Story and photos by David Haueter
Toyota's MR2 sports car was first introduced in 1985 as a two-seat, mid-engined coupe model and was met with great fanfare by the automotive press. Toyota moved further up the sports car ladder with the second generation MR2, which was introduced in 1990 and retained the mid-engined coupe layout. In turbocharged form, the MR2 Mark II generated 200hp and was known for it's slick styling and impressive handling. For the third generation MR2, Toyota decided to take a different approach, by sticking with the mid-engined layout but turning the car into a two-seat roadster that would compete head-to-head with the Mazda Miata. In developing the new MR2 Spyder, Toyota engineers concentrated on lowering weight to deliver impressive driving dynamics. After a few miles behind the wheel it is evident that they achieved their goals.
A Look under the Sheetmetal
Powering the latest MR2 is a 1.8-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with Toyota's Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i), which delivers 138hp@ 6,400rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 4,400rpm. Taking care of the handling chores are an independent MacPherson strut suspension in front and independent dual-link MacPherson struts in the rear. Stabilizer bars are mounted in both front and rear. Stopping power is provided by vented disc Brakes with ABS. One of the most unique features about the MR2 Spyder is its 6-speed sequential transmission. This is a true sequential manual transmission, not an automatic with some added control over gear changes. To get this type of transmission in another car in the U.S., you would have to move way upmarket to either the BMW M3 with its SMG II gearbox, or the Ferrari 360 Modena F1. Unlike the M3 SMG II, the MR2 Spyder does not have an automatic mode.