THE TOYOTA MR2
When people think of a sporty Toyota, many of them directly assume the Supra and forget automotive jewels.
But even before the Supra, Toyota was dabbling in making fun, exciting little sports cars that still got decent gas mileage for the average driver.
The average guy like you and me. Because guess what? We're people too.
And even though the car is 40 plus year old, 40 years old now, what?
Even though the car is really old, the Supra and it's 2JZ is still is a big success nowadays in the tuner scene, you can learn more about it here.
Let's talk about the car that always slides underneath the radar.
Today, ladies and gentleman, we're talking about the very cool and underrated car from Toyota : the Toyota MR2.
TOYOTA MR2 MK1
The Toyota MR2 had some humble beginnings because Toyota was trying to figure out back in 1976 how Nissan and Datsun succeed against Germans manufacturers.
They wanted that too. They wanted to play sports ball like the rest of the kids
But it's Toyota, so they weren't just gonna bet on only one sports car like the Supra or the Celica at the time so : they diversified their offer.
So to start it off, they went in to design a car that was :
- Very fun to drive
- Had good gas mileage
- Wasn't designed to be a sports car, but just something enjoyable to own.
That was like the thing. Those were the boundaries that they had set.
The limitations of the oil crisis was weighing down on auto manufacturers from doing pretty much anything fun and ended up stalling the design work for the TOYOTA MR2 until 1979.
Designer Akio Yoshida would finally had the chance to begin working on the car and ended up with a mid-transverse engine placement.
The model was available in two body styles (coupe or T-top), and with two engines: a 1.5-liter and a 1.6-liter (1.6 4A-GE: 0 to 100 km/h in 8.2 s and a top speed of 210 km/h). The first MR is 3.92 m long, 1.66 m wide and 1.25 m for a mass of 920 kg.
Not a sports car but it had a coupe-style body but it wasn't a sports car.
It's first name was the SAX and even with it not wanting to be a sports car, it had everything to be a sports car.
Toyota started wanting to build a fun commuter and ended up with a sport car, because a sport car is indeed a fun commuter... it makes sense.
Not all markets had access to this first MR. France, for example, has never imported this model. A compressor engine (1.6 liter 4A-GZE: 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 s and a top speed of about 230 km/h and a weight of 960 kg) was also available, but not officially imported to the European market by Toyota.
You build a mid engine car but you don't expect it to be a sports car? It doesn't even make sense in 1978.
There were some drugs going around back then, okay?
Once they completed their initial testing, the car made it's debut on the tracks to see if it was actually capable of handling itself. They had people like Dan Gurney, the racing man in Formula One at the time, that would take it through the tracks like Willow Springs, to make sure it was actually performing great, and well, it was.
It was actually a pretty decent sports car that could make it's way around
the track pretty darn well.
The Toyota MR2 was featured with :
- A fuel-injected engine.
- Independent suspension,
- Four wheel disc brakes.
Which was pretty good at that time. In it's initial launch in
1983 the car was known as the SV3 concept.
Launched in 1984, the TOYOTA MR2 would be the first Japanese mid-engine car to hit the market and that blew absolutely everyone away, it became an instant commercial success.
The Japanese auto manufacturers have always been paramount in terms of pushing the envelope and the TOYOTA MR2 was that at the time. Now, even with it not being called a sports car, it was, because the development of the TOYOTA MR2 was not really intended to be one but it did it.
The main keyword in this project is "FUN", they just wanted to sell some fun.
So the TOYOTA MR2 had collaborations with Lotus at the time to gain performance at handling within the little two door coupe.
So just so you know, Lotus did assist with the development of the suspension but the car was actually designed by Toyota, so don't let those garage talks fool you. It's not as much as you actually think.
In addition, the TOYOTA MR2 is it's own hot tamale, not a rip off of the Fiero or Guy Fiera, if that's what you're up to. The two design teams actually found out about their competitor's platform by accident, pretty much at the same time.
You also have to remember that it was the 80's and everybody was gunning
into the sports car, compact, not sports car, market.
So the first generation was a hit. It came in some different models and didn't do half bad against the competition because you have to remember that it was faster than the Fiat, it was lighter than the Fiero, and it did it all without too much fuss because it was still a Toyota. The car would become the car of the year for 1984 and 1985.
Slap that on your LinkedIn profile, buddy, and send it, because it was the best JDM car, which put it ahead of the CRX and the Nissan Laurel.
One of the lovely trends was the supercharged model, which kicked in a nickel in pretty much every way possible.
Fun, it had the scoot scoot, it had stiffer springs and aluminum wheels. It wasn't too shabby, a little bit heavier but it was still a little bit better.
It was a good car and it's a little bit rare now but it got the job done. The car would enter into different kinds of motor sport, including the African Group B rallies and some European races as well.
