“A few weeks ago, I went into a mall in search for silence and serendipity. Calmly, I was able to find a nice coffee shop where I could work on the photos of this article. As I transferred the photos from my SD card into my laptop, my coffee cup carelessly slapped the butt cheeks out of my SD card as I laid it down carelessly on the table. Alas, my dear old Apple MacBook Pro warned me in a cautious fashion that my SD card was rudely ejected as if I was Roman Pearce with his ‘Ejecto Seato’, essentially wiping my SD card cleaner than myself. Thankfully, Mazda Philippines and Toyota Motor Philippines understood our situation, and were very kind to let us borrow the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota 86 for another two days to clean up my careless act, and we thank them very dearly for it. We also thank you, our viewers and fans, for your patience and understanding.”
-Isaac B. Atienza-
Scientists would argue that the human body is born with five senses, and these are, the sense of smell, sight, hearing, taste, and touch. I’m very surprised to learn that sense of humor wasn’t part of the equation, but that’s another story. What I want to concentrate on is the sense of touch. The human hand does a lot more than merely grab stuff. It is also a medium of communication between us and the surrounding environment, like the grasp of your lover’s hand, which means even if she has wet, clammy hands like as if it were Niagara Falls, you’d still love her despite all circumstances. The situation is the same when us car enthusiasts drive. More than our love for the sense of speed, the tactile communication between the driver and the car must also be important as a medium of communication. Let me teach you about tactility by using this lovely Toyota 86 as an example, and hell yes, we were handed over to a manual one.
That tactility lesson begins on how Toyota’s designers sculpted and massaged the current 86’s sheet metal into something more befittingly modern. As you appreciate and touch the 86’s creases and curves, you soon realize what Toyota’s engineers are trying to communicate to you. With its bold front arches that go above the car’s hood line, the engineers are telling you that this car is ready to fly like the Japanese red-crowned crane. It has a typical rear wheel drive sports car layout. A long hood, short rear deck design in a low and wide stance.
Keeping it in touch with the 21st century are its modern lighting elements. Pure LEDs adorn the headlamps and tail lamps, down to the turn signals and the front fog lights. I really like what Toyota’s designers have done, down to the simpler, more aggressive 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels. However, I am not a fan of the Toyota 86’s lower front bumper area, which seem to have given the 86 some fangs.
I’ll get to the technical details first, so we can have an unadulterated lesson about tactility for the rest of my discussion. This Toyota-and-Subaru-developed boxer engine produces 197 hp @ 7,000 rpm, and 205 Nm of torque @ 6,400 – 6,600 rpm, none of which matters in today’s lesson about tactility.
You see, a sports car’s mission is to bring driving joy and pleasure to its master, and that’s where the Toyota 86 gets all things right like a scholar getting an A+ on a physics exam. Like many modern cars nowadays, you start your journey by touching the door handle and letting the passive entry system sense your hands, granted the smart key is within proximity of the doors. Upon settling on its low-slung bucket seats and putting your hands on to a steering that’s almost at a perfect 90-degree angle, you then fully press your foot onto the brake and clutch, and all it takes is pressing the engine start button to let the boxer engine breathe to life.
As you set off, you are greeted by a short throw, precise, and mechanically pleasant 6-speed manual tranny as you begin your drive. The pleasure of rowing through the gears becomes as intimate as a pastry chef using a spatula to mix the perfect cake, but the tactile pleasure of rowing the gears is nothing compared to how extremely tactile the electronic power steering is. This is hands down the best electronic steering I’ve come across, regardless of class, price, and performance. It’s weighty, responsive, precise, and full of so much feel, even if you squished a mosquito onto the asphalt, you’d probably feel it through the steering. I’ve driven more exotic sports cars with steering that’s more numb than the 86’s.
And yet, the car also tries to communicate through your other senses. For instance, Toyota’s engineers developed sound tubes that pipe in engine noise from the boxer engine. No sound enhancers nor fake engine noises piped through the speakers. Just pure, unadulterated intake noise without any turbos spoiling the 86’s vocals.
The 86’s chassis has been engineered by Toyota to deliver excellent handling at the car’s limits. Unlike modern supercars like a Ferrari, wherein its limits of grip are extremely high, the 86’s limits are attainable. Fitted with low rolling resistance 215/45 R17 Michelin Primacy HP tires, these tires aren’t designed for tenacious grip. As a matter of fact, my Honda Civic is fitted with grippier 205/55 R16 Michelin Pilot Sport 3 tires. Some car enthusiasts might even consider Toyota to be daft for fitting fuel saving tires to the 86, but they’re missing the point. The Toyota 86 was designed from the beginning to be fun, not to break lap records. Plus, let’s be honest, driving a car at its limits of grip is more fun than driving fast around a race track. Everyone loves a good climax, and a highly capable super car won’t be offering that.
As we stopped and took the cars for a break from a lot of hooning around the track, the 86 continues its tactile communication towards you, especially as you stare and appreciate its interior. While its interior isn’t the last word in premium appointments, it is highly functional. The pre-facelift 86 was full of splashes of red that even little red riding hood would be proud of, but now, Toyota has toned it down substantially, making the interior more tasteful than ever. The aircon controls mimic nuts and bolts that you’d find in your garage, while a 4.2-inch TFT LCD screen tastefully displays driver information, including a nifty G-meter that shows how much G-forces you’ve scared the hell out of your passengers. The steering is at an almost 90-degree angle, giving drivers an ergonomic control of the vehicle. It also has two rear seats that won’t fit any decently sized adult in existence. As a consolation, you can consider the 86’s back seats as an extra place for you to fit your weekend duffle bags, along with the 86’s glove box, none of which the Mazda MX-5 has. Given the cabin’s excellent simplicity and functionality, I must address the elephant in the room, which is its Kenwood infotainment system, which is neither excellent, nor functional.
The 86’s Kenwood infotainment is one of the worst infotainment systems I’ve ever used. Connecting my iPhone was harder than a US Navy soldier trying to launch a cruise missile to Iraq, but terrible infotainment systems aside, these are niggles that are so unimportant, so pointless, that in the end, all you want to do is drive the car and appreciate its sporty nature.
And yet, despite its sporty credentials, I believe this is a sports car I could use everyday. As I bonded with this car for so long, even as I ran my shawarma business, I named it Hachiro, inspired from Hachiko, and because 86 in Japanese translates to “hachi-roku”. Admittedly, Hachiro’s firm suspension can be too communicative of how bad our Philippine roads are, but Hachiro never felt too harsh for me, not even for my mother. Also, Hachiro’s clutch isn’t the easiest to use during stop and go traffic. I’d give that clutch usability advantage to the Mazda MX-5 that I assigned James to, but these are small niggles to pay for such a wonderful and highly communicative sports car. An art that most car manufacturers nowadays seem blinded from.
When Toyota’s engineers started development of the 86, they said that the goal was “to create an authentic rear-wheel drive sports car with compelling style, exceptionally balanced performance and handling, flexible utility and surprising MPG.” It was a sports car that was inspired from the legendary Toyota AE86 Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno that graced the covers of a certain manga, dressed in a “Fujiwara Tofu Shop” livery. It was a simple sports car that offered unadulterated driving thrills that’s as authentic and as communicative as your mother telling you how well your day is going to get.
I miss you, Hachiro. You were more communicative than most people who are only communicate through social media. You were also more communicative than any other car I’ve driven as of late, regardless of class, price, and performance.
Exterior Design: ★★★★☆
Interior Design: ★★★★☆
Space and Practicality: ★★★★☆
Fuel Efficiency: ★★★★☆
Value For Money: ★★★★☆
Overall: 4.1 out of 5