Toyota Corolla Levin / Sprinter Trueno (AE86) Review


Ae86 specs
4A-GE 1.6lt I4 Twincam 16 Valve
3A-U 1.5 I4 Singlecam 8 Valve
5 Speed manual
5sp / Auto
Naturally Aspirated
Naturally Aspirated
3-door / 2-door
3-door / 2-door
The Toyota Sprinter Trueno / Toyota Corolla Levin is a compact sports car produced in Japan from 1983 – 1987. They are commonly referred to as the AE86, or by the Japanese pronunciation hatchi-roku (86). Many people consider this car to be a large influence in developing a market for sport compact cars in America and Canada. The car was powered by a state of the art twincam engine developed by Yamaha and Toyota. This vehicle has since become an icon of the JDM community, and is famous for drifting thanks to Keiichi Tsuchiya (Drift King). Tsuchiya and his AE86 invented the organized drift competitions in both Japan and America. Credit for the immense interest in the AE86 also goes to the drifting manga / anime Initial D by Shuichi Shigeno, a story of a boy who drifts his AE86 in the mountains of Japan.
The AE86 is an old car by today’s standards, yet it performs well. The free revving 115hp engine makes wonderful sound all the way up to 7200 rpm. The 4a-ge engine in the car is not going to win any speed records, but this is not the reason you buy an 86. The shear fun of driving the car is what makes people stay. The engine and gearbox work very well with the small light car. Steering feel and response provide great feedback and the car can be easily driven at the limit. The car shows slight understeer at the limit before gradually letting the rear slide out slightly. The downsides are that the engine gets its power after about 4500 rpm, and the old suspension geometry and solid rear axel leave something to be desired. Despite the shortcomings I still really enjoy driving the car and it is one of only a few cars that put a smile on my face every time I drive it.
For a car to be 950kg it has to be small. Just think a Toyota Yaris (Vitz) weights 960kg. This car is small and as such has back seats mostly for decoration. The front seats can fit big guys but just barely. The small size and boxy dimensions of the Hatchi-roku are great for knowing where your car is in relation to the world around you. The export size is 9.1 M3.
The engine in the Trueno and Levin is the famous 4a-ge. It is famous because of its willingness to rev, and it’s refinement for the time. Twincam engines were still in their infancy when this car was produced and it was instrumental in convincing people of this new technology. The engine went on to power the MR2 in NA and supercharges forms, then in Japan it was refined with ITB and variable valve timing to produce up to 165hp. The engine is a popular base for many kit cars because of its low weight and ease of tuning.
As a Toyota this car is extremely reliable. Examples are commonly driven up to 350,000 km with regular servicing. The internal design of the engine is very simple and there are few parts that can become out of tolerance. The rest of the body is common Toyota quality. Age of the vehicle is something to consider since many examples are over 20 years old. Examples of the car might have many parts replaced.
This car is a tuning car. People will rarely purchase this vehicle with the intentions of keeping it stock. Upgrades like intake, exhaust, and body modifications are common. Non-modified vehicles demand a higher price and are rarer. Naturally aspirated engines can make around 190hp, and Turbo or Supercharged engines may make up to 300. One thing to note is that the rear suspension needs to be modified to accept aftermarket coil over suspensions. If you are looking to raise the already high potential of this car there are many aftermarket parts to choose from.
Many people will compare this car to the S13 Silvia because both are famous for drifting, and are about the same price. Where the S13 is faster, the AE86 has more history as a famous car.
For purchasing an AE86 you will find that prices range a lot. Examples can be found for as low as 60,000 yen for a barely running ex-drift car and as high as 3,000,000 yen for an original restoration. Common prices for an exported AE86 are 400,000 – 800,000 yen. These vehicles are common and can be found easily despite their age.