Sales records show that private vehicles with automatic transmissions (A/T) currently outsell vehicles with manual transmissions (M/T), especially after vehicular traffic in the country has turned from bad to worse. The number of A/T units in the car manufacturers’ test fleets also reflects this sales phenomenon and buyers’ preference. Most of the new vehicles sent to us for evaluation have automatic gearboxes. Seldom do manufacturers and distributors lend out M/T vehicles, perhaps out of respect for our less-exercised left calf muscles.
However, the rapid spread of the global COVID-19 epidemic changed the traffic landscape. With community quarantine and lockdowns enforced to prevent the further spread of the deadly Coronavirus, and with most companies opting to work from home (WFH), traffic around the country, especially in Metro Manila became a whole lot lighter. We drove a turbodiesel pickup truck with a stick shift during the early stages of the pandemic in March 2020 and we found that we desperately missed shifting gears. The opening of the Skyway stages in January 2021 prompted us to scratch an itch that we need to scratch – that is – to drive a sports car with three pedals and a manual shifter.
We searched for a suitable candidate and found the M/T sports car that is readily available and immediately affordable for our purpose was the Toyota 86 sports coupe. With brand-new units priced at P2,086,000, we instead opted to drive an older 2017 86 M/T model since the powertrain is basically unchanged. Our little red 86 has the same 200-horspeower naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter D-4S horizontally-opposed 4-banger under the hood. And fortunately for us, its short-throw 6-speed manual transmission works as well as the one in brand-new units.
With all due respect to boy racers and customizers, we like our 86 simple and in factory trim, avoiding aero add-ons like chin spoilers, side skirts and huge rear wings. We also like it in stock ride height and factory 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/45R17 Michelin tires so we don’t have to deal with scrapes and humps on the road. We would like to think that the engineers and designers at Toyota and Subaru knew what they were doing when they designed and built this sports car. Call us conservative (or spoil sports, if you must) but we found that an unmolested all-original sports car retains its value more than a heavily customized one.
Big Things Come In Small Packages
The 86 might look small and low on the outside but it has a lot of big things going for it. For one thing, it is quite nimble and, with 205 Newton-meters of torque moving a curb weight of less than 1,300 kilos, it accelerates like the proverbial bat from hell. The gear ratios of the 6-speed are evenly spaced to enable the 86 attain extra-legal speeds in a short time while you have fun rowing through the short-throw shifter. The independent suspension, with McPherson struts in the front and double wishbones in the rear, keeps the 86 planted while the power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering points it where you want to go. 16-inch ventilated disc brakes in front and 15-inch ventilated disc brakes at the back are optimized with anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD).
Six-footers might find entering the 86 a bit tricky but once inside, the 86 is all business. The front sports seats are comfortable and well-bolstered to provide lateral support during cornering. The three-spoke steering wheel with its thick leather-wrapped rim feels nicely weighted and has a good tactile feel. The short-throw stick shift is within easy reach, the pedals are arranged to assist heel-and-toe competition driving, and the handbrake lever is suspiciously easy to grab in cases when you feel tempted to drift into fast bends. (Get our drift? Wink, wink…) The front seats make you feel as if you’re snugly fitted in and one with the car.
But Wait, There’s More!
We’re not particularly fond of the design above the rear wheel arch of our red 86 but we understand why the designers made it that way. You see, the 86 has rear seats, which means it has to accommodate two more passengers. Technically, it’s a “2+2 sports coupe“, meaning it seats two occupants comfortably in front, and two, uh… small adults in the back. And then, on top of that, there’s also a trunk where the full-size spare tire resides. Surprisingly, you can transport long items in the 86 because the rear seats can fold down to make more space even though the miniscule trunk opening makes loading and unloading a bit tricky. Not that you’ll make an SUV out of this sports car, but it’s good to know that it can be quite useful when needed.
And then, there’s the “fun” part. We drove our red 86 south to Batangas City, Batangas to attend the opening of a car dealership there and to indulge in a large bowl of piping hot bulalo (bone marrow and beef stew) at our favorite restaurant in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. From our base in Quezon City, we flew through the Skyway directly into the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and into the STAR Tollways that connect Laguna to Batangas. There were three of us in our little red 86 and we had such a great time skirting a bit past the speed limit that we reached our destination a lot quicker than we thought we would. The suspension was a bit firm but not as choppy or as rough as some pundits (and ill-advised owners) paint it to be.
Overall, it was a fun drive and the Toyota 86 proved to be a fun car, whether it is driven within the city or on long drives along the highways. Despite the large number of 86 sports coupes sold, our little red car still gets its fair share of attention on the road, whether it’s moving or parked. When people peek inside and see the 6-speed stick shift, we always get two different responses: We get a “thumbs-up” or an “OK” sign from those who love to drive, or we are asked a question by those who wonder why we bother driving a stick shift in today’s traffic. Some might find find our response unfathomable but it’s honest and true. We just wanted to scratch an itch that needed to be scratched. That’s all.
Vehicle Type: Front-engine, RWD, 2-door sports coupe
Price: P2,086,000 (current price)
Engine: D-4S liquid-cooled horizontally-opposed 4-cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power: 200hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 205Nm @ 6400-6600 rpm
Wheelbase: 2570 mm
Length: 4240 mm
Width: 1775 mm
Height: 1320 mm
Minimum Ground Clearance: 145mm
Minimum Turning Radius: 4.8 m
Curb Weight: 1277 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 liters
Front Suspension: Independent, McPherson type
Rear Suspension: Independent, Double wishbones
Front Brakes: 16-inch ventilated discs
Rear Brakes: 15-inch ventilated discs
Steering System: Power-assisted rack and pinion
Tires: Michelin 215/45R17
Toyota Motor Philippines Corporation
Santa Rosa, Laguna