TOYOTA’s subtle 86 facelift cloaks major engineering changes, including a more rigid body structure, new Track mode ESP and fresh dampers targeting both ride and handling improvements.
The official “revised shock tuning and spring rate change” line from Toyota’s brand communications team downplays the alterations according to chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, who elaborated on the changes to MOTOR at Canberra’s Festival of 86 last month.
“When you can have a chance to drive the facelift of 86 you must be surprised again,” Tada-san explained. “Everything changes: suspension, body, drivetrain, aerodynamics. It is just a facelift but everything change.”
Big claims, certainly, so is the suspension softer or stiffer than before? “I can’t say softer or harder,” he responds. “Ride comfort also very improved and suspension for the track.”
Tada-san explains that improving both comfort and dynamics is now possible thanks to new damper technologies that were unavailable during the 86’s original development program.
“Just after launch of current 86 I started already working [on the facelift],” he confirms. “Dampers are completely different from current generation. I don’t need to have any explanation when you have a chance to drive.”
The chief engineer acknowledges there are “a lot of bumps” on Australian roads and adds, “[On] that kind of road you can feel enormous improvement.”
A stiffer structure – “especially the rear body; subframe no, but production change in the body,” he comments – further helps handling, while vigorous head nods accompany the suggestion the current 86’s Sport ESP is lenient then too aggressive in operation.
“Ah, yes I know that … no [more] Sport mode, we gave it a Track mode,” Tada-san reveals. “More sports, more exciting, much more responsive. It is next generation [ESP], completely different.”
Criticism has been levelled at the small lift to the boxer-four 2.0- litre, which rises just 4kW/9Nm to 151kW/214Nm, though expected shorter gearing should improve acceleration. “So many consider it is not enough power ... because they want to focus on that,” Tada-san acknowledges. “We weren’t really focused on the speed or the power
… [we were] focused on simply so much fun to drive around.”
No turbo, then, but mention that Mazda’s newer MX-5 may have shone light on the 86’s weaknesses and Tada-san nods then argues the toss. “[There will be] no comparison,” he states. “Expect the next one [86 facelift] will be much better. You must be surprised.”
The chief engineer is already working on the next 86. He thinks future cars will deliver “a big weight loss to the body itself” while his next rear-drive coupe, due in 2019/’20, could get an electric motor boost.
“If [we] provide just a normal hybrid it make no-one surprise,” he insists. “It is not as surprising as what [we] want to make … to make everyone go wow, and beyond expectations.”