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The 2017 Toyota 86 is not boring

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The bottom line is that if you want a two-seat sports car and you want it under $30,000, you must test drive the Toyota 86.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2017 Toyota 86 is a back-to-bascis sports car that places the emphasis on driving fun.The word has come down from the President of Toyota Motor Corporation. Akio Toyoda commanded, "No more boring cars." If the new 2017 Toyota 86 sports car is any indication, the company is taking that order seriously.

The 86 isn't really new — it's the old Scion FR-S with some updates. Toyota closed down the Scion brand last year, but the two-seat sports coupe that Toyota co-developed with Subaru was well worth saving. The "86" name reflects Toyota's original internal name for the project.

The 86 and the closely-related Subaru BRZ are the only vehicles on the road that can challenge the Mazda MX-5 Miata and its Fiat 124 stablemate for the hearts and minds of affordable lightweight sports car enthusiasts. Sure you can point to the Porsche Boxster, Alfa Romeo 4C, or the Audi TT, but those cars are priced much higher. You can get into the 86 for $27,120.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - The 2017 Toyota 86 offers such high tech features as a 7-inch Pioneer touchscreen interface with smart phone app integration and hands-free phone support, Toyota's Star Safety System, including stability and traction controls, a rear view camera, and smart stop technology for forward collision mitigation. 
For the money, you get a lot of features. The basic 86 comes with a limited slip differential, MacPherson strut front suspension and dual-wishbone rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, and a sporty 6-speed manual transmission. You can also get a very good 6-speed automatic, but you give up 5 horsepower with that option. Fuel economy is 21 MPG city and 28 MPG on the highway.

Inside, the 86 offers a 7-inch Pioneer touchscreen interface with smart phone app integration and hands-free phone support. The 86 also comes with Toyota's Star Safety System, including stability and traction controls, a rear view camera, and smart stop technology for forward collision mitigation.

But the point of a sports car is not the infotainment package. Buyers are going to focus on the driving experience, and this is where the 86 really shines. The engine is comparatively low on torque compared to a lot of modern cars, but experienced sports car drivers know to keep the revs high and use the gears. The 86 is quick-steering, responsive and predictable. Some buyers may find the sport suspension too stiff, but it's exactly what this kind of car is supposed to have. There are plenty of larger and softer cars on the market if you want a gentler ride.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JEFF ZURSCHMEIDE - Supportive front bucket seats are standard in the 2017 Toyota 86, but the back seat is for small children only.The bottom line is that if you want a two-seat sports car and you want it under $30,000, you must test drive the Toyota 86. There are significant differences between the Toyota, Subaru, Mazda, and Fiat offerings, not the least of which is whether you want a convertible or not. I'm not saying it will be an easy choice, but we're lucky to have a range of options to choose from this year.

2017 Toyota 86

Base price: $27,120

Price as tested: $27,120

Type: Two-seat sports coupe

Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder (205 hp, 151 lbs-ft)

Transmission: 6-speed manual or automatic

EPA estimated mileage: 21/28

Road noise: Average

Curb weight: 2,774 pounds

Final assembly: Gunma, Japan