The 2022 Toyota GR86 has the ingredients of a proper sports car: impressive handling, RWD, and the option of three pedals. Is it the best value sports car today? We tested it and found out.
The perfect three-car quiver for my household is an EV for around town and commuting, an SUV or pickup for road trips and off-road adventures, and then a sports car for fun on-road and track performance driving. Sure, the sports car isn’t necessary, but I love being a part of the enthusiast car community and driving in a spirited manner.
For some, the right sports car can also be the around-town/commuter car, and the GR86 is a great candidate to fill that role. It has plenty of room to haul the groceries, fits just about any child seat in the back seats, and gets very reasonable fuel economy on regular unleaded gasoline. It even offers the ability to add a roof rack.
Yes, driving a sports car to the trailhead/put-in/adventure is a great way to exercise the car while getting out to exercise yourself.
2022 Toyota GR86 Review
- Light (2,868 lbs.)
- 6-speed manual option
- Rear-wheel drive
- Great new car value (fully specced for around $33,000)
- Not fast
- Poor driver ergonomics
- Uninspiring exhaust note
- Turn signal does not auto-cancel when changing lanes
From the Driver’s Seat
A sports car is all about the driver. Overall, the GR86 Premium offers a comfortable and supportive place to drive, but the performance driving ergonomics aren’t great. The interior layout is clean and simple, but it looks and feels budget with lots of hard plastic and rubberized surfaces.
First, the steering wheel doesn’t telescope enough for taller people, meaning it is too far away when the seat is in a comfortable position. It is a good diameter, nice and thin, but sadly it has little place to grip at the 9 and 3 hand locations you want, without much indent on the backside of the wheel.
The seats are well-bolstered, comfortable, and have enough manual adjustability, but little lumbar support — and no lumbar adjustability. The driver’s right knee also rests on some hard plastic on the center console, which isn’t all that comfortable when driving the car aggressively.
There are good armrests on both the door card and center console for when you need to sit back and just cruise.
The infotainment system is super clean, well laid-out, and intuitive to use on a clear and bright 8-inch touchscreen. And it supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
The HVAC controls lie just below the infotainment screen and proved both well-designed and easy to use.
GR86 Premium Driving Dynamics
No, the 2022 Toyota GR86 is not fast. I wouldn’t even call it quick, but it is really fun to drive hard.
The 2.4L 4-cylinder boxer engine puts out 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That is good for a 6.6-second 0-60 mph time with the automatic, 6.1 seconds for the manual.
The skinny pedal has good response to driver inputs with little delay before the injectors dump more fuel into the engine. Drivers will notice a small dead spot in the power curve before the revs ramp up, but the naturally aspirated engine — no turbo here — has a smooth linear power band once it gets above about 3,500 rpm.
And the brakes are impressive for this price point of vehicle. There isn’t a big initial bite like you might want for track and performance driving, but the brake pedal is easy to modulate, and the brakes easily get this small, lightweight car slowed or stopped quickly.
Even without big power, it isn’t hard to slide the GR86 around on command and/or spin the tires — especially in Track Mode with the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) off.
The Torsen limited-slip differential is standard and adds to the driving performance. A proper handbrake is a fun tool to help initiate slides but isn’t even necessary for controlled wheel-spinning fun. This car has the chassis rigidity and balance, along with rear-wheel drive setup, to offer a ton of fun on command.
I was also really impressed with the suspension. Somehow, it handles big bumps with ease, while keeping the car pretty flat when carving twisty roads.
Dual cat-back exhaust comes standard on the 2022 GR86 and looks good sticking out the back of the car. The issue is that the exhaust is not very inspiring. So, this car is ripe for an aftermarket exhaust option.
Other Things You Should Know
The 2022 Toyota GR86 Premium gets 21 city/31 highway (25 combined) mpg with the automatic transmission, and 20/27/22 with the manual. Mid-20s is pretty good for a sporty little car that could easily handle everyday duties — daily commuter, daycare dropoff, grocery run, etc.
The trunk isn’t huge, but the opening is wide and it’s plenty big to swallow a lot of groceries, a few suitcases, or some adventure gear for two people.
While I love the body-color painted ducktail that comes on the GR86 Premium, I didn’t love the crazy glare I got off of it in the rear-view mirror. This might not be an issue if you’re a different height than I — or if you opt for a different color.
Still, I liked the Magnetite Gray Metallic on my test car, but it always looked dirty, reflected everything around it, and was super hard to make attractive in photos (gotta look good for the gram!).
While the back seats offer little to no leg or headroom for adults, they are perfect for kids and/or some more cargo. I was impressed that a bulky, infant, rear-facing car seat fit in the backseat without issue — something that I’ve tried and failed to accomplish in other sports cars.
Do note that there is very little front passenger legroom when a rear-facing car seat is in place. But an adult could probably squeeze in there.
While the driver’s seat has a bit of height and angle adjustment for the bottom cushion of the seat, the passenger seat lacks that adjustment.
The buttons on the steering wheel feel like cheap plastic, and look like an old Xbox controller: up, up, down, down, A, B, A, B.
Every 2022 GR86 also comes with a one-year membership to the National Autosport Association (NASA, not the space agency) and one free High-Performance Driving Experience (HDPE).
The organization and track experiences are both designed to get you into performance driving and on the path to racing. With this inclusion in your car purchase, Toyota proclaims this car is made for the track.
Entry-Level Sports Car Competitors
There are still a few sub-$35,000 “sports cars” on the market today, but the list is not very long. The Subaru BRZ is basically the same car as the GR86, and is similarly priced.
America’s Big 3 automakers offer some rear-wheel-drive muscle cars — Chevrolet Camaro, Ford Mustang, and Dodge Challenger — but none are light or all that powerful at this price point. Then you have the front-wheel-drive hatchbacks, the VW GTI and Hyundai Veloster.
And let’s not forget the always reliable answer to the question of which sports car to buy: the Mazda Miata. The issues I have with the Miata aren’t that they don’t work well for tall people like myself, but they require a roll cage for most track use — and you really can’t put a roof rack on them to haul your toys.
This leads us back to the BRZ/GR86, for all the reasons outlined above.
You can get into a base 2022 GR86 for $27,700. Base price on a GR86 Premium is $30,300, and our tester was fully optioned and had an MSRP of $32,825.
In today’s new car market, the 2022 GR86 Premium is a lot of car, and a lot of fun, for that sort of money.
I think the Premium package will prove a worthwhile investment for the few extra grand, as it gives you some upgrades that you’ll appreciate.
Here’s what the GR86 Premium comes with:
- 18-inch matte-black alloy wheels
- Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires
- Two-stage heated sport seats with leather-trimmed bolsters and Ultrasuede inserts
- Color-keyed duckbill rear spoiler
- Adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams
- LED turn signals
- Aluminum footrest and sport pedals
- Center console with a covered compartment (plus two additional cup holders and USB charging ports)
- Two additional speakers (eight in total)
- Illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors.
You can build out your own Toyota GR86 online here.