Already a great handler, the 86 responds to gentle tweaks HE TOYOTA 86’s tail-out tendency makes a refreshing change from the multitude of grip-ahead-of-entertainment performance car alternatives. However, there’s the temptation to tap into the quick-cornering ability that’s undoubtedly lurking within Toyota’s talented rearwheel- drive chassis.
If the will to modify has overtaken the fun factor of hanging your 86’s arse out everywhere, MOTOR is here to guide you through the upgrades.
But first, a quick refresher on the cult coupe’s key stats. The 86 has strut front and multi-link rear suspensions, with a standard limited-slip differential and a crisp, well-weighted electro-mechanical steering system. All the ingredients, then – the 86 just needs a tweak in the right direction.
There’s certainly no shortage of bits to buy, says Brad Heasman of Heasman Suspension and Bilstein Australia. “This car has more hardware for it than any other car on the road today.”
However, the flipside of all the choice is that: “You can go to the point of ruining the handling of the car very easily by just buying everything that’s out there for it,” he says.
“We’ve had a lot of guys who’ve bought a whole catalogue of parts for the car, all the rear chassis bracing, rear swaybars, front swaybars, camber/caster kits, absolutely everything there is, put it in the car, and the thing’s a couple of seconds slower around a track,” he adds. “People make them too stiff and it’s a step backwards in handling.”
“Toyota designed the car to feel very alive how it is, with no power. By making it firmer or more rigid, it just throws the whole balance of the car out the window.”
Heasman advises people to make one handling modification at a time. For a daily-driven 86 on road tyres that will see fun, twisty roads and the odd track day, changing springs and dampers is a good first step.
A typical street set-up consists of Bilstein coilovers, a relatively soft rear set-up, and a decent wheel alignment that increases negative camber and positive caster at the front.
Upgraded swaybars can then be used to fine tune the car’s balance. A stiffer rear bar will provide more front grip and a bigger front bar will provide more rear grip, to the eventual onset of understeer. Similarly, oversteer signposts that you’ve gone too far with rear bar stiffness.
Aftermarket replacement lower control arms at the T
front and rear, from brands such as Hardrace and Whiteline, are often fitted to provide a larger range of camber adjustment, and they also bring pillow ball joints, which are more rigid than the standard rubberbushed control arm mounting points.
Upgraded bushes on their own are of limited benefit, reckons Heasman. “If it’s a road car, don’t worry about it until they’re worn out,” he says.
Performance-oriented tyres might be the first handling upgrade you’d make, given the relatively low costs. Changing to an ultra-high-performance tyre such as the Toyo Proxes T1 Sport will bring a substantial increase in grip, without too much compromise.
“They’re quiet; good in the rain,” according to Toyo Tyres Technical Manager Steve Burke. However, the wear rate will increase. “If an OE tyre lasts 40 or 50 thousand, it might last 30,000km, [and] you lose a bit of ride comfort.”
An S-Spec tyre provides an intermediate step between an ultra-high-performance road tyre and a semi-slick. These tyres are of motorsport construction, but with more road-biased tread pattern. They’re available from Toyo in the form of the Proxes R1R, as well as brands such as Hankook and Yokohama.
Interestingly, the R1R is available in both 16- and 17.0- inch fitments, which provides an affordable upgrade for GT owners’ standard wheels.
The ultimate road-legal tyre is a semi-slick such as the Toyo Proxes R888R, and a common fitment is a 225/40R18, though you’d need to buy bigger wheels. However, though they are road-legal, there are significant drawbacks to using semi-slicks on the road, such as a harder ride, more noise, a shorter life and compromised wet grip. “You’re better off saving them for the track,” Toyo’s Burke says.
Just as with the suspension upgrades, the intended use of the car will dictate the level of brake upgrade. A typical street car set-up consists of a more aggressive pad and rotor combo, ADR-approved braided brake lines and high-temp fluid, such as AP Racing 660.
For the track, ditch the front calipers for four-piston AP Racing or Brembo units, performance pads and replacement high-performance two-piece rotors.