Top speed is 140mph, 0-62 mph takes 7.7 seconds, CO2 is 181g/km and Combined consumption is 36.2mpg

Top speed is 140mph, 0-62 mph takes 7.7 seconds, CO2 is 181g/km and Combined consumption is 36.2mpg

View 4 related images

Barely two years since FHI built the first 86 for Toyota, the 100,000th car has just been delivered, as has Toyota Motor Europe’s revised ‘2015 model year’ GT86.

There wasn’t much wrong with the car which TME markets as the GT86. The model name may differ from what TMC calls it in Japan - 86 - or Scion FR-S as it's called in the US and Canada, but badging apart, these are almost identical vehicles. As is the Subaru BRZ, with all coming down the same line at Fuji Heavy Industries’ Gunma Main plant in Japan.

The six figure sales milestone for Toyota’s rear-wheel drive sports car was announced by Toyota Australia. Of the 100,000 global total, over 10,000 have been sold down under. In fact, the local importer claims that the Aussie market is now the second largest for the 86 outside Japan (39,000). That's true if you're only talking cars with Toyota badges but more than 35,000 units of the Scion FR-S have been sold in the US. The next largest markets are Britain and Canada.

I asked TGB how many cars have been registered here. The answer is 3,720 since the first examples went on sale in July 2012. Worldwide sales continue to be brisk: I remembered seeing a July 2013 press release on this topic I so checked: back then, Toyota was announcing that it had sold over 70,000 units of the car since launch. The top markets were: Japan (30,000), USA (21,400), Australia (6,096), Britain (2,400) and Canada (2,400), so I make that an average of 132 cars a month for the UK market over the last 10 months - a handy performance indeed.

Word has it the 86/GT86/FR-S outsells the Subaru by a large margin. I loved the week I spent last summer as temporary custodian of a BRZ so when I saw that the hachi roku (eight six in Japanese) was being updated, it was a great excuse to try the 2015 model year Toyota version of the three cars in this vehicle series.

The changes centre on a retuning of the suspension, with the only external difference a shark fin antenna. The US and Canadian importers have noted the same changes for their 2015MY FR-S, while Mexico's 2015 Toyota 86 is similarly updated. The new cars go on sale worldwide from this month onwards, with TME’s national importers rolling out the 2015 GT86 over this summer.

To explain the reason for the model year changes, TME quotes Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada: “There is no reason that development should stop, only because the vehicle has gone on sale. GT86 is all about driver involvement, and we are committed to keep enhancing this aspect of the car. The 2015 Model Year delivers the latest status of GT86’s continuous evolution.”

Tada san’s team decided that more rigid fixation of the front suspension and the rear shock absorbers was needed. The shock absorbers were also changed and are now claimed to “provide a more stable damping and improved friction control, delivering smoother and yet more communicative handling”. Body roll was already fairly minimal but it been further reduced, and the steering feel, said to be “even crisper than before”, is excellent.

The interior has just one change: a carbon-fibre motif dashboard insert, and outside, as well as the more aerodynamic aerial, there are new pearl-white and silver paint finishes.

With the 2015MY car about to go on sale, what other developments might likely follow? A preview of a convertible body style, the Toyota FT-86 Open concept, had its global debut at the Geneva show in March 2013. A right hand drive variant then followed at the Tokyo motor show in November. A production model will likely be launched in 2015 to coincide with a mid-life facelift for the coupe. A sedan body style is also said to be under development - expect that in 2016.

It does seem a while ago that the first images of the 86 were released to the media - these were sent out ahead of its global debut in pre-production form at November 2011’s Tokyo motor show.

Some more history and reminders of how long project 086A was in gestation. Toyota revealed its first design study at the 2009 Tokyo motor show. This, the FT-86, was named so as to be linked with the AE86, a sporty Corolla derivative from the 1980s. If you’re wondering about FT, in all the various concepts that have these letters in their name, it stands for Future Toyota.

Meanwhile,  the BRZ model name was confirmed for the production variant of the Subaru in August 2011. Both a BRZ concept and a revised 'FT-86 II' were revealed at the Geneva motor show in March 2011. A Scion FR-S concept of that name premiered at the New York auto show a few weeks later,  the production model then having its debut at an event in Hollywood a few weeks before Christmas 2011.

The Toyota 86 went on sale in Japan in April 2012, followed by TME’s GT86 later that year. Until this summer, there were no changes and even in the latest, revised model, both the superb 1,998cc boxer engine and six-speed manual transmission are untouched.

The manual gearbox is one of the best things about the car - the changes are as good as in a MX-5. Just as in the little Mazda roadster, you lower yourself into and out of it, there is a wide central tunnel, luxury features are eschewed in the challenge for keeping weight out of the car. By way of example, the sun visors, seats, glass and headliner material are thin, door trims are minimalist, plastics are of the hard-but-will-last-for-decades kind and the bootlid and bonnet clang when closed (thick sound-reducing linings add mass). There's still most of things you'd want, though - dual zone climate control, cruise control, heated and electrically retracting mirrors and 17" alloy rims. SatNav, a reversing camera, heated leather seats and various other options added GBP 2,845 to the very reasonable GBP 24,995 which TGB charges for the standard manual car.

The lack of a loaded luxury spec matters not to the enthusiasts who buy this car; in fact it’s a bonus to these customers as Toyota wanted the 86/GT-86 to help manoeuvre its brand image away from the sensible but forgettable and towards the goal of memorably sporty. You could even call this car raw and almost wild, depending on how you drive it, especially if you turn the traction control off.

Weight distribution is near-perfect and it would have been a brave engineer who delivered the final prototype to company boss Akio Toyoda had it not been a car with outstanding handling as he had demanded it must be. Few cars would be sold to people who merely sit in them in a showroom - you absolutely need to drive the GT86 to understand it. In short, it’s a fantastic amount of fun.