Toyota’s Turbo GR86 – A Factory-Ready Drift Machine?

With Toyobaru fans screaming for a turbocharged offering since day one, will the turbo-powered GR86 on the horizon meet their drift-ready expectations?

toyota gr86 turbo

Although it’s been only three years since the second-generation Toyota GR86 (and BRZ) hit the streets, the rumor mill is already buzzing about its successor. We’re not talking about an underwhelming facelift, either. If the escalating hype is true, it could finally be the opportunity to see a factory-born turbo upgrade from the Japanese giants.

While the general reaction to the GR86’s improved 2.4-liter FA24D boxer engine is positive, the official power output still sits at a rather disappointing 228 horsepower. Sure, it’s sufficient power for occasionally kicking the back end out, but the lack of top-end grunt becomes glaringly noticeable when you try to maintain longer drifts or push it to its limits.

gt86 trueno toyota gr86 turbo

It’s not just drifters crying out for more power, either. The GR86’s 6.1-second (official) 0-60 mph time is significantly improved over its predecessor. However, having extra power on tap still wouldn’t go amiss for any driving enthusiast, whether racing at the track or throwing it down sideways.

When the recent rumors of Toyota working on a turbocharged Toyota GR86 surfaced from Japan’s leading car magazine, Best Car, it got drift enthusiasts’ tails wagging. Could this be the perfect factory-built turbo GR86 that they’d been hoping for to finally meet their power expectations? Here are our thoughts.

What To Expect From Toyota’s Turbo GR86 Engine

First of all, let’s clear the air. You may be disappointed if you hope to see Toyota strap a giant turbo to the current boxer engine.

boxer engine toyota gr86 turbo

There are various rumors about the new turbocharged variant, all of which steer clear of the current 2.4L offering. The most likely candidate is the turbocharged 1.6-liter three-cylinder currently used in the GR Corolla.

However, they won’t simply be looking to plonk the existing Corolla engine under the hood, either. If the rumors are true, the all-new offering is expected to utilize hybridization, with the power output expected to be in the 300-350 horsepower region.

This could potentially be a 50-horsepower gain over the current GR Corolla powerplant and an increase of more than 100 horsepower over the GR86’s current boxer engine. This wouldn’t be far off the GR Supra’s controversial 382-horsepower 3.0L BMW-powered offering.

There’s also the consideration that the GR Corolla utilizes Toyota’s GR-FOUR AWD system, where the turbocharged GR86 would keep the front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (FR) layout best suited for drifting.

Why The Turbo GR86 Could Be An Ideal Drift Car

The obvious benefit here is the huge potential power upgrade. If Toyota can provide somewhere in the region of the 100-horsepower increase rumored over the current GR86, that’ll make a huge difference to its drifting abilities. Early speculation also suggests it’ll stay true to its manual roots, another big bonus for drifting fans.

front toyota gr86 turbo

Although drifters typically favor larger displacement engines, often staying true to the “no replacement for displacement” theory, forced induction can throw that out of the window, with engines such as Nissan’s 2.0L SR20DET remaining a popular choice in the drift scene. Sure, many will still opt for huge V8s while yelling ‘MERICA out the window, but it’s always interesting to look toward the realistic future of what drifting could potentially look like in the coming years.

Adding a 1.6L engine with a turbo and hybrid system to the GR86 would certainly be different from what we’re used to, but we’re not dissing it just yet. We all know that turbos can be great for boosting low-end torque, which is exactly what you need to kick the tail out and maintain your drift. If the modern elements can provide improved rev-happy output, it could be awesome for optimal throttle control.

Unlike the lag from typical turbocharged engines, electric motors can also help deliver instant torque, providing a lightning-quick throttle response. This combo could make initiating and controlling drifts a breeze. Sure, it’s not likely to be knocking on the doors of the insane 1,000+ horsepower drift builds we’re seeing these days in stock form, but we’re sure it could put a pretty huge grin on your face at the track.

