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Sunday, 4 October 2015

10 Reasons Why I Bought My Toyota GT86 Hachi-Roku (ハチロク)

There is no doubt that car prices in Singapore are among the most expensive in the world (if not, the most expensive). In this regard, most Singaporeans are car buyers based on economical constraints, juggling between their needs and wants. Henceforth, owning multiple cars would only be a luxury for the wealthy and that is not something within reach for the average Joe. 

Like many others out there, I am a married salaried guy with two kids and 'suffering' from an obsessive passion for cars and motor sports. To be perfectly honest, I would have a modified Japanese Domestic Model (JDM) for play and a nice luxury SUV for the family if I could but with car prices soaring in the hundreds of thousands here, that ain't going to be easy. 

So in summary, since there isn't any proper article on the web (apart from some discussions in the ft86club.com forums) about the Toyota GT86 as a family coupe, I would like to share with the rest of the world why and how I managed to give up my Lexus GS300 for the Toyota GT86 Hachi-Roku (ハチロク). 

1. FAMILY SUPPORT
Firstly, I have two lovely young girls and a very supportive wife who didn't mind sacrificing the luxurious, spacious cabin of the Lexus GS for my selfish interest in tuning cars. Yes, to be honest, it was and still is an everyday sacrifice of space and comfort for the family and I will forever be indebted to them for being this understanding. 

2. THE DAILY 2 + 2
I can't say how much I love the GT86 for what it is on the performance side of the house. Nevertheless, the Hachi-Roku is going to be the family sports car and the ability to continue our day to day family logistics and weekend outings were cardinal. 

If you must know, the GT86 is a pretty superb 2 + 2 coupe. Discounting whatever others may say  
on the internet, useful space in the rear does exist. I am not saying that it's much but it is sufficient for a small family with young children or really small and understanding grown ups. Laughs...

The trunk doesn't have much height and depth but if you remove the spare, you will have the whole spare tire well for additional storage to commute food or groceries in plastic boxes. In stock configuration, the huge exhaust muffler beneath does keep hot food a little warm for your journeys; which is in many ways a bonus for "take-out" milk runs.

As you can see, our twin-seater (extended wheelbase) stroller folds and tucks into the trunk neatly with my daughter's 'Glider' and helmet with room for perhaps my own Micro scooter (not pictured but clearly possible). For your information, I brought the 2 Recaro child seats, the stroller and fitted them into the showroom car at the local dealership before diving into buying the GT86. Bottom-line, if you can deal with having a Volkswagen Polo, this would be more than fine.

One other example of family logistics was the transporting of my old baby cot to my cousin's. Thanks to the foldable rear seats designed to accommodate a set of new wheels for track days, I effortlessly stowed the entire dismantled baby cot into the GT86 with some room to spare. Of course, that would only mean that the car would only take one passenger as the rear seats were folded. Considering that the GT86 is after all a coupe, it does certainly meet family requirements. In fact, transporting the baby cot in my Lexus GS would not have been possible as the rear seats do not come down as in some family sedans. Once again, another bonus configuration.

3. DESIGN
If you look at the GT86, it resembles many more expensive coupes like the Aston Martin DB9 (from the side) with a hint of Lexus LFA from the front. With the Day Running Lights (DRL), headlamps and aggressive front grille, the GT86 looks amazing even in stock condition. For that matter, the huge arch from the front fenders make driving the GT86 seem like a Maserati GranTurismo from the driver's point of view. Always a delight!

4. INTERIOR
Although the interior does not possess quality materials found in luxury sports coupes like the Audi TT, the soft dash and interior 'leather' upholstery have decent quality. Not to mention, the GT86 comes stock with impressively well supported front and rear seats. Overall cabin design and ergonomics are well constructed with instrumentation and controls within reach of driver and front passenger. What's most impressive is the amount of headroom available in the cabin thanks to the two 'bulges' as seen from the roof-line to accommodate race helmets! Somehow, based on what I have mentioned thus far, it is clear that much effort had been incorporated into the design of the Hachi-Roku (ハチロク) of the 21st century. Seems like it's more of a "less is best" track machine rather than a bag of weighted luxurious leather as weight reduction was the design objective.

