2023 Toyota GR86 Review: Will It Dog?

The tiny, two-door, driver-focused 2023 Toyota GR86 (and 2023 Subaru BRZ) is a surprisingly great car for dogs. There are some asterisks, yes, but my small-medium mutt loved it and we even got a 92-pound lab in the back seat of this thing. If you’re tentatively into these vehicles but looking for assurance that they have some semblance of practicality, you found the right blog.

Obviously, the Toyobaru would be a ridiculous choice for anyone buying a vehicle primarily for animal transportation. But if you want a sports car that can carry a dog, the 86’s seating and cargo area are totally viable for accommodating a modern nuclear family of two people, a medium-sized canine, and a decent haul of carry-on luggage. Since the current Toyota GR86 generally shares a cockpit with the Subaru BRZ, old Toyota 86, and even older Scion FR-S, most of this review applies to all those cars dating back to 2013.

Click here to see more dog car reviews. We drop a new one every month.

Welcome to Will It Dog, The Drive‘s car review series for canine owners. Here we’ll look at what a tiny Toyota GR86 is like to live with if you have dogs and point out any specific aspects that help or hurt its case as a dog taxi. We’ll focus on the car’s physical attributes when it comes to carrying animals rather than driving dynamics but provide insights there too.

Our main test dogs Bramble, Indi, and Silas are littermates; half Golden Retriever (dad) and half Australian Shepherd (mom). Bramble’s the smallest at 40-odd pounds while her brothers are about 60 pounds apiece. This time, Indi couldn’t make it. But cousin Levi, a 92-pound labrador mix, took a spin to test the upper limits of the little Toyobaru’s canine capacity.

The new-for-2022 Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ got some excellent updates in refinement, engine output, and design (inside and out). But the vehicle’s basic dimensions didn’t really change from its first generation.

Toyota GR86 Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (as tested)$30,500 ($34,123)
Seating Capacity (people)4 (2, really)
Seating Capacity (dogs)2 (1, really)
EPA Fuel Economy20 mpg city | 27 highway | 22 combined
Cargo Volume6.26 cubic feet
Quick TakeNimble and relatively compact animals might love it, anybody bigger than a Golden Retriever will want to stay home.
Will It Dog Score6/10

Interior Materials and Layout

The GR86 is a compact sports car; it’s a decent drop to the driver’s seat if you’re tall and you’re basically enveloped in cockpit once you’re in there. Fortunately, the plastics and soft-touch pieces feel solid and I didn’t see anything that was too easily marred by paws or claws.

The existence of a rear seat is a significant differentiator between this car and other sporty machines this size. Other stuff you might be comparing it to (new or used) like the Miata, most Nissan Z variants, Porsche Boxster, BMW Z3/Z4, and Honda S2000 have only a cargo hold behind the driver and front passenger seats. You could get away with some dogs on the cargo tray of a Z, or maybe even certain Corvettes, but two-seat convertibles would force you to put a pup in the front seat which I recommend avoiding for the sake of safety.

“Those sports car back seats are always useless anyway,” my colleagues complained in a recent staff meeting. I disagree—well, true the “2+2” coupe configuration, as it’s known, is not always the most elegant. But there are more than a few instances where a back seat, even a bitty one, briefly becomes a boon.

I like having a simple seat cover to throw into cars. This Dickie’s Repreve happened to be the cheapest one I could grab at Walmart. Andrew P. Collins

Case in point: Let’s say I want to spend my Saturday zooming around in my GR86, then meet up with wifey at a family barbeque. Then later, turns out her sister needs a ride home too—boom, the 2+2 seat has you covered. Or maybe you’re not married yet, you and a buddy want to go out on the town, and you both happen to meet romantic companions. How will you get everybody to the afterparty? Once again, the once-in-a-while seat becomes the catalyst for keeping good times rolling.

Regardless of your relationship status, if you have a canine companion, that supplemental “sometimes seat” ends up being one of this car’s greatest features.

It’s so much safer to have a dog restrained in a rear seat of a car than sitting in the front where they can get snoot-booped by an airbag, or in a rear cargo area with no cushioning at all. Plus, they’ll be more comfortable. A comfy dog is a happy dog.

