Top 10 2013: Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ

EIGHTEEN months on from launch, and our 2012 Car Of The Year-winning 86/BRZ twins still provide the definitive affordable sports car experience. Even in an era defined by interesting coupes and piping-hot hatches, the Toybaru remains as much a value juggernaut as a driver’s dream.

That the base price hasn’t budged since June last year when Toyota dropped the 86 GT’s $29,990 bombshell is as remarkable as the car itself. To the company’s credit, only the (unexpectedly effective) GT auto’s RRP has crept up – though the $300 hike now brings the Torsen limited-slip differential previously denied to that particular model.

The 86/BRZ just keeps getting better with age. And its appeal is timeless – a tantalisingly small and lightweight rear-driver with not an ounce of extraneous flab, contained within an unashamedly Japanese old-school cab-backward coupe silhouette of classic proportions.

In the name of weight saving (and cost), a 147kW/205Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection, naturally aspirated flat four set well behind the front axle provides sufficient low-speed tractability and surprisingly effective mid-range punch. Okay, clearly some of you out there would prefer more low-down oomph, but the whole point of the 86/BRZ is its measured balance. Toyota and Subaru’s engineers collaboratively sweated over the driver’s relationship with the telepathically tactile steering, sweet six-speed manual gearbox, progressively weighted clutch, and brutally effective brakes, which all somehow gel together with cohesion not expected this side of a Porsche Cayman.

Even on the basic 86’s eco-rated ‘Prius’ tyres, this car handles with laser-guided precision, acrobatic balance, and outstanding control. Just be prepared to catch that rear with the electronic safety-net removed in the wet. Regardless, though, this is life-affirming stuff. Beyond Blue ought to give ’em away.

Finally, there’s the little coupe’s packaging. Sure, in this premium-obsessed world of soft-touch surfaces and fancy fittings, the 86/BRZ’s cabin looks, feels, and sounds more like a late-80s Celica throwback than, say, an Audi T. But the sense of occasion is certainly present. The driving position is simply perfection, the available space ample for two adults, and the very occasional rear-seat folds forward to provide a boot big enough to take a bicycle.

For sheer sports-car fun, then, there remains no peer. Can you think of a more focused rear-drive coupe under $100K, let alone $40K?

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