What Needs To Be Considered

As you may already realize, there are likely to be a few things that could stop the turbo GR86 from being the perfect factory-spec drift weapon.

It Won’t All Be Plain Sailing

While the hybrid turbo engine could offer benefits, it may come with some extra baggage, which could upset the platform’s lightweight nimbleness. These modern batteries and electric motors aren’t known for lowering the weight, which we’re concerned could mess with what the GR86 got right – the perfect balance and handling we all love.

frs turbo kit

These complex modern engines also often cause more problems; when they do, they’re usually far from cheap to fix. Turbo engines are generally a tuner’s playground, but throwing in a hybrid system changes the game, with the ECU juggling gas and electric power, making it a nightmare to tweak without specialized knowledge. These smaller engines with forced induction are often highly strung in stock form, too, usually leaving little room for improvements.

It Also Won’t Be Cheap

There’s also the cost to consider. The current GR86 is a bargain for what you get, but add a turbo and a hybrid system, and you can bet the current reasonable price tag will go out of the window, pricing it out of reach for the young enthusiasts it’s typically aimed at. In addition to the power, the price will likely end up competing with the GR Supra, but not in a good way!

It’s Still Unlikely To Be Drift-Ready

Assuming they do manage to pull it out of the bag by keeping the lightweight, exquisite-handling package we love and a reliable engine upgrade, the factory-turbo GR86 still isn’t likely to be an out-of-the-box-ready drifting package. One of the main elements that will hold it back is the lack of steering lock, which is crucial for any serious drift build.

The current GR86, like its predecessor, isn’t exactly known for its impressive steering angle. This limitation can be a real party pooper for serious drifters who need the extra turning radius to pull off enough angle to throw down some impressive skids. No matter how much power you throw at it, if you can’t turn the wheels far enough, you’re limiting the potential.

formula drift wall rub

It’s the same scenario when it comes to the differential. The current GR86 comes with a Torsen limited-slip diff, which is great for everyday driving and casual hooning but doesn’t cut it when you want to show off your abilities at the track.

Torsen diffs are smooth and predictable, but they lack the immediate lock-up of a limited-slip differential (LSD). When drifting, you want both rear wheels spinning at the same speed the second you initiate. These provide that instant, decisive power transfer between the rear wheels, letting you break and maintain traction easily while maintaining a stable sideways angle.

What We’d Do Instead

You know what they say, “You’re only young once.” In our case, that ship is sailing faster than we’d like! Instead of waiting for the rumored 2028 release of the turbocharged GR86, we’d get cracking with plotting our much more suitable and (likely) cheaper, proper drift-ready alternative capable of impressing at the track right away.

Get Yourself A Cheap BRZ

First, we’d keep things simple instead of opting for a Toyota and bag an early-model Subaru BRZ. As you likely know, the BRZ is based on the same platform as the GR86’s predecessor, the GT86, yet they’re super easy to get hold of in the U.S. and can be had for as little as $8k on the current market. Alternatively, if you have the cash to splash, consider the GR86 or second-gen BRZ, which are getting ever-growing aftermarket support.

Crank Up The Power

Now, let’s get straight to the root cause of the problem here – power. The BRZ’s naturally aspirated engine is fun, but plenty of untapped potential exists. Instead of waiting for Toyota’s fancy (likely problematic) hybrid turbo, consider bolting on an aftermarket turbo or supercharger kit. There are plenty of aftermarket options to boost your horsepower and torque significantly. Imagine the smoky goodness you can create with an extra 100+ horses under the hood without the terrifyingly complex electronic gimmicks to worry about.

… Then Tame It

Now that you’re enjoying the power that should’ve come with the BRZ in stock form, you’ll soon realize that the stock brakes made for the underwhelming stock power output won’t cut it. A big brake kit won’t just help with slowing down – it’ll allow for precise control when you’re sideways, and you’ll also benefit from superior heat management on those longer track sessions. Don’t forget to upgrade your brake lines to braided stainless steel, providing an improved pedal feel for maximum impact.

