Monday, 26 May 2014

A Brief Encounter with a Toyota

Regular readers will be aware that I drive an Audi as my regular road car, and that occasionally, the friendly folks in the Audi Press Office lend me something special from their fleet to allow me to experience their latest products and technology. Well, recently I had the opportunity for a brief drive in a Toyota, and I thought I should not only express my gratitude to Toyota but also give my impressions of the experience, by sharing my feelings with you, dear reader. It is possible that the timing might have been opportune, as the month of June beckons, and it strikes me that with that 24 hour contest in France on the horizon, the Sun might just be Rising a little further in the East - if you get my drift...

The Toyota in question was a rather well-specified GT86 - the latest addition to Toyota's sporty range - and apart from a hybrid Corolla that I drove last year, was the only Toyota I've driven since owning a Celica back in the early 1990's. And I have to say I was mightily impressed.

The GT86 is powered by a 4-cylinder boxer engine (a layout I first came across on my first beloved Alfasud), of 'only' 2 litres capacity giving just under 200bhp. So it is not a supercar, by any stretch of the imagination. But it is not priced as one either. The basic GT86, starts from a little over £25,000 - but I understand that the version I drove, with every imaginable TRD extra, would probably set you back at least another £10,000!

So whether I was impressed by the extras, or by the basic car, I can't really tell. First impressions as you settle into the cabin are certainly favourable. It is one of those cars that welcomes you, where you adjust the driving position to make it more comfortable, rather than just being able to get comfortable. All the controls are just in the right places already. Clever Japanese ergonomic engineers, I expect.

Once out on the road, the car is lovely to drive. A six-speed manual gearbox is easy to operate; all-round visibility is good, and the raspy exhaust note supplies just the right amount of decibels without being too raucous.

I find it an interesting car to look at. It is not outrageously styled, and the performance doesn't blow your socks off in the way that some of the high-priced and high performance Audis that I have driven. But its road-holding is outstanding. For a car that is not particularly low-slung, its ability to change direction is astonishing. I found myself just playing with the steering, and marvelling at the responsiveness. In traffic, or out on country lanes it comes close to putting the joy back into motoring. On the motorway, I imagine it's as dull as dishwater.

Although the acceleration was nothing to write home about, it was perfectly adequate. The brakes, though, were outstanding. A confidence-boosting dab when arriving slightly too quickly before a corner where there was uncertain grip levels left me quite happily able to continue on my way, and when another driver decided not to venture out onto a perfectly clear roundabout, I had to come to a complete halt rather more quickly than I had anticipated, but without any drama whatsoever.

It has to be said, though, that the calipers were part of the special TRD package, described in Toyota's publicity material as 'ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and brake assist Vehicle Stability Control with steering assist Traction Control': I've no idea what that all means, but it worked!

Overall, a brilliant driving experience - maybe not in the league of some of the Audis that I have driven over the years, but nevertheless a car with a great deal to offer its driver, and a price tag that is within the grasp of many more possible buyers.

The original Truswell Toyota - circa 1991!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Paul, always interesting to hear your views on the cars that you drive. I wanted to share my own road test review of my Caterham 7 which has been on child induced sabbatical for a few years and recently I dusted it off, serviced all the bits that needed doing and put it back on the road with a view to trying a commute in it, 50 miles of M4 mayhem in each direction. The cars not the fastest neither the slowest Caterham out there, but breathes through 2 large webers and spits flames on overrun. The commute was, interesting, arriving at the office smelling of fuel, oil marks on my shirt, looking wind burned and slightly deaf! I would say that it's more rapid than required for traffic, the heat from the transmission tunnel a bit much, no idea where the oil came from and I regretted not taking ear defenders. The drive home on the other hand was fantastic, a roads all the way, it doubled the time to get home but that didn't matter. Yes I arrived in the same state that I had arrived at the office but this time it didn't matter. On the twisty roads, all the things that make the car horrible on the motorway, sharp steering, hard brakes, lumpy engine that spits and coughs at idle, work well. Civilised, it's not, fun yes but too brutal for a quiet commute! It's maybe a sign of my age that the morning commute now demands nothing more than a comfortable seat and the radio. A Caterham is a weekend toy and shouldn't be confused with anything else!