Toyota will be officially showing its GT 86 sports car in Tokyo, after several years of concept cars and redesigns and extensive collaboration with Subaru, which will sell an almost identical car.
The compact 2+2 sports car is an incredibly important release from the world's largest auto manufacturer, which is hoping to bolster its reputation by creating a superb handling, driver-focused, low center of gravity, beautifully balanced with excellent power-to-weight ratio.
The front-mounted 197bhp Subaru 2.0-litre flat-four has rear wheel drive, goes on sale mid-2012 and is expected to sell below GBP30,000 in the UK to "those for whom driving is a passion, not a necessity."
The GT 86 measures 4,240mm long, 1,285mm high and 2,570mm wide, dimensions making it the most compact four-seater sports car available today. The driving position have been set as low and as far back as possible to achieve a 53:47 front-to-rear weight distribution and an ultra-low center of gravity, at just 475mm.
Subaru's new horizontally opposed, naturally aspirated 1,998cc four-cylinder boxer engine features separate twin injectors for both direct and port injection, and a high 12.5:1 compression ratio. The flat-four has equal bore and stroke of 86.0mm and drives through either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual offers quick, precise shifts using a tactile, short-throw lever; the automatic transmission can be controlled using paddle shifts mounted on the steering wheel.
Power is distributed to the rear wheels via a limited slip differential to give the best possible grip in all driving conditions. The ABS and switchable vehicle stability control systems have been tuned specifically to deliver dynamic stability at the limit of the car's performance envelope with minimal electronic intervention to help preserve the purity of the driving experience.
The GT 86 may be launched as the world's only current sports car to feature a front-mounted, horizontally opposed engine and rear-wheel drive, but it cannot claim to be the first. That honor is held by Toyota's two-cylinder boxer-engined Sports 800, which the company began developing in 1962. Since then, Toyota has established a long history of producing exciting, driver-focused sports cars with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive format that have proved as popular with the public as they have been successful in competition.
Here's some video from Toyota of the GT 86 in action.