Toyota 86 Blackline Edition road test and review
WHAT is it about limited edition cars that get enthusiasts so giddy with excitement?
Cynics see them as a way of eking more money out of a customer in a classic up-sell, or serving as a way of reviving interest in a flagging model.
History has taught us, however, that limited edition models are highly sought after, especially if the car in question is an iconic, successful or sporting one (or at best, a combination of the three).
Classic Porsche prices, for instance, have gone stratospheric of late, with any low volume specials having collectors entering into ludicrous bidding wars.
So while the likes of Aston Martin, Ferrari and Porsche produce limited editions with almost comical regularity, the Toyotas of this world rarely do. Unless they have a sporting gem in their line-up, and Toyota's rear-drive 86 bargain ticks that box superbly.
It deserves a limited edition variant, and here it is. Known as the 86 Blackline Edition, the cars are for the Australian market only and celebrate the Toyota 86 Racing Series which starts in May next year.
The Blacklines cost $2000 more than the range-topping 86 GTS they're based on, and 450 will be made available to our market - 250 manuals and 200 automatics.
My first experience with the Toyota 86 was nearly two years ago, and much to my disappointment I've not been behind the wheel of one since.
Its formula sits well with me. Rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated engine, light weight and a manual gearbox (ideally) and I'm easily pleased. The fact the 86 has beautiful balance and a sub-$30k price point also had me singing its praises.
So it was with joy I managed to sample a Blackline Edition in three-pedal guise, albeit very briefly (these limited editions don't like having many kilometres on them before reaching eager buyers), but did manage to reacquaint myself with an automatic GTS model as well for a longer spell.
The Blackline certainly stands out against its GTS stablemate, its body styling in particular offering a racier look more in line with the 86 Racing Series track cars.
Toyota's engineering and motorsport partner TRD has provided the Blackline with a custom front spoiler, rear spoiler, side skirts, front fender garnish and rear lower bumper.
The car comes only in "white liquid" paint to help show off the Blackline decal stripes running the length of the bonnet and roof, and the 17-inch gloss black alloy wheels.
There's nothing in the way of engine upgrades or chassis tweaks - the kind of things aficionados go really gooey over - but that's helped keep the price rise down to just $2000 over the GTS.
You do get a far brighter cabin however, and nothing says sports car quite like decent flashes of red about the interior.
Blackline buyers score red for the seats, door grips, gear knob, handbrake lever and steering wheel.
When I first saw pictures of the Blackline's cabin I feared it looked a tad too tacky, but getting behind the wheel it actually works very well. If anything, it successfully livens up the rather austere black cabin of the GTS, amplifying the red already found in the leather stitching.
So to the drive. I instantly warmed to the Blackline as my test example had the manual gearbox, something I personally find a core factor in getting the most driver enjoyment.
These aren't fast cars in the modern sports car sense of things - the 86 hits 100kmh in 7.6-seconds - so the more involving nature of stirring a manual gearbox brings a great deal more reward.
And it's a lovely little short-throw gear change. The red gear stick feels beautiful in the hand, and smoothly and rapidly punches through the cogs. You sit very low in the car - as you should - and pedal position is superb for a bit of heel-toe action on spirited sessions.
Alas my time with the manual was all too short, but I came away impressed with the automatic too, even if it wouldn't be my first choice as it robs a little of the enjoyment, plus it sets you back an extra $2500.
I sought out some of my preferred corner-heavy back roads, let the auto 'box take control (with the odd steering wheel paddle input to drop down a gear), and enjoyed the delicious chassis I'd fallen for on my drive two year ago.
So sweetly balanced through the turns, and backed up by brilliantly responsive steering - it is a delight to place a car so accurately in a corner - and feedback comes in spades through the wheel and the seat of your pants, so close do you feel to the road.
One of the reasons I fell in love with the 86 on my first drive was the very fact it wasn't a rocketship. No turbo on the flat-four means you need to be up near the redline to reach peak power and torque, and it's not a license losing move to stomp on the throttle regularly, which you'll really want to do.
Could the chassis handle more than the 147kW of power? There's little doubt it could but, much as the new Mazda MX-5 has proven, there's a willing market for these cheap, rear drive, naturally aspirated cars offering a purer driving experience than turbo sports cars seemingly chasing stupid horsepower figures simply to outdo rivals.
I came away from my latest experience of the Toyota 86 still thinking it would be a welcome addition to my garage. It's not perfect - I think the exhaust note could be sportier, the cabin plastics are too abundant and the touchscreen feels a generation behind, but I forgive it everything when out on a decent twisty road.
If I was shopping for one I'd be tempted to be the ultimate purist and opt for an entry-level GT with manual gearbox - that sub-$30k price (before on-roads) is almost too good to miss.
But I'm not immune to the charms of a limited edition, and I can see the attraction of the new Blackline. If you were looking at the plusher $35,990 GTS, the extra $2000 for the special edition looks a more than fair price, especially if you want your 86 to stand out without going down the aftermarket route.
Model: Toyota 86 Blackline Edition.
Details: Two-door rear-wheel-drive sports car.
Engine: 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 147kW @ 7000rpm and peak torque of 205Nm @ 6400rpm.
Transmissions: Six-speed manual or six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 7.8-litres/100km (manual); 7.1-litres/100km (auto).
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.6-seconds (manual) 8.2-seconds (auto).
Bottom line: $37,990 (manual); $40,490 (auto) before on-road costs.