Still, I’m not usually a fan of clutch-less manual driving. You don’t get the same excitement from standing start, nor do you feel the revs like you do in a full manual, meaning you have to constantly refer to the tacho instead of the road, which isn’t a great idea on mountain roads.
The Toyota 86 GTS automatic is one exception. I’ve driven the manual version and absolutely loved it and, after initial misgivings, I had a ball in this, too.
Its throaty sound and the proximity of your derriere to the ground means you get a great feel of what the car is doing, which translates to more control when you flick it to manual mode.
Using the steering wheel paddles is heaps of fun and makes this little car feel like a go-kart without the bone-shattering ride and nauseating two-stroke fumes.
Driving it in automatic requires careful footwork on the accelerator if you want the transmission to keep up – which almost needs as much skill as using a clutch.
As with the Toyota 86 GTS manual, a smile appeared on my face every time I approached a bend, with the sensation of speed amplified, even at lowish speeds, by being so low to the ground.
As it did with the Celica in the 1980s, Toyota has cracked it for an affordable sports car that looks great and drives even better.
With manual licences going the way of our car industry, this automatic version, priced at $42,925 drive away (about $2500 more than the manual) spreads the love even further.
Inside, the ‘cockpit’ is kept relatively basic to keep the emphasis on driving.
Performance information is confined to the gauge cluster, making it easy to read at a glance. I like how the speed is also displayed as a digital reading in the rev counter.
It isn’t free of creature comforts. It has duel zone air-conditioning controls and a small touch screen with the usual Bluetooth phone/MP3 player connectivity, navigation and voice control. The GTS model also has a reverse camera, a handy option in a car this low, although the rear vision is surprisingly good.
One thing I’d like to have seen was audio controls on the steering wheel.
The front seats in this thing are fantastic. They support your body through the g-forces caused by the 86’s curve-hugging drive without restricting your arms.
The two-litre four-cylinder engine is sluggish when overtaking around 100 km/h in sixth, but if you put it into fifth it takes off like a rocket.