Spannerhead Dot

On Nature Versus Quantity

August 17, 2012 by Matt

“We need to get back to enjoying performance because of its nature, not because of its quantity.”

— Chris Harris

Is there an Automotive Quote of the Year™ award?

I wrote about this issue more than a year ago in my “Hoping for Détente” post. And it seems like, at least in the form of the Toyota 86 (the internal code for the car variously branded as the GT-86, Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S), that my hopes have been answered. Not fulfilled, mind you, but responded to.

Chris Harris would agree. In the clip above, the 86 emerges victorious in a three-way comparison test between it, the Nissan 370Z and a used Porsche Cayman. The reason the slowest, lowest-output car comes out on top? Harris boils it down to the accessibility of the 86’s handling limits, and the resulting driving enjoyment from steering with the throttle through turns without the danger of parking the car in the weeds. That responsive, interactive quality has been the secret to the Mazda MX-5 Miata’s success over the years (along with a myriad of classic sports cars), and Toyota/Subaru were exceedingly wise to adopt that formula rather than taking the all-to-easy route of building a Mustang GT hunter (are you listening, Hyundai?).

Interestingly, the clip dovetails nicely with another “experiment” Harris performed in which he fitted a 480-hp Mercedes C63 AMG with space-saver “donut” spare tires in order more easily induce oversteer. It was a stunt, to be sure, but he made a valid point: The loss of grip actually made the car more controllable, to a degree, simply because the handling limits were lowered into the driver’s normal sensory range. Appropriate, then, that the visuals of the C63 on donuts and the 86 driving away are so similar in that both cars seem “under-tired.” The Toyota’s tires, in particular, seem very narrow compared to the norm for its performance class. I wonder if, ironically, that isn’t one of the keys to its handling brilliance?

Filed under: Media


  1. Aaron says:

    Pithy observation – I wager that there aren’t many average Joes like me who have ever explored the limits of their Corvette or even 300+ HP Mustang GT without an unfortunate incident? Looking forward to more reliable, affordable, and controllable sports cars…

    • Matt says:

      With modern stability control, exploring those limits is arguably safer than it’s ever been. I’m really hoping other automakers follow Toyota/Subaru’s lead on this one.

  2. John D says:

    Great clip. I must say I’ve always wanted a Cayman. There’s just something about that back end around the wheel arches and hips that reminds me of my ’69 Camaro, but feminine where the Camaro was masculine. Gorgeous. Between that and the balance and power…I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

    It sounds like the GT-86 would be a great toy/fun car. Something you don’t have to take to the track to enjoy. Just give me another 50-60 hp and I’m sold. ;)

    • Matt says:

      I love the way the Cayman looks, and I’m completely confused by those who think it’s ugly (and they’re out there). The resolution of the lines at the tail end of the car is beautifully handled. It also avoids the Boxster’s stigma as the “cheapest Porsche.” With the Cayman, you don’t look like you bought a Porsche just to own one—’cause in that case you’d have gotten a Boxster or Cayenne—but you can defend your decision to get one over a 911 on the grounds that it’s appropriately hardcore (what with the roof and all) and the engine is situated in a better location than even the iconic 911’s.

      And I’m sure the upcoming turbo kits for the 86 will take care of your “power needs.” :)

  3. Ryan says:

    You’ve probably already seen this video or read the comparison article but Motor Trend’s recent “Best Driver’s Car” comparison included the Subaru BRZ. Now I have to say, to even be in this comparison it must have made quite an impression. I mean look at the cars it is being compared to! I haven’t driven one yet but would like to. Actually I’d prefer to wait until a turbo version comes out (I’m a HP Junkie, sorry) but it certainly looks good and seems to be a fun car to drive regardless.

    Anyway, if you have the time to watch this video in its entirety, do. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Put it on HD, full screen and turn the volume up!!

    • Matt says:

      I haven’t seen that! It looks really good, even if it’s sort of a foregone conclusion which one they’re going to go for in the first 5 minutes. :) Thanks for posting that link.

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