Climbing In and Out

Since the GR86 and BRZ are designed to accommodate rear passengers, the front seats do slide and tilt forward enough to allow even large animals to climb into the back. The seats even have a nice little seatbelt retainer that you can unbutton, making ingress and egress easier. Agility-trained Bramble deftly lept from the dirt right onto the back seat as soon as a treat was tossed in there. Lumbering Levi, who does not particularly care for car rides, was harder to coax but ultimately still fit back there.

Dogs below 50 pounds are perfect for this car’s little seat. Australian Shepherds, Shiba Inus, Collies, and smaller dogs are highly compatible with the GR86. Bigger ones like Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and Standard Poodles can get back there, but at that point, you’re back to an “occasional” disclaimer. The largest breeds like Newfoundlands, Cane Corsos, and Great Danes would be a non-starter. I mean, maybe once, with the seats folded down?

Andrew P. Collins

Driving With the Dog

The deep bucket of the GR86 made a perfect nest for Bramble to curl up in. With the windows open, she could pretty easily get her snout into the fresh air but the front seat kept her from being remotely able to jump out after a critter or enticing-looking snack.

For better or worse, the cup holders are within tongue range. So if you’re planning to run the togue while balancing a water cup like Takumi Fujiwara (which would make total sense, this is a Toyota “86” after all) your animal friend might lap it up on you.

Not that I ever condone aggressive driving with a dog onboard, but if you do end up connecting a few corners more quickly than you might in a less-engaging compact car, those deep rear buckets really do coddle a canine nicely even under small g forces.

Levi, once installed in the back, reared his head around like a slobbery wrecking ball while I moved the car around our test field with him. He might have settled eventually, but the big Lab was not particularly pleasant to share this little car with. 

Driving in General

All I’ll say here is that the rumors are true: If you love driving and cars, it’s impossible not to appreciate the Toyota GR86. What a remarkably engaging, playful, and pretty vehicle. You can read one of our complete reviews of it if you’ve somehow missed the deluge of internet comments praising the vehicle’s corner-carving capabilities.

Pack Hauling

Two very small dogs (Pomeranians, Miniature Collies, Frenchies) could occupy the rear seat, but anything over about 45 pounds is not going to like sharing the space. Multiple big dogs in this car would be hilarious looking, but unsafe and uncomfortable.

Carrying Kennels

You could fit one of those tiny cat-carrier-sized hard kennels in this car, but that’s it. It’s pretty much impossible to use a bigger hard-sided kennel while in motion in the GR86; if you want a kennel at your destination you’ll need to pack something collapsable (inflatable) like the Diggs Enventur Travel Kennel.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get a photo of the kennel stowed in this car. But here’s Bramble demo’ing it in our Hudson Valley garage. We’ll use it as a for-scale model in future Will It Dog? reviews. Andrew P. Collins

Bramble’s Enventur is sized Medium, measuring about 22.5 inches wide by 27 inches tall by 34 inches long when inflated, rolling down to just about eight inches both wide and tall by 34 inches long when collapsed. You could probably roll it tighter. Dogs are theoretically very safe when they’re tucked into a kennel, but then I couldn’t easily pet her when stopped. Nor could she stick her snout out the window at low speed. Running the kennel while inflated is not going to happen with the GR86, but at least the cargo area is big enough for something like this in its collapsed mode so I could bring it for longer trips.

Portable kennels are sweet because dogs often like a little nest or home base while they’re traveling or staying overnight in an unusual place. Also, some hotels require you to have a kennel if they’re going to let you bring your pooch into your room.

Toyota GR86 Dog-Friendliness Verdict

Andrew P. Collins

The 2023 Toyota GR86 and 2023 Subaru BRZ can very comfortably carry an un-kenneled sub-50-pound dog. So if your dog’s about Bramble’s size or smaller and you’re looking at these cars wondering if it’d be viable, absolutely, yes, and in fact I told my contact at Toyota to let me know when they were selling this Neptune Blue demo unit because I loved it that much.

If your dog’s much bigger, sadly, you need to move into a bigger sporty car. At this price point, start sniffing around the Civic Si, VW GTI, or even a used Mercedes-AMG C-something.

In short: When it’s good it’s great, when it’s bad it’s terrible.

  • Harness: Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength ($39.05 on Amazon)
  • Seat Cover: Dickie’s Repreve ($29.88 at Walmart)
  • Portable Kennel: Enventur Travel Kennel (starts at $425.00 at Diggs.pet)

More Cars Tested by Dogs, for Dogs


The Drive Logo

Car Buying Service