Improve The Handling

Now that you’ve got decent power and the ability to tame it, it’s time to upgrade to a set of coilovers. While the stock handling is decent, a proper coilover setup will take things to the next level. Throw in some adjustable control arms, and don’t forget the sway bars; you’ll then be able to dial in the perfect setup. Get some help or learn how to fine-tune your setup, and with some practice, initiating and controlling drifts will be a breeze.

Keep It Sideways

Next up is the diff. The stock Torsen is great for daily driving but won’t cut it for serious drifting. Swap it out for a clutch-type limited-slip diff, or if you’re looking to go down the budget route, you can also consider a welded diff. Either upgrade will give you instant lock-up, allowing for more predictable and controllable drifting. It’s a game-changer for initiating and maintaining those sweet slides.

Improve The Grip

You’ll soon realize that those skinny stock wheels are holding you back, and a wider wheel and tire setup will transform your ride. Wider wheels allow you to fit meatier tires, providing drastically improved grip when you need it, better weight transfer during transitions, and more predictable behavior when breaking traction. Plus, with more rubber on the ground, you can put down all that newfound power from your engine mods more effectively.

Up The Angle

By this point, you’re gonna be held back by the steering angle issues we mentioned earlier. The stock BRZ setup just doesn’t cut it. Install an angle kit to increase your steering lock, allowing you to achieve and hold more extreme drift angles that’ll let you confidently run the walls (eventually, anyway!) Plus, it’ll make transitioning between drifts smoother and more controllable.

Shed The Weight

Now you’ve got the power, the angle, and the control – it’s time to shed some pounds. This is where you tell your buddies to find their own ride to the track because your car’s about to go on a serious diet. Start by stripping out everything that isn’t essential for drifting. That means saying goodbye to your back seats, sound system, and any unnecessary interior trim. Rip out that carpet, ditch the air conditioning (who needs it when you’re sideways anyway?), and wave farewell to any creature comforts.

Lock Yourself In

Consider replacing your stock seats with lightweight racing buckets, and swap out the bulky stock steering wheel for a smaller, lighter aftermarket one. Remember, a lighter car is more responsive, easier to throw around, and more fun to drift. Plus, your engine mods will feel even more noticeable with less weight to lug around. Just be prepared for a noisier, harsher ride – but hey, that’s all part of the drift life, right?

Hey Good Lookin’

Once you’re done, you may be a little underwhelmed by the look from the outside. Slapping a wide body kit on your BRZ won’t only turn heads, it’s also a functional drifting upgrade. Those wide fenders give you the clearance to fit even wider wheels and tires, pushing your grip and control to new limits. Plus, the extra width can improve stability, giving you more confidence to push your car to its limits. It’s the perfect blend of form and function, transforming your BRZ into a drift monster that looks as aggressive as it performs.

Your Custom-Built Drift Car Is Now Wall-Ready

While we may have gone overboard, you can skip a few steps (don’t make it the brakes, damnit!) These upgrades will transform your BRZ into a drift machine that can hang with serious contenders at the track. You’re taking an already capable car and drastically improving its natural talents.

This custom-built approach lets you sidestep the complexities and likely high price tag of the rumored turbocharged hybrid GR86. Instead, you’re building something truly yours, tailored to your preferences and driving style. You’ll have a track-ready BRZ that performs insanely well and gives you the satisfaction of knowing you built it yourself.

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Joe is an avid writer and car enthusiast. When he's not cruising the streets alongside his friends in his Nissan Silvia S15, he's drifting on his VR racing simulator.

Joe's passion for cars is always on display. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of the automotive industry, he hopes his writing conveys his excitement and knowledge of cars and games.

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When he's not behind the wheel or at his keyboard, he's likely daydreaming of his ultimate ride - the legendary Lexus LFA.

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