Smooth operator…

Words by:
Simon Taylor
Featured in:
October 2013

The line which divides motoring competence from motoring charisma may be very fine indeed, but charisma is everything in a sports car. It’s not just the feeling of satisfaction you gain with a good vehicle, but something bigger, more expansive and ultimately more rewarding.
So, given a choice I will choose front-engined, rear-drive cars every time, basically because I think they’re more fun. Maybe that’s because I’m a dreamer who is not able to master the delicate balance of steering and throttle needed to keep some of the ‘super cars’ in check on their limits. Or perhaps it makes me feel sensible, leaving all that to the ‘professionals’?

The joy to me of rear-drive cars is their ‘honesty’. Their power is all the better appreciated for being within easily defined limits. In other words, it’s the driver who calls the shots and not the car with any of its hidden nasty surprises.

Its delicately graceful lines are arresting and appealing and it’s probably no exaggeration to say that there are not many better shapes out there at the moment. You see it, you touch it, you drive it – and you need it. It’s the kind of car that points to driving for pleasure and driving for leisure (remember that?).

Well trimmed and finished inside, everything you’ll ever need is at hand and you sit on leather and Alcantara (extra cost) sports seats with comfy side bolsters. There’s real inner sanctum comfort – but not if you have to travel in the back. It might be called a ‘2+2’, but there’s so little leg and head room that it’s not practical for adults to use. There is, however, a decent sized boot.

Above all else, it really is stimulating to drive, with the emphasis on handling and overall dynamic finesse. That it’s a fast car that can reach 130mph, there is no doubt, but it’s not about crude, straight-line performance or nought to nonsense mph in so many silly seconds. It’s an enjoyable and fulfilling car, the likes of which we haven’t seen for some time. Few cars today offer such a high coefficient of temptation, so you have to be careful. Drive it like a young rip and you’ll cause some whip-shaking for sure – with a guaranteed visit from a constable – and be up before the beak in a jiffy on a charge of scorching!

Chassis dynamics are also good and everything is delivered through direct, communicative steering. Power goes through an excellent six-speed automatic gearbox, with paddle shift if you need it. A manual version is also available.

It does more with the 197bhp from the 2.0-litre flat-four ‘boxer’ engine than steroidal monsters developing twice the power. This feisty unit is not about torque though, there’s not much of that. But work it hard on the open road and it reveals itself as a fabulously willing performer, positively singing its way to the redline. Floor the throttle and listen to the engine note change from soft to hard followed by a hollow cry, that etches the performance message with eloquence. There’s mechanical musicality here that you don’t often get in many monstrously expensive hypercars.

The GT86 is way ahead of anything out there except for the likes of a highly strung Lotus Elise – and you wouldn’t want to live with one of those every day!

I can now hear you saying, “Heavy fuel consumption and high price!” Well I’m pleased to report that it really does return near 40mpg overall and at £26,495, the ‘enjoyment-per-pound’ equation stacks up beautifully.

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