It’s a tried-and-tested formula, one which has appeared on countless greats throughout the years, but unfortunately it’s something that’s all but extinct in today’s market. Manufacturers’ hands are effectively tied and so they’re ditching high-revving screamers in favour of smaller-capacity engines - often with a turbo bolted on - to meet strict government regulations for emissions.
So, when a car such as the Toyota GR86 arrived and sold out almost immediately, the clamour to sample it was reminiscent of a thoroughbred, GT-badged Porsche being released simply because of what it stands for. It’s a dying breed.
Open the feather-light driver’s door, shimmy your way into the low seat and you’re struck by just how snug it is. Tall drivers need not apply and although there are two small back seats, they’re only suitable for very tiny children: my five-year-old son struggled, but there was enough legroom for his 18-month-old sister.
The driving position is nigh-on perfect, though. Ahead is a thin-rimmed steering wheel, a central rev counter and little in the way to distract you from the matter at hand. Everything’s where you want it, it feels snug and before you even turn a wheel, it’s one of those cars that possesses a purposefulness that’s reserved for just a handful of cars.
As impressive as their fuel economy figures and bulging power outputs are, turbocharged engines - which just about every manufacturer now uses - are of no comparison when you have a naturally aspirated belter like the one that lives in the GR86. It’s a 2.0-litre with a touch over 230bhp, ample for a car that weighs a smidge over 1,200kg, but it’s one that craves revs, with peak power being produced at a heady 6,000rpm.
Torque lacks somewhat, but hold onto a gear and venture into the upper reaches of the rev range and it rewards in abundance: it feels fast, frenetic and it’s an utter joy - a true throwback - in an era of powerful-yet-dull turbocharged engines. Natural aspiration offers shackle-free, undiluted brilliance and it’s a huge part of the GR68 experience.
First impressions have always counted for a lot and you’ll be struck by several things in your opening miles with the car, firstly its lack of inertia. It feels light, the steering’s judged to perfection and it moves seamlessly down a road. Sure, it’s a little rugged over challenging surfaces, but it’s no harsher than a well-sorted hot hatch.
The gearbox is also an immediate stand-out: it’s notchy in the best possible sense, but it’s direct, to the point and excellently judged. It’s better than its GR Yaris sibling in this department, but not quite as good as a Honda Civic Type R’s manual ‘box.
However, this car is not for everyone - it’s reserved for people who enjoy the act of driving. It’d annoy those who want a smooth, simple, relaxing drive from A to B, but for loons like me every foible they’d undoubtedly be irked by becomes absolutely forgivable. That's because of what it stands for, and how it stands against the modern-day motoring world’s list of tedious restrictions which are strangling the life out of performance cars.
The GR86 - which has shone in motoring magazines’ tests and bloodied the noses of cars worth three times as much - should be celebrated for what it gives to the market. It’s a two-fingered salute, a throwback to when things were less complicated and just better for people who love the simple, timeless thrill of driving a sports car. It’s wonderful and there’s no wonder why it sold out in an instant.