In September last year, Toyota and Subaru announced that they would extend their long-term partnership, which will see the joint development of the next-generation 86 and BRZ. A few months later in March 2020, a leaked product roadmap revealed that Toyota’s version of the new sports car – reportedly called the GR 86 – would arrive by July 2021.

Now, we have our first glimpse of the GR 86, albeit in prototype form for now. This is thanks to Instagram user kystify, who shared footage of a test mule roaming near a Toyota research and development facility in Michigan with YouTuber Matt Maran Motoring.

While the GR 86 is only scheduled to arrive next year, this could be delayed to 2022, seeing how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the operations of carmakers around the world, Toyota included. Nonetheless, it’s good to see that there’s still progress with the new Toyobaru pair, despite there not being much in the way of official details.

In terms of styling, the GR 86 looks very familiar to the current 86, with some very noticeable differences. For starters, there’s a large black grille at the front, which is flanked by slim, vertical air inlets. The headlamps have also been made to look sharper and more aggressive here, and they feature LED daytime running lights integrated into them.

Further back, we find more flowing C-pillars that lend a softer profile, and they lead to a prominent lip spoiler on the boot. New taillights are needed with this redesign, which appear to be smaller in size and are positioned lower than on the 86 to follow the form of the pronounced rear fenders.

This design should apply to both the GR 86 and its Subaru sibling, although the latter will likely get a few styling tweaks to help create some differentiation between the two, as was the case with the outgoing Toyobaru twins.

Current Toyota 86 (left) and Subaru BRZ (right)

Unlike those cars, which used both a Subaru chassis and powertrain, reports indicate that Toyota’s TNGA architecture will form the basis of the sports cars, while Subaru will supply the engine. The FA20 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated boxer four-cylinder is expected to be retired in favour of a larger-capacity 2.4 litre unit.

Said mill (codenamed FA24F) is believed to be the one currently in use in the Ascent eight-seat SUV, which is turbocharged to deliver 260 hp and 375 Nm of torque. That is certainly a big improvement over the FA20 that served up 205 hp and 212 Nm on the facelifted 86 and BRZ, although it isn’t known if a manual transmission will survive the transition.

Should the 2.4 litre turbo engine be a reality, the GR 86 will come close to the current Toyota GR Supra in terms of output, which is available with a BMW-sourced, B48 2.0 litre turbo inline-four that makes 255 hp and 400 Nm.

GALLERY: 2017 Toyota 86 facelift (Malaysia-spec)

GALLERY: 2017 Subaru BRZ facelift (Malaysia-spec)