If the thought of an automatic Toyota 86 excites you like a Home & Away marathon, or having electrodes stun your family jewels, you are not alone. We felt the same, and then we drove one.
We’re not sure if this is a compliment, but it was nowhere near as terrible as we expected. In fact, it was better than tolerable. It was kind of good.
Moving away from traffic lights, the tiny torque converter makes for a smooth getaway without the jerky pick-up we’re having to tolerate from twin-clutches.
Knock the auto lever into manual mode and you’ll find a bit of Toyota Camry in that it’s push for up, pull for down (but hey, good enough for a 911 Turbo). Steering wheel-mounted paddles, only on GTS, mean the Camry comparisons gladly end there.
Pluck a paddle and while it’s nowhere near as crisp and fast as a twin-clutch, you’ll find a surprisingly swift upchange. It’ll even hold the gear you’re in, bip-bip-bipping on the limiter all day if you so wish.
Get into the firm brake pedal, which, refreshingly, still requires a bit of hammy to pull up the 1298kg auto 86 (23kg heavier than the manual) and, while fans of exhaust theatrics will find the auto 86 severely underwhelming, the transmission matches revs quickly and cleanly as you reach for lower cogs.
As some routine rainy weather hit Melbourne, the MOTOR office even fought over our GTS test car which, with a limited slip diff so tight it felt shimmed, and no distracting clutch and gears, was horrendously easy to wriggle around on the throttle in the wet.
Sadly, however, the addition of a slushbox slows the already-lethargic 147kW 86 even further.
Don’t race your mates in the manual version, because to 100km/h, they’ll smoke you – at 7.6 seconds the manual is six-tenths quicker than the auto.
Fortunately, while many enthusiasts will find the 86 wanting for more power, others will discover plenty of handling depth to keep them distracted.
All the other things that make the 86 great are still there, too: tight and well-weighted steering, beautiful suspension that leans aggressively into its tyres. All making for one seriously fun little car.
All the 86 pitfalls are there, too: slightly budget interior, a loud but boring engine note and a firm ride at times.
So while we’re not going to start recommending the auto 86 over the manual, particularly given it’s $2800 extra on both GT and GTS, if you’ve just had your left arm amputated, the auto 86 is all right.
Click here to read the full range review of the Toyota 86
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