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Friday, December 2, 2011

Toyota 86: I am Iron Man

Iron Man was a great movie. It starred the second-best (behind Xavier) damn Marvel superhero of all time; it was performed by the talented cast of Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrance Howard, and Gwyneth Paltrow; and most of all, Iron Man was great simply because it was directed by fellow Queens native and Bronx Science alumni, Jon Favreau.

I knew I had to catch it but, unfortunately, I couldn't find the time until its very last week in theaters. By then, everybody and their grandmother had already seen it and raved on and on about the movie. Best movie ever! Blew my mind! Shit was bananas!

By the time I went to see it, I've been fed a month's worth of buzz and entered the theater with unjustified expectations. It was a disaster. What could have been a life changing cinematic experience turned out, at moments, to be slightly boring. Somehow, the movie was just too predictable and it almost seemed like I've seen it before. Because of the great number of people that couldn't stop talking about it, Iron Man was ruined. I barely enjoyed it.


I'll go straight to the point. The Toyota 86 is my automotive Iron Man. Ever since the FT-86 was first unveiled at the Tokyo Motor Show in 2009, we've seen so many concept variants and it's been reported, speculated, and promoted so relentlessly in so many different mediums (auto shows, magazines, blogs, twitter, forums, spy photos at Nurburgring, Gran Turismo 5), I've honestly grown tired of it.

This is not to say that the 86 is terrible. Really, it's the best entry-level offering in Toyota's recent memory. MotoIQ reported that the Toyota 86 will have 200 hp at 7000 rpm, 151 lb.-ft. of torque at 6600 rpm, and redline at 7400 rpm. Modest performance numbers, but the party piece of the 86 is the low center of gravity and its light 2690 lbs. dry weight. Its interior is designed to accommodate an aftermarket roll cage. Also, if one were to fold the back seats, there's enough space to fit four spare wheels, a helmet, and a number of tools to take along for a weekend track day.

What's more, Toyota's greatest team of developers were behind the endeavor. Tetsuya Tada led the engineering team, and the late, great Hiromu Naruse and the Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda himself were the test drivers and even slave drivers. Akio criticized the engineers, "If that is the best you can do, why not quit now?" That actually sounds like something Steve Jobs would have said. Judging from everything else in today's Toyota line-up, you wouldn't have guessed that the President of Toyota addressed the 86 project with so much emphasis.

But maybe it's too much emphasis. The entire automotive industry was nothing less than obsessed with it (so was I), hanging onto Toyota's every press release. Every unveiling of a concept FT-86 encouraged photo-journalists to snap shots at every perceivable angle. Slowly but surely, the car's appearance has gotten too familiar and I've begun to feel like I'm ready for a mid-life cycle facelift.

Despite this, one key detail remains shrouded in mystery. No one knows for sure but early rumors suggested that the car would be sold for under $20k USD. This is obviously an unrealistic pricepoint as a Scion FR-S would cannibalize Scion tC sales. Then, a more realistic $25k was suggested. Finally, Autocar claimed the Toyota 86 will cost £28k, and may be sold in the United States for $30k+. That is ridiculous and I hope Toyota recognizes the absurdity of that price. As capable as the 86's dynamics may be, a number of sports cars at $30k pack at least 300-hp, and that's 150% of Toyota's offering. What's more, can purist drivers justify forgoing a Mazda MX-5 Miata by spending $7k more for an 86?


So where does this leave the Toyota 86? What I've learned about the car no longer excites me and I don't even want to learn the last missing detail.

I know I'm the black sheep here and my rant will no doubt be dismissed by 86 loyalists but I truly believe that a little less coverage will benefit Toyota's sports car even more. That brings me to the Subaru BRZ.

While Toyota's PR machine milked the FT-86 concept of all its worth, Subaru patiently waited for its opportunity. They're essentially identical, no doubt, but we're reminded that post-release developments on the Subaru and Toyota will start to separate them. That's what makes it so exciting! Toyota has been outspoken, but what on Earth is Subaru up to?!

Behold:


The BRZ STI Concept only debuted last month at the LA Auto Show before Subaru revealed the GT300 race car for Japan's SuperGT racing series earlier this week at the Tokyo Motor Show. Actions speak louder than words and motorsport is louder than anything. Within a couple weeks, the fashionably late Subaru has managed to drop the tastiest bit of eye candy and effectively usurped years of FT-86 chatter.

So, under the assumption that the prices will be closer to $25k USD, and that both Scion FRS and Subaru BRZ will be similarly priced, the Subaru will be my obvious choice. Of course, it's possible that Toyota's greater resources may fund a more extensive 86 R&D in the long run, but even if that's the case, my Subaru will have no trouble accepting Toyota parts due to the benefits of being mechanically identical. Moreover, because the Toyota offered in North America will be branded a Scion, I suspect that most aftermarket upgrades will only be appearance and aero trims anyway.

Maybe it's the hipster in me shunning anything too mainstream. Whatever, go Subie!

1 comment:

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