Yea that’s right, people, I’m saying it! Toyota and Subaru’s supposed christchild of a sports car is actually pretty meh, and sales are dropping off. Here’s why…
So Much Hype
The GT86 may well be the most over-hyped car in recent memory. In reality, people liked the idea of the car more than the actual car itself. And because they wanted more companies to make cars like it, everyone raved about the GT86.
I really liked the manual FR-S when I drove it, and I hated the automatic. The reason comes down to the fact that all the FR-S really has going for it are its wonderful driving dynamics. In many respects it actually does feel like a Porsche Cayman, and that’s awesome! But when you remove the manual gearbox from the FR-S or BRZ, then you remove most of the driving engagement. That leaves the car’s more mediocre aspects completely exposed, and in my opinion, ruins it entirely.
From a driver’s perspective, the Achilles heel of the GT86 is its engine, a very lackluster naturally aspirated 2.0L boxer four. It’s not a horrible engine, but it lacks any real character or excitement. It certainly doesn’t have enough power to be considered “fast.” But a car doesn’t need to be “fast” to be exciting, of course. But the FR-S lacks the wind-in-your-hair fun of the Mazda Miata as well as the high revving drama found in the Honda S2000. The GT86’ motor feels more like it belongs in a Corolla, and that’s not a good thing for a sports car.
The GT86’s other problem is that it isn’t really a practical choice for most people as a daily driver. It has a tiny, almost useless back seat, and a trunk that isn’t good for much more than a duffle bag. In the real world, with competition from hatchbacks and sedans, the GT86 loses out big time in practicality. And it isn’t good enough as a sports car for people to make the sacrifice.
When the Toyota GT86, Scion FR-S, and Subaru BRZ first came out, everyone thought it was just the beginning of something great. We all had really high hopes for something like a Subaru BRZ STI, or at the very least some turbocharged version. It would seem that Toyota and Subaru hadn’t really thought that far ahead, though. It’s now three years later and nothing tangible has come of the rumors.
The basic GT86 has around 200hp, and that really isn’t enough to stand alone. If there were a 280-300hp turbo version, then 200hp would be fine in the base model. But if it is going to stand alone, then Toyota and Subaru need to step things up and try to milk around 240hp out of the N/A engine.
In It’s Market
With a starting price of over $25,000 in all of their forms, the FR-S, BRZ and GT86 cost a good bit more than cars with similar performance. A Ford Fiesta ST and a Honda Civic Si can both be had with a few options for under the $25,000 mark. Both of them are also far more practical cars to daily drive.
The GT86 variants all compete in the $25,000-$30,000 price range, against the likes of the Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen GTI, and Subaru WRX. Those are all way faster and much more practical options.
Even within Subaru’s own lineup, only $700 separates the base price of the BRZ and WRX Sedan. The current Subaru WRX is probably the best WRX ever made, with much improved fuel economy, better transmission options, and rock solid performance. Naturally, that makes the tiny Subaru BRZ at the other end of the showroom a tough sell by comparison.
With the way the demand for the GT86 variants has dropped off, it would seem that most people who wanted one bought one early on. Now, three years later, Toyota and Subaru haven’t delivered on anyone’s hopes for the car, and they haven’t freshened it up at all. When a product gets stale, sales fall off. It’s a simple concept.
(Every GT86 owner has dreams of this, and that is reflected in the insurance rates)
On a few recent occasions, I’ve had friends ask me about the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ with serious interest. A rear-drive drift car sure sounds like a lot of fun. But when it came down to actually writing a check, I wound up steering them toward the Ford Focus ST and other more practical options. None of them have regretted forgoing the FR-S thus far.
Toyota and Subaru need to realize quickly that the GT86 was never seen as a standalone car by consumers. We all saw it merely as the first step into the waters of rear wheel drive awesomeness.
Like in drifting, you don’t let off the gas when the rear end of the car kicks out, you have to stay on the gas! Toyota and Subaru got the rear-end loose nicely with the GT86, but they haven’t stayed on gas to maintain the slide. If they don’t act soon to give us consumers what we want, then they may wind up just spinning and stalling.