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!|