isn't exactly F1! The exhaust noise, though, is pure race car – loud, shrill and urgent inside the cabin, it's intoxicating.

It feels more lively and wired, too, once on track. The grippy Dunlops are quick to respond, and come up to temperature within a couple of corners. They're grooved, too, so they can be used in the wet.

In a nutshell, the modifications to the T86RS bring the little car to glorious, entertaining life.

It's easy to get the T86RS up to speed, and it's a wonderfully engaging and forgiving track toy. It could use a little more mid-range torque; it can fall out of its powerband easily, and needs to be driven at the top of the rev range to get the most out of it.

In a nutshell, the modifications to the T86RS bring the little car to glorious, entertaining life. The DMS suspension is surprisingly supple and responsive; Neal Bates says it's deliberately softer to help the grooved tyres grip better and live longer.

The relatively huge four-piston AP Racing brake calipers  and bigger brake discs also provide loads of feedback through the middle pedal, and the upgraded clutch is no more difficult to use than the stocker.

The trick to eking out the last few tenths of a second from a lap time, according to our co-driver and rally ace Harry Bates, is being smooth and precise, and not letting the rear end slide around too much. The relative lack of power means that if you waste forward momentum by sliding, you'll burn seconds on the stopwatch.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

3 years / 100,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

While the airbags are disabled, the three-inch harnesses, full CAMS-spec rollcage, fireproof suit and helmet should do a pretty good job of looking after you.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

In theory, if you keep the T86RS out of the scenery, it should be only a little more expensive to service than a regular 86. With a five-round championship equating to less than 1000km a year of running, regular fluid changes and a new set of boots per round are the biggest service costs. Brake pads are more expensive, though a racer should get most of a season out of one set.

And if you decide that racing isn't your game, there is a waiting list of people wanting to join the 36-strong entry list, so your car will sell quickly.

Verdict

The 86 Racing series isn't cheap motorsport per se, but it does provide incredible bang for the buck. It puts aspiring champs in front of big crowds at big events, the availability of mentors like Mark Skaife, Glenn Seton, Mark Larkham and other motorsport luminaries throughout the year is fantastic for young drivers, the running costs (once the purchase of the car is factored out) are minimal, and the category plays out in front of the biggest teams in the sport.

If a career in motorsport is front of mind, and the pockets aren't bottomless, aspiring racers can't do much better than the 86 Racing series.

Have you got the motor racing bug? Tell us where you'd start in the comments below.

Pricing Guides

$31,990
Based on 80 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$25,880
Highest Price
$39,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $25,880 – 26,410 2017 TOYOTA 86 2017 GT Pricing and Specs
GTS 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $26,990 – 39,990 2017 TOYOTA 86 2017 GTS Pricing and Specs
GTS Blackline 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $25,740 – 31,790 2017 TOYOTA 86 2017 GTS Blackline Pricing and Specs
GTS+ 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $33,777 – 36,888 2017 TOYOTA 86 2017 GTS+ Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.6
Design7
Practicality8
Price and features7
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Driving9
Safety9
Ownership8
Tim Robson
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$24,500

Lowest price, based on 5 car listings in the last 6 months

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