Review: The Toyota Supra Is An Incredibly Fun Sports Car — Here’s Why I’d Buy This 86 Hakone Edition Instead

There's still a case for the honest, simple, MANUAL sports car

[Photos: TFLcar]

2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition: Overview

✓ Telepathic handling Still doesn’t have any torque
✓ Looks great Firm ride
✓ Short, precise shifter throws Dated infotainment, climate controls

As much as we love trucks and rugged, off-road worthy SUVs at the TFL office, I always get excited when we get an interesting sports car in the fleet. Even better, this week we were able to sample both of Toyota’s purpose-built sports coupes — the Toyota 86 and the return of a legend, the widely praised, if controversial, Toyota Supra. I’d driven the 86 TRD Special Edition, but it was my first shot at the sports car the Japanese automaker co-developed with BMW, and our first opportunity to look at the two offerings side-by-side. And while the Toyota Supra for all its arguable BMW-ness is a damn good sports car, full stop, I found myself warming to its little brother as I debated which one to take over the course of the past week.

Specifically, this is the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition, a special model based on the top-spec 86 GT. This version comes exclusively in the brilliant Hakone Green, along with bronze 17-inch alloy wheels, a unique black and tan interior, and a tasteful matte black rear wing for good measure.

Although it retains the same profile as the 86 GT, the Hakone Edition’s green paint scheme with the bronze twisted-spoke alloy wheels is my perfect combination.

Performance: Handling nirvana

Under the hood, the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition has the same engine as the previous models. It’s the same 2.0-liter Subaru-designed boxer engine with 205 horsepower and 156 lb-ft of torque. This particular 86 sends its power to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission — as it should — though you can get it with a six-speed automatic transmission instead. However, if you do that, the output goes down to 200 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque.

Power isn’t everything, though. The Toyota 86 tips the scales at just under 2,800 pounds, making it a featherweight by modern standards. That lightness also helps fuel economy, where I managed over 30 mpg in mixed city and highway driving.

The Subaru-based boxer engine gives the 86 a unique character, if not a huge amount of power.

Yes, against the Supra’s 335 turbocharged horsepower, the 86 is woefully outmatched. It’s worth springing for the three pedal option just on the basis that the last thing this car needs is less power. However, like the Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Toyota 86 is proof power isn’t everything.

Handling, by contrast, is where this car absolutely shines. Rev that boxer engine up to 7,000 RPM, and you can get the rear end out, particularly with the traction control disabled. Toyota makes it easy enough to do that with a single button, while the second Track Mode button disables the stability control, while leaving the traction control engaged. Because it doesn’t have a stupid amount of horsepower, getting on the power as you exit a corner isn’t utterly terrifying. Instead, it’s easy to control and left me smiling after each attempt.

The Hakone Edition retains the wing from the GT model, but I think the matte black with Hakone Green is a nice touch.

The power is approachable

What endeared the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition to me was the fact that its power is so approachable. Don’t get me wrong, the Supra is a well-balanced machine and makes the most of its available power — TFL will have more on that this weekend (January 26), so stay tuned! That said, when I just wanted to get in and go for a drive, I found myself grabbing the keys to the 86. When it comes to fun sports cars, I enjoyed the Hakone Edition as a Miata that’s slightly more comfortable for someone of my stature.

Now, unlike the standard GT, the Hakone Edition doesn’t offer the $1,270 TRD Handling Package as an option. You don’t get the Brembo brakes or the Sachs dampers, but I thought the car was all the better for that last omission. The stock suspension is far more comfortable, and while the Sachs dampers sharpens the 86’s handling, it made the ride in our TRD Special Edition unbearably harsh on the road.

I appreciated the Toyota 86 for its relative simplicity, even if parts of its interior are seriously outdated.

Comfort and convenience: Dated, but useful

Plop yourself into any modern car, and you’ll have a wide array of modern driver assistance systems at your disposal. The 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition, as with the rest of the range, continues to buck that trend. It doesn’t offer most of the features you may have come to expect at this point. See those blank switches on the steering wheel above? There’s no lane keep assist, no adaptive cruise control, no automatic emergency braking with pedestrian protection or any ultra-modern systems. You do have stability control and traction control, but you can disable both at your will, leaving a more mechanical connection between you and the machine than even other sports cars like the Miata or a hot hatchback.

The instrument cluster is clean and straightforward. That said, you do get a small TFT display. The unit incorporates a trip computer, g-force meter and even a power and torque graph so you can precisely time your shifts. The digital speedometer is always there and complements the analog speedometer and tachometer. Other than that, there’s a simple fuel gauge and that’s it. Like the climate controls, the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition has everything you need and nothing you don’t. You’re not entirely without creature comforts though, since it does have heated front seats.

The infotainment system does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. [Photo: Toyota]

About that infotainment system…

One part that continues to irk me about the Toyota 86, however, is its infotainment system. It has a 7.0-inch display along with physical power and volume buttons, so you technically have what you need. That said, in an age where every automaker seamlessly integrates the infotainment system into the design, the stock head unit looks hopelessly outdated. I could not, if my life depended on it, get my phone to make a proper call through Bluetooth, and the responsiveness and layout make the system a stark reminder that this car is nearly a decade old. At least the Nissan 370Z’s system looks like it was purpose built, while this looks no better than a cheap aftermarket head unit. Mind you, at least this one has Apple CarPlay.

Want to get in the back seats? Forget it.

At least the front seats are comfortable

Thanks to the softer stock suspension, the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition is a comfortable car on longer trips, even if the engine drones a bit. The black and tan sport buckets with Alcantara inserts look great, but they also offer enough support without clamping your sides too tightly if you have a larger build. As with most coupes, though, the rear seats are useless if you’re tall. The photo above shows the seat in my driving position, for reference. Toyota claims 29.9 inches of rear seat legroom, but this car is far too small to seat four adults comfortably in any circumstance.

Granted, the Supra offers an absolutely cavernous 10.2 cubic feet of cargo space. The 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition, for its part, makes just 6.9 cubic feet in its trunk. Still, you get an 86-branded carpeted trunk mat, and every extra bit of space offers some practicality. Fortunately, you can also fold those seats down for a bit of extra space.

Verdict: I can’t live without that green

Okay, under normal circumstances I would have looked past the 2020 Toyota 86. This Hakone Edition forced me to take a long, hard second look, and it won me over. I like it for the same reason I like another ancient Toyota, the 4Runner. If you look at it as a sports car to compete with the likes of the more hardcore Supra or the Nissan 370Z, you’re probably not going to like it. It doesn’t have that low-down “meaty” feel that a big V-6 or turbocharging provides. It doesn’t look particularly menacing, nor does it come from a long line of legendary sports cars.

Apart from some of the thoughtful touches, this is the sole reason I’d take an 86 over a Supra.

But, on looks alone, I like the Hakone Edition. The British racing green and bronze wheels work together brilliantly, in my opinion. It’s agile without having a punishing ride. Since it doesn’t have a big beefy engine up front, it’s light on its feet. In short, the 2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Edition is car you can push without it suddenly snapping back. As great as coupes with 350 or 450 horsepower or more can be, I always find myself on edge when I drive them. Not so here.

For $30,825, the Hakone Edition is actually less expensive than the manual transmission Toyota 86 GT. Spring for the three-pedal option there, the MSRP starts from $31,145. Both prices include Toyota’s $955 destination fee. On that basis, I have no trouble saying “buy it” all day long. It’s a good, fun car. Yes, it’s not the legendary Supra, but it’s more than $20,000 less.