However, it didn't really get to anything. It's kind of like the kid that says he's always going back to college but never does and it did okay but by the time Toyota put all their ammo into the MR2 for those racing classes, the class was actually disbanded and never really brought back again, never really got into it.
TOYOTA MR2 Mk.2
They made some cool concepts though and if you can find one, you're rich. In 1989, Toyota introduced their second generation and it made everything that was fantastic about the first generation and made it even better.
It was sleek, sexy, and it was fancy. Kazutoshi Arima, the chief engineer, wanted
to make it even more upmarket. What do you wanna call it? I'll call it just exotic.
They wanted to make it neat and look like a Ferrari pretty much, at the time, and they did a damn good job with it. In short, they really just took design cues from Ferrari, dubbed it practically the poor man's Ferrari, and launched it into the world with new Toyota development underneath a new style.Now, that doesn't mean that they copied Ferrari because it was still a Toyota and they did so good with their first generation, they just made it better.
A lot of their styling cues came from that because it was just what you did back then and with the improvements being made solely on their car and the personal feedback of more racers,
So in 1989, the second generation of Toyota MR (chassis type SW20) is available on the market. This generation of Toyota MR2 will be produced until 1999.
During these 10 years of production, Toyota makes modifications on the chassis as well as on the engine. The modifications are identified under the name of "revision": rev1, rev2, rev3, rev4 and rev5.
The first model of this second generation is called : Toyota MR2 MKII Rev1, the second model Toyota MR2 MKII Rev2.
All these models will be produced in Coupe, Coupe with sunroof, Coupé targa versions.
Depending on the country, four different engines are offered:
- 2 liters, 16 valve, 3S-FE engine with right-hand drive only
- 2 liters, 16 valve, 3S-GE engine
- 2.2 liters, 5S-FE engine
- 2 liters, turbocharged, 3S-GTE engine, 0-100 km/h in 6 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h
More imposing than the first generation, the second generation Toyota MR is 4.17 m long, 1.70 m wide and 1.24 m high. The weight reaches 1,145 kg, and up to 1,270 kg for the 2.2 and 2.0 turbo.
This model has its anecdote: its creators at Toyota wanted to put on the market a car that would allow the driver to know his limits, a small sports car that would allow everyone to learn about the pleasure of driving a rear-wheel drive vehicle with a central engine.
This design earned it the nickname "Baby Ferrari" in the British press; the MR strongly echoed the F348 and F355 in its architecture.
It is also the first generation of MR to be released in France. The best year of production of the MR2 is 1990, with nearly 18,000 models produced.
The turbo version has never been imported in Europe by Toyota. It has some interesting features: the models intended for the American market had 204 hp, while the models intended for the Japanese market offered 225 hp, then 245 hp for the last generations (from October 1993), the engine block remaining the same (3S-GTE).
Some turbo models have the Traction Control option, which allows better control of the power available to the rear wheels on wet ground, or in the event of loss of traction. These models also benefit from a very effective limited slip differential.
The second generation MR was also available in two rarely produced and now highly sought after variants:
The TRDSpider: an SW20 model modified by TRD in Japan, which transformed this sporty coupe into a convertible with a folding soft top. This model was produced in very few copies, and less than a dozen cars left Japan for export (the engine did not change and kept the original atmospheric 3S-GE block).
The last generations of naturally-aspirated MR2MKII (for Japan only) had a 3S-GE BEAMS (red top) engine: an innovative technology which significantly improved the low-speed performance of the 3SGE block and the total power. This is still a very rare and sought-after model, but only available with the right hand steering wheel.
What the car did so well was be a sports car that was in it's own category without really being dismissed as the lower tier option for a sports car. But it wasn't a sports car. The car even went up against the best JDM cars like the Toyota Supra,
the RX-7, and the GTR and held it's own in plenty of comparisons when you were looking at it's actual function. In the racing world, it saw much more success with the second generation through the JGTC and the world accepted
the second generation MR2 as a proper sports car without all the negatives that came with most sports cars.
In fact, Toyota did a fantastic job with the placement of the TOYOTA MR2 when you compare it to the Supras and things like that at the time.The third generation was a bit rough but still has love out there for many people.
Many people think that the third generation is the best handling TOYOTA MR2 out there
but it didn't get much love. He's just kind of like, you know, he's a soft boy.
Not many people are about that platform anymore, so why would you want it?
Now, the TOYOTA MR2 is a fantastically good sports car, especially the first and second generations.
They have an incredible platform that many people find themselves diving head first into. The first generation, even with it being a bit older, has quite the loyal following.
A lot of people that have MR2s will tell everybody that they have MR2s because
they're a fun car to own. Most enthusiasts end up restoring them, driving them, and just enjoying them for what they are.