5. RACE CAR INSTRUMENTATION
Let's face it, that tachometer is gorgeous and there is no denying that it is quite similar to that of the Nismo GT-R. The digital speedometer is wonderfully informative and the built-in shift lamp and beeper that's customisable to whatever rev limit you please is integrated neatly into the tachometer centre, visible only upon activation. Upon engine ignition, the tachometer displays an opening "tach sweep" to the set limit and back to zero before the start of the engine. Kind of reminds me of the way the Defi gauges did it back during the Subaru STI era of the early 2000s.

6. TUNING OPTIONS
Okay, the GT86, its BRZ and FR-S cousins are no strangers to the tuning scene. If aftermarket is your playground then these cute little toys will certainly not disappoint. With numerous parts from many renown aftermarket manufacturers, almost anything can be found for the GT86 off the shelves or off the web. Almost no customisation will be needed because there is a part for everyone out there.

7. THE DRIVE
As you already know, the FA20 flat four here isn't packed with that many ponies to brag about. However, the handling and drive experience of the GT86 only reinforces that Hachi-Rokus are not about power but about balance. Oversteering the GT86 isn't that difficult but the on board Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) electronics keep you planted to the ground for a safe drive. Disable the VSC and Traction Control (TRC) completely and you are a tail happy boy racer thanks to the wonderful Torsen Limited Slip Differential (LSD) that's equipped as a standard. It's also worth noting the the Center of Gravity (CG) of the GT86 is lower than that of a Ferrari 458!

8. MOTOR & DRIVETRAIN
The FA20 is the first boxer from Subaru to feature Toyota's D-4S direct injection superior technology for intake and port injection. The result was a high revving and responsive 2.0L boxer engine that's a pleasure to drive. Incorporating a sound generator, the intake acoustics are piped into the driver's footwell for a sporty engine sound, a technology found in the LFA and Lexus F-Sport models. Mated to Toyota's 6-speed automatic transmission found in the Lexus IS250, included were Lexus RC-F inspired pedal shifts with an updated software that shifts in 0.2 seconds! Not exactly DSG material but quick enough for the street with high reliability and low maintenance.

9. HIGH GRADE MODEL
Let's put it this way, I gave up my Lexus GS300 for this 'purist' platform but there was no way that I am going back to the old school Venom alarm bullshit that requires me to arm and disarm the GT86 by depressing buttons every time I'm at the parking lot.

Seriously, I've past my mid thirties and I wanted a keyless entry immobilizer ready security system and an ignition Start/Stop button rather than have to turn the key. Power windows and trunk release are a standard and a must have.

Dual zone automatic air-conditioning with digital displays are a need in my list rather than a want. With the prices of cars in Singapore, there is no chance in hell that I'm going to be turning silly plastic knobs under the heat of a typical tropical day. This is the modern age and any "blast from the past" memories of the AE86 dashboard equipment will certainly not be appreciated.

Automatic HID headlamps and DRLs are also made available in the high grade models together with cruise control.

As pampered as I sound, these are pretty much the fundamental requirements of the daily commuter today. Thank God for the GT86 GS High Grade Model!

10. CEASED PRODUCTION OF THE GT86
Spoke to the local dealership and as of sometime this year, the Subaru plant had stopped producing BRZs and GT86s. Hence, I couldn't even get my hands on a brand new one even if I wanted to. Rumour has it that the 2nd Generation Hachi-Roku is on its way. Some say that the latter would surface with an STI motor, perhaps the turbocharged FA20 found in the current Subaru Legacy. Another speculation of a smaller Miata motor being the successor which I find rather ridiculous. Whatever the case, I needed to get my hands on a GT86, not even a BRZ but a genuine Hachi-Roku (ハチロク) to be exact.

IN A NUTSHELL
While the GT86 isn't a perfectly refined sports car, it is certainly a great one. An affordable tuning platform filled with excitement and plenty more to come with the addition of aftermarket goodness. With my three ladies having my back on this, there was no stopping me from owning a historical masterpiece. To me, the Hachi-Roku (ハチロク) is the Mona Lisa of the JDM world.

Glad I got one...

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