UMW Toyota has officially launched in Malaysia one of the most anticipated sports cars in recent times, the Toyota 86. Known simply as the 86 here, as opposed to “GT86″ for Europe and “FT86″ for the concept, the car is a spiritual successor to the original AE86 hachi roku, the rear-wheel drive Corolla coupe of the 80s, made popular by drifting and Initial D.

Toyota says that two other iconic sports cars influenced the 86′s DNA – the tiny Sports 800 (FR layout, boxer engine) and the curvy 2000GT, which served as a starting point for the stylists. If you don’t already know, the 86 was co-developed with Subaru, which sells its twin sister the BRZ.

As mentioned in our BRZ test drive report, Toyota was in charge of the car’s styling and product planning, while Subaru handled engineering and production. The 2.0 litre four-cylinder boxer engine is Subaru’s trademark, enhanced with Toyota’s D-4S direct fuel injection system and VVT. The boxer engine is relatively compact and flat, with a low centre of gravity, which makes it very suitable for a sports car.

With a high 12.5:1 compression ratio, the 16-valve DOHC flat-four engine makes 200 PS at 7,000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque available between 6,400 and 6,600 rpm. Redline is 7,450 rpm. Two gearboxes are available, a six-speed manual or a torque converter automatic with the same amount of forward ratios. The self shifter comes with steering paddles, sequential shift and Sport Mode.

Power is sent to the rear wheels via a Torsen limited slip differential (LSD) and front-rear weight distribution is 53:47. The VSC system has a Sport mode that is less restraining, but the electronic nannies can be completely switched off for some sideways fun, an essential part of the 86 experience.

Should things go wrong, seven airbags are standard (front, side, curtain, driver’s knee), as are ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, and VSC. ISOFIX mounts are included in the rear. With today’s crash and safety requirements, the 86 won’t be sub-1000 kg, but a kerb weight of 1,275 kg (1,298 kg for auto) is light for today’s standards. An aluminum bonnet and resin fuel tank, help the cause, among other things.

The suspension consists of front MacPherson struts and double wishbones for the rear. The steering is of the electric (EPS) variety with a “sporty” 13:1 ratio. Ventilated disc brakes can be found at all corners, along with 17-inch alloys and 215/45 Michelin Primacy HP tyres.

Eagle eyes out there will notice the smaller centre cap on the wheels – 49 mm vs the usual 60 mm. Apparently, this saves weight without any loss of rigidity, and makes the spokes appear longer, giving the illusion of bigger wheels.

The cabin features semi-bucket seats and a small diameter three-spoke wheel – at 365 mm, the 86 wheel is the smallest in any Toyota. There’s also a programmable shift indicator – 100 rpm increments from 2,000 to 7,400 rpm. Standard kit includes smart entry/start, a 2DIN audio system with six speakers (CD, AUX, USB) and auto air con.

We were given a very limited and brief sample of the 86 at Sepang (South Track, automatic version only, VSC on) and the 86 shows plenty of promise as a car that will delight the enthusiast.

The seating position is very low and all controls are perfectly placed, including the auto shift stick that mimics the design of a manual. The engine is enthusiastic and smooth revving, and although there’s no turbo style kick in the back, one gets the joy of a pushing a high-revving naturally aspirated engine to the max – an extremely rare pleasure these days.

There’s a relatively loud tone when the engine is extended, which is welcome, although I can’t quite extract “boxer notes” from the overall tune. The weight and feel of the steering and brakes are spot on, and the lightweight, agile feel of the 86 is apparent throughout.

Push hard and the tail will ease out, but with the VSC on standby, we couldn’t get the 86 to do what it’s famous for. Just a bit of rear end slip before we were brought in line again. Whatever drifting you see here was done by no other than Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the 86. It was quite painful to see the “demo session” done on a manual 86 and hear the tyres howl away – classic example of can see, cannot touch!

For more, read our first impressions of the Subaru BRZ. Not being lazy here, because both cars feel exactly the same in the limited wheel time I had.

Six colours are available, and they are Satin White Pearl, Crystal Black Silica, Sterling Silver Metallic, Lightning Red, Galaxy Blue Silica and Orange Metallic. The latter is an 86 exclusive colour, much like what WR Blue Mica is to the Subaru BRZ. Satin White Pearl is an RM800 premium.

The selling price is RM243,000 for the manual and RM249,000 for the automatic, as per initial estimates. 30 orders have been placed. As with all cars sold by UMW Toyota Motor, the 86 comes with a three-year or 100,000 km warranty, something one will never get from grey importers. The full spec sheet by UMWT has been online for quite some time – click here to see it.

Speaking of them, we won’t be expecting to see many grey units around – Toyota and Subaru can’t make enough of the 86/BRZ twins despite full throttle production and demand is clearly outstripping supply.

Ready, get set, go ahead and feast on the gallery below!