GT86: first impressions

(written on 2014/07/19) So, I bought a car! And not just any car. I thought about saving money and going for an economic model, or an old second hand one, but I couldn't help myself. I went to a used car lot to have a look at a BMW 1 Coupe, but as soon as the diesel engine started and the smell of it reached my nose I realized I did not want a diesel. With that incident my resolve to get an impractical fun level reached the threshold, and I bought a second hand GT86. Woohoo!


The meh:

  • Fuel consumption is not exactly great, but on the bright side, it doesn't seem to consume that much more fuel if you drive it like you stole it, so no need to hold back :)
  • After a week of driving I've gotten used to the power and the sound rather quickly. It's all very civilized. That's probably a good thing considering it's my first rear-wheel-drive car.

The awesome:

  • Dashboard is excellent. Very focused, a joy to use.
  • Lovely short gears. Wow. Such shifting.
  • Handling is ridiculously sharp and does nothing unexpected whatsoever. It feels perfect.
  • Suspension is firm but not too firm. Excellent feel for the road.
  • Very good steering wheel and feedback.

I've taken it out almost every day this week, to get a feel for the car and to get to know the roads in my area better. Going northwest of Watford there's a lot of nice B-roads, where this car seems to feel the most at home. Although you can tell that there's a lot more potential and power in there that would not be legal to unleash on public roads. Most importantly, the car feels comfortable and confident during longer drives. It's a great place to be in, and that's what I wanted. More, much more, to come :D

Update, a few weeks later. I'm doing pretty much exactly 35mpg, which is the manufacturer-reported mpg. My driving style is a mix of extremely conservative while in city traffic and mildly enthusiastic when getting onto a nice road. I guess everything is as expected. There have been no odd surprises, no unexpected behavior, no strange quirks. The car is as predictable and tame as you'd expect it to be during normal road usage. I can only imagine what it'll be like on a track, and perhaps I'll have a chance to take it out on a track day this year. I did have a chance to see a near-identical GT86 perform a parade lap on a track. Oddly enough it was the quietest car there. Literally every other car was louder than the GT86! I couldn't believe it really. It's such a tame car when not pushed to its limits. That's my pervading image of it as I'm driving it. It doesn't have as strong a presence (personality?) as an RX7 or even a Subaru Impreza would have. All other sportscars seem to be more.. unique than the GT86. Or perhaps I'm just thinking that because I own one now. Still, this is my first (real) sports car. Our personality will grow as we grow.

Update, another few weeks later. The car is fun! I'm becoming more confident in driving my new friend, but I have a lot to learn. I'm really enjoying it though, and I feel excited every time I take it out. My attitude while driving is still mostly 'get good fuel economy', although sometimes I have moments of "drive it like you stole it". The car accommodates either. I've been reading about it online to see if it has any quirks, and the only thing I could find was the so-called torque gap in the mid revs, which I do find I actually notice, since the high revs tend to be a bit off-limits on most public roads, so the mid revs are where you want it to start pulling to get up to speed with things. An ECU + exhaust kit apparently fixes this quite nicely, but I'm not quite ready to think about that just yet.

Side note: I also got my first damage.. Just after I parked the car at a supermarket, a middle-aged lady decided to reverse-park into it as I was just walking away from the car. As soon as I heard the scraping I turned around and saw the woman performing the worst ever reverse-park that I ever saw in my life. Fortunately it was only bodywork damage, but it will need to get fixed. What a fucking hassle..

Update, today. The power and rear-wheel-drive-y-ness does let itself known when you're parking on slopes, especially combined with grass or gravel. It's entirely possible to either spin the wheels too much or do something naughty to your clutch if you're not careful. Makes for good training though.

People have been reporting that the GT86 has a torque dip right in the mid range of the revs where it's slow to pick up compared to the rest of the rev range. I've actually noticed this a lot myself lately, because I'm usually too much of a pussy to use the higher revs on public roads, so the highest I go tends to be the mid range. Mild annoyance, easily dealt with by changing driving style a bit, getting an aftermarket ecu and optional exhaust fix, or just putting up with it.

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