Anyone familiar with the saga of the 86 twins—whether they be known as the Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, 86, or (now) GR86—will know all about the chorus of calls from enthusiasts: turbocharge it! Toyota, stubbornly (and with good reason, whether you agree or not) has refused to slap a turbo on the sports car’s flat-four engine. It bumped displacement and power in the latest, second-generation GR86, but it’s clear nothing short of a boosted motor will satisfy the turbofans. So, it is with both excitement and regret that we bring you news that Toyota has actually built a turbocharged GR86. There are, as you might imagine, a number of caveats.
As Australian site CarSales.com/au reports (via Road & Track), Toyota has indeed built a small number of turbocharged 86s. Even wilder, the cars ditch their naturally aspirated, Subaru-sourced 2.4-liter flat-four for a 1.4-liter turbocharged I-3 adapted from the new GR Yaris’ 1.6-liter unit. That 1.6-liter engine is a wee beast, a “relentless” and torquey companion in the GR Yaris and (soon) our GR Corolla, where it makes 300 hp and up to 295 lb-ft of torque—well north of the 2.4-liter GR86’s 228 hp and 184 lb-ft. It is also light, and power-dense, as turbocharged motors tend to be.
What on Earth is Toyota up to with this unconventional configuration? Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be testing a consumer I-3-powered GR86. Toyota will use the cars in the Japanese Super Taikyu racing series, mainly as an excuse to test and develop carbon neutral fuels. It’s using its own I-3, rather than Subaru’s H-4, as it wants to validate the fuels for its own engines and ancillaries, according to the report.
CarSales asked the obvious question next: If the engine works in the 86 in a motorsport setting, could the company offer the GR86 with the I-3 to consumers down the road? According to the report, Gazoo Racing’s chief engineer Naoyuki Sakamoto admitted the company is seriously considering it, but does not have any “concrete plans” to produce a turbocharged GR86—yet.
Stuffing the GR’s I-3 into the 86 would almost certainly involve an internal philosophical battle with 86 chief engineer Tetsuya Tada, who is quite adamant about maintaining a certain balance between handling and power characteristics. Up to this point, he’s gotten his wish: the 86 and its cousins have remained affordable rear-drive coupes with modest power, excellent handling, and the directness that only a naturally aspirated engine can provide, even with the latest generation’s decent power bump.
Perhaps the homegrown, thrilling GR 1.6-liter I-3 might change his mind. Let’s hope Sakamoto gets Tada into one of his Frankenstein GR86s soon and puts a big enough smile on Tada’s face to win him over. Until then, this remains a tantalizing but frustrating footnote in the long turbocharged 86 saga.