Along with the Mazda MX-5, the Toyota GR86 / Subaru BRZ twins deliver the most affordable way to scratch the sports car itch. In an increasingly electrified world, these models are a dying breed with their naturally aspirated engines, rear-wheel drive, and manual gearboxes. Even if your name is Sébastien Ogier or Max Verstappen, you won't break any track records, but as this onboard video shows, the Toyobaru is a real hoot on a circuit.
Sport Auto's Christian Gebhardt took the GR86 around the challenging Nürburgring and managed to complete the lap in 8 minutes and 27.27 seconds. How does it stack up against other sporty cars he tested at the Green Hell in recent years? Behind the wheel of a Hyundai i30 N Performance, the skilled test driver lapped the Nordschleife in 8:05 and about three seconds quicker with the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport 45.
2023 Toyota GR86 Special Edition
Other relevant examples include the Hyundai i20 N Performance (8:33), Ford Mustang Mach 1 (7:58), Toyota GR Yaris (8:14), Mini JCW GP (8:03), Renault Megane RS Trophy-R (7:55), and the previous-generation Subaru BRZ Final Edition (8:43). He has also tested BMW M and AMG models, along with a few Porsches, but those are much more expensive than the GR86.
While the GR86 is available in Europe, the BRZ is sadly not. However, rumour has it that Subaru has changed its mind and plans to introduce the RWD coupe on the Old Continent in the near future. With emissions regulations getting stricter in the EU ahead of a likely sales ban on new ICE cars from 2035, the clock is ticking for NA sports cars.
Premium automakers have largely given up on manual gearboxes, save for BMW with the M2 and M3/M4 along with Porsche and some of its Cayman and 911 versions tailored to purists. Cars like the GR86 are the last bastion for NA affordable sports cars with a stick shift and RWD as they'll all be extinct in the EU by the middle of the next decade.