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The redesigned affordable sports car looks and drives better but is still a bargain.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - The redesgned 2022 Toyota GR86 looks more muscular, has a more powerful 2.4-liter Boxer engine, and is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.Regular readers know I'm a big fan of the affordable Subaru BRZ and Toyota GR86 sports cars. Both were completely redesigned for 2022 and the GR86 — the subject of this review — is now one of the best performance cars for the Pacific Northwest, regardless of price.

Co-developed by the two companies, the nearly identical 2+2 coupes debuted in 2012 as throwbacks to the small European and Japanese roadsters of the 1960s and 1970s. They were and still are very basic, fun to drive without a lot of computer assists, and still start at under $29,000 — a bargain in today's automotive world.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - The redesigned 2022 Toyota GR86 still starts at under $28,000, which is a bargain for so much fun.

Both cars have always come with Subaru Boxer engines and the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The first generation came with a 2.0-liter version that produced 208 horsepower. It was adequate but really needed the manual transmission for maximum enjoyment.

Both now both come with a 2.4-liter engine that generates 228 horsepower. The 20 additional ponies significantly increases acceleration and makes the automatic a reasonable transmission choice.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - The interior of rthe 2022 Toyota GR86 has been restyled but is still clean and simple.

I know what you're thinking. Reviewers — especially enthusiasts — always say go with a manual in a performance car whenever possible. I used to say the same thing. But after spending a week with each version, I have to admit the automatic is easier to live with on a day-to-day basis and almost as entertaining on those rare occasions when I could really cut loose.

Let's face it, you can't really take full advantage of a manual under most conditions. Ninety percent of driving takes place in residential neighborhoods, downtowns and freeways. It's frequently hard to find streets with little traffic and no police. Most of the time it's hard to even get out of second gear. That's why manufacturers stage their sports car tests on race tracks and remote country roads.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - The front buck sport seats in the 2022 Toyota GR86 and comfortable and supported. The Premium model features leather trim.

At the same time, the automatic is my test 2022 GR86 was a vast improvement over the three- and occasional four-speed ones I grew up with. It shifted smartly between all six gears in the Normal mode and felt like a dual clutch transmission in the Sport mode, even though it's not. It also featured a manual shift mode and paddle shifts for those who want even more control. Tests show the manual is about a second faster from zero to 60, but once again, in the real world, many owners will never notice the difference.

Another reason I preferred the automatic may be that the manual was in a 2022 BRZ. Although the two cars are almost identical, the Toyota seemed more refined than the Subaru to me. I like the exterior styling more, think the ride is more comfortable, and even found to it be quieter.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - The new 2.4-liter Subaru Boxer engine in the 2022 Toyota GR86 produces 20 more horsepower than the previous version.

Both the BRZ and GR86 are hardtop fastbacks, meaning they look more like a Triumph GT6, MGB GT and Datsun Z car than a convertible sports car from the day. That might not appeal to someone who enjoys top down driving, but it is a lot more practical in rainy months, which is most of the year around here.

The GR86 was first introduced as the Scion FR-S before Toyota dropped its youth-oriented sub-brand in 2016. It continued largely unchanged as a Toyota until this year, when the redesign gave it a more muscular exterior, more mature interior, and chassis and suspension upgrades that improved handling. The result is an even more serious sport car than before, regardless of transmission choice.

COURTESY PHOTO: TOYOTA - Drive modes in the 2022 Toyota GR86 include Normal, Sport, Snow and Track.

The base 2022 GR82 has a starting MSRP of $27,700 and the higher trim Premium model begins at just 30,300, including 18-inch matte-black-painted ally wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires. Both come with Subaru's advanced EyeWatch safety system. My fully-loaded Premium version was just $32,825, which is still a great deal.

The 2022 GR86 is now Toyota's entry-level sports car after the revival of the two-seater GR Supra, which costs starts at $20,000 more. I can't but wonder if some potential GR Supra buyers won't happily buy the GR86 instead after comparing the two of them.

2022 Toyota GR86

Base price: $27,700

Price as tested: $32,825 Premium A/T)

Type: 2+2 sports car

Engine: 2.4-liter Boxer 4 (228 hp, 184 lbs-ft)

Transmissions: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shifters.

Modes: Normal, Sport, Snow, Track

EPA estimated mileage: 21/31

Curb weight: 2,774 pounds

Final assembly: Gunma, Japan

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