THE AE85/AE86 COROLLA LEVIN AND SPRINTER TRUENO
In previous generations, Toyota had reserved the Levin and Trueno nameplates for DOHC Corolla and Sprinter coupes, but those badges were now applied to all AE85 and AE86 models regardless of engine or body style, presumably to further distinguish the RWD cars from the FF models.
The new AE85 and AE86 Corolla Levin and Sprinter Trueno coupes were mechanically identical to one another with nearly identical dimensions, although the Sprinter was slightly longer overall. The main difference between the two versions was styling; Levins had exposed flush headlights while the Sprinter Trueno had popup lights.
Earlier Corollas and Sprinters owed much of their home market success to the fact that they were available in a huge assortment of engine and trim combinations. The AE85 and AE86 were no different. In the Japanese domestic market, the Levin and Trueno were each offered in eight different grades: three AE85 notchbacks (GL, LIME, and SE for the Levin; XL, XL-Lissé, and SE for the Trueno), one AE85 three-door (SR), and four AE86 models (two-door GT, three-door GTV, and the better-equipped two- and three-door GT APEX).
Like the E70 Corolla and Sprinter, the AE85 and AE86 had MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar in front and a live axle in back, located by four trailing links and a Panhard rod. The suspension was offered in three levels of firmness: the softest grade for AE85 two-doors; a firmer “GT” suspension with a rear anti-roll bar for SR, GT, and GT APEX models; and a stiff “super-tuned” suspension for the three-door GTV. All AE86 models had vented front disc brakes and GTV and GT APEX models also had rear discs and an optional limited-slip differential.
In Japan, the rear-drive coupes now offered only two engines. AE85s had the carbureted 1,452 cc (87 cu. in.) SOHC 3A-U II, essentially a longitudinally mounted version of the engine from the FWD AE81 Corolla and Sprinter, with 83 PS JIS (61 kW) and a choice of five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmissions. AE86 cars had the new DOHC 1,587 cc (97 cu. in.) 4A-GEU engine, the 16-valve successor to the now-departed 2T-GEU twin-cam. The 4A-GEU was rated at 130 PS JIS (96 kW) and initially mated only to a five-speed gearbox.
As you can probably gather, JDM Levin and Trueno buyers could tailor their cars to taste. AE85 cars were essentially mild-mannered commuters offering varying levels of features. The GTV was the hardcore, minimalist performance version while the GT APEX combined most of the GTV’s performance equipment with more toys, including digital instruments (standard on three-doors, optional on two-doors) and optional automatic air conditioning. About the only combination not offered was an AE86 automatic, although that would arrive later.
Such variety made for a wide price spread. Corolla Levin list prices ranged from ¥1,060,000 (equivalent to around $4,500) for an AE85 GL to ¥1,548,000 (about $6,500) for a three-door AE86 in GT APEX trim. The equivalent Sprinter Trueno ran ¥15,000 to ¥32,000 ($60 to $135) more. None of these prices was extravagant — a Toyota Celica or Honda Prelude cost a fair bit more — but the top AE86 Levin and Trueno were still the most expensive of their respective lines. For comparison, an AE80 Corolla 1300 DX sedan started at as little as ¥832,000 (about $3,500).