Autocross events take place virtually every weekend all across the United States. They attract a mix of cars and drivers—everything from box stock to highly modified "track cars" that are purposely built for competition. For the past 18 years, the Palm Springs Corvette Club has hosted an annual autocross event, attracting a wide range of vehicles, and is typically dominated by Corvettes and V8 Mustangs. The event was held in the parking lot of the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, California. Jonathan Lugod showed up with his 2017 Toyota 86 with the TRD Package to see how his car would perform lined up against cars with double the horsepower.
The engine in Jonathan's Toyota 86 was stock—meaning there were no modifications to the cylinder heads, camshafts or valves, and it was not running a turbocharger or supercharger—so he competed in the Stock Class. The stock class does allow some chassis modifications, and Jonathan's 86 was equipped with TRD Performance Dual Exhaust, TRD Sway Bar Kit, TRD Performance Air Intake, TRD Lowering Springs, and TRD Forged 17-In. Wheels, plus Hosier performance tires—that was all.
Talk about being a stranger in a strange land, Jonathan was competing against the gentleman who has won this event for the past 10 years. Needless to say, he was quite shocked when Jonathan not only beat his best time, but won Fastest Overall Time of the Day and Fastest Stock Class!
The fun aspect of autocross is that virtually anyone can do it. But just what is autocross? An autocross event is a timed event to see who can complete the course the quickest. There's one catch: An autocross course uses rubber traffic cones to mark the course, which includes various left- and right-hand turns, and you receive a time penalty if you hit one of the cones (or, you can be disqualified, depending on the event).
Typically, autocross speeds are generally no greater than those encountered in highway driving. The trick is that it takes a combination of concentration and precision maneuvering, which also gets the heart racing and adrenaline pumping. These courses are typically laid out in a large parking lot or on an inactive airstrip.
What makes autocross attractive is that it's one of the easiest and least expensive ways to compete!
What type of car does it take to autocross? You can race anything, so long as it is mechanically sound. In fact, there was a highly-modified Chevy El Camino at the Palm Springs event. Typically, the field includes Asian tuner cars, American muscle cars (Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, etc.), European cars (Porsches, BMWs, and Audis), and at this event, one lone Toyota 86, which makes sense as its front engine/rear-wheel drive design along with good stock handling characteristics make it the ideal autocross competitor.
If you look up the term, "driver's car" in the dictionary, you'd probably see a picture of the Toyota 86—it's track-proven, street-ready and under the hood is a 2.0-liter boxer-type 4-cyl. engine. If you opt for the 6-speed manual transmission (like Jonathan), you get a performance boost too—205 hp @ 7,000 rpm—that's 5 hp more than the automatic transmission model!
The 86 epitomizes everything a sports car should be and is a worthy successor to the legendary AE86 Hachi Roku Corolla. The 86 features a lightweight body that helps extract each ounce of performance, while its front-mounted engine with rear-wheel drive provides the perfect balance and dynamic handling that helped Jonathan attack the autocross corners with confidence.
If a stock Toyota 86 is not enough for you, for 2017, there's a Toyota 86 Special Edition—only 860 units are being made! These unique models feature exclusive Supernova Orange paint with black body stripes, rear spoiler, heated outside mirrors, 17-in. alloy wheels, LED fog lights and a unique aerodynamic underbody panel.
FYI: The name, "86" pays homage to the Toyota Corolla GT-S from the mid-80s, which was known as the "AE86," as well as other legendary Toyota models, like the 2000GT and Sports 800. Toyota took this performance DNA and mixed it with modern-day, race-proven engineering to create a pure sports car.
You see, Toyota understands that to be quick, one has to be balanced—and it was that distinctive balance that let Jonathan take top honors in this autocross.
This article is titled Toyota 86 Slays the Dragon for a reason. At this autocross event, it beat a wide range of cars known for their performance: Corvettes, GT-Rs, Vipers, 370Zs and S2000s. The Toyota 86 showed what it is made of and as Jonathan said, "I think we turned some heads here," which was especially true after he laid down a 38.730 second run, fastest of the event, and the only car to dip into the 38 second range!
"Any car that is that well prepared from the factory, and can be that fun to drive, you don't have to be a young guy to have one... a grown-up can have one and grin, too, so it's good for all of us," said Rod Derrick, reigning Palm Springs autocross champion. Ron Haase, a fellow autocross champion, added, "In fact, (Jonathan) was 7 seconds quicker than I was in my S2000."
AutoWeek said, "And, man, is this car fun to drive! If you haven't been in one of these in a while go find one and drive it. The owner won't mind... On curves, of which we found many, the stock 86 is a smooth, fast dream to drive. Go over a bump and the 86 soaks it up and stays in line. Body roll is minimal to non-existent. Thank goodness someone is making cars that are fun to drive."
CNET added, "205 horsepower may not sound like a whole lot in this era of muscle-bound hypercars, but when it powers one of the sharpest handling cars you can get, it's enough. That was my thought while piloting the 2017 Toyota 86 up a twisting mountain highway in Southern California."
The stock Toyota 86 is a fantastic sports car, but it's also the perfect blank canvas for TRD Accessories. Each of these TRD accessories was designed specifically for the Toyota 86:
TRD High-Performance Air Filter — adding a free-flowing TRD high-performance air filter allows the maximum amount of air into the engine with the minimal amount of resistance. Plus, it's washable and reusable — regular cleaning ensures free airflow and top performance, and it's designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle.
TRD Brake Pads — these are a direct replacement for stock pads, made from an aramid/ceramic-strengthened compound that delivers an optimum combination of cold and hot friction, plus, they offer excellent price-to-performance ratio in a high-performance street pad.
TRD Performance Dual Exhaust — this system is race-tested and features a stainless steel natural finish muffler body with double-walled, wide-diameter, slant-cut exhaust tips with rolled edges. It uses OEM connector flanges and gaskets and re-uses factory hardware and hangers for easy, professional no-drill, no-cut installation — plus, it is noise compliant in all 50 states!
TRD Lowering Springs — TRD developed proprietary spring rates just for the 86 (linear in front, progressive in rear), which lowers vehicle's center of gravity by 1 1/8-in. Their red powder-coat finish provides superior corrosion resistance, and they are designed to work with stock struts and shock absorbers.
TRD Quickshifter — the perfect addition for manual transmission models, its optimized linkage shortens the shift throw up to 25%, providing the 86 with a race-car-like feel, without compromising quality, fit and finish.
TRD 18-in. Alloy Wheels — the ideal way to get more rubber on the road — bigger wheels. These alloy wheels have the perfect offset and are designed to be light and strong.
As Jonathan proved, these TRD Accessories have the power to transform the Toyota 86 into a competitive autocross machine!
For autocross, it's all about the handling—how quickly you can transition from one corner to the next. The TRD Sway Bar Kit is designed to provide a flatter, firmer cornering stance, which helps provide greater control while preserving the secure handling of the original steering and suspension system. The key is how they limit body lean without adding harshness to the ride! And to give them that TRD look, they're finished with durable, gloss-red powder coat that resists corrosion while enhancing appearance and durability.
The TRD Sway Bar Kit is a great place to start when building your Toyota 86 autocross machine.