HARD on the brakes, turn-in early, feel the weight of the car shift to the driven rear tyres and point the front end at the corner’s exit as you ease back on the power…
It’s a decade since I spent an entire day at the picturesque Anglesey race track as part of the process that would land me an Association of Racing Drivers Schools (ARDS) race licence but I’m having flashbacks while behind the wheel of Toyota’s GT86 Blue Edition Performance (£30,480) coupe.
The sleek Japanese 2+2 (that means the rear seats are just about usable) might only be blessed with 197PS from its low-mounted two-litre boxer engine but, like the Mazda MX-5 I drove on North Wales’ island peninsula, it’s also suitably lightweight.
At 4,240mm long, 1,320mm high and 1,775mm wide Toyota claims that the GT86 — along with the Subaru BRZ that was built in collaboration — is the most compact performance coupe available and, as such, it tips the scales at just 1,249kg.
The upshot is that it will produce fuel economy close to 40mpg on a steady motorway run (33.2mpg official), 196g/km CO2 emissions and accelerate to 62mph in 7.6 seconds and reach a top speed of 140mph.
That’s enough power to trouble most modern hot hatches, granted, but is it enough to trouble the traction of those narrow rear tyres and deliver the kind of adjustability that makes the GT86 an engaging dr iver’s car at speeds that won’t have you fearing for your driver’s licence each time you leave the house for another of those “just for the fun of it” drives…
That horizontally-opposed engine doesn’t warble like the turbocharged Subaru’s boxer units of old.
If anything its tight, meaty delivery and gruff soundtrack is a little at odds with the light, biddable feel of the chassis, but once above around 3,800rpm the four cylinders are more alive than they sound, the engine lively enough to assist in the deliver y of neat heel-toe down-shifts of the six-speed manual gearbox.
Perfectly positioned key controls in the GT86’s dr iver-centric cabin assist in this respect, the pedals well placed to lean even a clumsy size 11 shoe between brake and clutch.
While the cabin design of the GT86 is not without its highlights, it’s very much more Subar u than Toyota in its feel. That means cheaper plastics and more old school displays.
There is a seven-inch sat-nav infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity, climate control and cruise control and red stitching (with embroidered GT86 logos) on the partleather, part-Alcantara spor ts seats, but the general feel is of something designed for sporty lightweight performance rather than any degree of luxury.
Road and wind noise can be quite intr usive at motorway speeds and the ride — as you might expect — feels choppier than the communicative lean and pitch produced on a fast B-road blast might suggest.
Even with its 237-litre boot and “four seats”, the GT86 is not an everyday car for everyone.
What it is, is a car that, despite a slight shortfall in power that some might not be able to square in their minds, has the ability to inject just a few of those race-track induced smiles into everyday life on the road.
For that, I love it…