Although aftermarket modifications do exist, the first generation isn't really touted as the one to modify. The second generation is where a lot of the community sits. Now whether that's through engine swaps, turbo supercharges, full motor builds, BC Racing coilovers, Enkei or Avid 1 wheels, Michelin tires, and pretty much everything in between, the car is an absolute champ.
The second generation is like. How do I say this? It's like that one taco joint that you always go to that you're never disappointed with.
The second generation TOYOTA MR2 has such a following that you can do some pretty
insane stuff with them, including making them absolutely stupid fast.
Parts exist for it and modifications continue to be bought and sold through third party plages and main vendors, pretty much all the time.
I'm gonna be honest here. There's not much wrong with the second generation MR2. I prefer the facelift styles because it really just locks in the styling that i think Toyota was really trying to accomplish at the time.
Engines : 3SFE - 5SFE - 3SGE - 3SGTE
Maximum power : 121 to 245 hp
Maximum torque: 193 Nm
Empty weight : 1 145 kg
Maximum speed : 224 km/h
Acceleration : 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 s
Dimensions : Length 4,170 mm, Width 1700 mm, Height 1,240 mm
The TRD Spyder
An SW20 model modified by TRD in Japan, which transformed this sporty coupe into a convertible with a folding soft top. This model was produced in very few copies, and less than a dozen cars left Japan for export (the engine did not change and kept the original atmospheric 3S-GE engine block).
The last generations of naturally-aspirated MR2 MKII (for Japan only) had a 3S-GE BEAMS (red top) engine: an innovative technology which significantly improved the low-speed performance of the 3SGE block and the total power. This is still a very rare and sought-after model, but only available with the right hand steering wheel.
TOYOTA MR2 MK.3
The third generation is a bit questionable because it didn't really hit the aftermarket world as hard as the previous two and although it does have a racing background professionally, it never really hit the streets. Now it could be due to the styling, the focus on the convertible aspect of the car, or that it was just a hair slower than it's predecessor, stock for stock.
However the tiny JDM car is no slouch as a weekend warrior and can put as many smiles on your face as turns you can find.
Which Toyota MR2 is the best ?
Well, it depends what you are aiming for :
The second generation is probably the one to get if you're looking to modify the car.
First generation is a cool, legacy car if you're looking to restore something and just own a piece of JDM history.
And the third generation is probably one you're gonna wanna wait until you maybe, i don't know, retire. It's just one of those things.
It depends on the styling that you're looking for but Toyota has always made fantastic sports cars and regardless of the generation, they all have their pros with really the only cons being the fact that they are a bit older, harder to find, and sometimes, depending on the body style that you're getting, can be a little bit prone to rust.
Now, if you can get past all of that and you're okay with owning a small sports car that has literally no space, then the MR2 is for you and you can make them so insanely fast, that you may just find yourself wondering why you even built it as fast as you did.
Years of production 1999 - 2007
Gasoline engine(s): 1.8 l of 138 hp
Transmission: 5 and 6 speed manual transmission or Six-speed SMT sequential transmission
Curb weight : 1,030 kg
CO2 emission : 1783 g/km
Dimensions : Length 3,895 mm, Width 1 695 mm, Height 1 400 mm
2003-2005 Toyota MR2 (US)
Appearance of the Toyota MR-S or MR2 Spyder in America (chassis type ZZW30). 1.8 liter engine with 143 horsepower, 0 to 100 km/h in 7.9 s and a top speed of 220 km/h (engine code 1ZZ-FE).
The MR2 Mk3 was revised in 2003, the models are called "face lift". The modifications concern all aspects: bodywork (headlights, lights, front and rear bumpers, side air intakes, 16" wheels at the rear), mechanics (engine with the same power but more reliable, 6 speed gearbox, various chassis reinforcements) and interior (seats, dashboard rings). The sequential gearbox model has a traction control and trajectory control that cannot be deactivated.
A lot of people that have MR2s will tell everybody that they have MR2s because
they're a fun JDM car to own. Most enthusiasts end up restoring them, driving them, and just enjoying them for what they are.
TOYOTA MR2 WITH FERRARI BODY KIT
As mentionned earlier in this article, the Toyota MR2 took a lot of inspiration from Ferrari's when it comes to the design. But for some people it was just not enough and that is the reason why you can find many Toyota MR2 with ferrari body kit on the internet.
I will not judge anyone but in my opinion the MR2 has enough charm as it is but it is only my opinion.
TOYOTA MR2 WALLPAPER
You can find some really cool JDM Wallpapers here, including some MR2 Wallpapers. My pleasure
Are Toyota MR2 reliable ?
The short answer would be yes, as most of the Toyota lineup, the MR2 is reliable. The more complex answer... deserved a whole article, checkout why JDM cars are reliable here.