GO ON, it’s okay to admit it – you probably put on a few pounds during lockdown.
With the gym being shut, the weather not being especially nice out and a seemingly infinite array of options for bingeing through your favourite TV shows a few button presses away, I can hardly blame you.
The same normally applies to cars too, even when there isn’t a pandemic on.
Pick almost any car you can think of and it’ll almost certainly be heavier, chunkier around the waistline and less able to pull off a nightclub visit without being accused of dad-dancing than it was a decade or so ago.
That’s largely our fault – we demand that our cars are safer, quieter and more secure than they used to, so inevitably they end up looking a bit middle-aged, to the point that watching them attempt the Macarena is beyond cringe-worthy.
But not if you’re an entry-level Toyota coupé. You can be forgiven for not noticing that the GT86 quietly disappeared from the Japanese carmaker’s UK showrooms back in February, as it’s been on sale since 2012 and barely changed in nine years, but it’s emerged from lockdown having spent six hours a day pounding the treadmill and lifting weights.
The new model is not only faster and more powerful than the two-door it replaces, but it’s actually lighter too.
It’s been renamed GR 86 so that it slots in neatly alongside the excellent GR Yaris and GR Supra, but the big news is that its Subaru-derived flat-four engine is now a 2.4-litre unit rather than the two-litre unit of the old car and for all the dieting the new arrival is 50 per cent stiffer than the old GT86, thanks largely to using aluminium rather than steel for the roof and much of the body panels.
All of which leaves me with a grin normally associated with Cheshire’s feline residents.
One of the best things about the GT86 was how immediate its steering and suspension felt, particularly as it wasn’t overendowed with fat tyres in a quest for grip that the car didn’t really need, and I’m optimistic that the GR 86 should be even better. It is, in the industry’s headlong rush for electric everything, a wonderfully old-school way to rip along the asphalt, but I think in a world that’s been confined by doom, gloom and lockdowns for more than a year, there are plenty of people who want a car that tickles their tastebuds rather than merely filling them up.
It’s a fleeting fancy for those who don’t mind living in the petrol age for a little longer, but while such cars are still allowed I’m glad that Toyota’s still prepared to make one, and make it lighter, faster and better in the bends than the one that came before it.
In fact, the only real letdown is that Subaru’s version of the same car, the BRZ, is no longer coming to these shores.
That and the fact that really, to do the GR 86 justice, I too ought to be lighter and more agile than I was pre-lockdown when I get behind the wheel. Remind me, when are the gyms re-opening?
David Simister is the editor of Classic Car Weekly