Toyota MR2

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Toyota MR2
1994 MkII MR2 nbvolks.jpg
Manufacturer Central Motors (a part of the Toyota Motor Corporation)
Production 1984–2007
Assembly Sagamihara, Japan
Body and chassis
Class Sports car
Layout Transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive

The Toyota MR2 is a two-seat, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive sports car produced by Toyota, from 1984 until July 2007 when production stopped in Japan. There are three different generations of the MR2: 1984–1989, with angular, origami-like lines, 1990–1999, which had styling that some compared to Ferrari sports cars, and 2000–2007, which somewhat resembled the Porsche Boxster.[1] It was designed to be small, with an economical powerplant, but sporty in style and handling. Basic design elements, such as MacPherson strut front and rear suspensions and transverse-mounted inline-four engines, are common to all three generations of MR2, though each generation differs greatly from the next in particulars.

In Japan, it was exclusive to Toyota Japanese dealerships called Toyota Vista Store (later rebranded in 1998 as Toyota Netz Store) as an alternative to the Toyota Celica which was exclusive to Toyota Corolla Store locations.


The MR2's life began in 1976 when Toyota launched a design project with the goal of producing a car which would be enjoyable to drive, yet still provide good fuel economy. Initially the purpose of the project was not to design a sports car. The actual design work began in 1979 when Akio Yoshida from Toyota's testing department started to evaluate different alternatives for engine placement and drive method. The choice was finally made to place the engine transversely in the middle of the car. The result was the first prototype in 1981, dubbed the SA-X. From its base design, the car began evolving into an actual sports car, and further prototypes were tested intensely both in Japan and in California. A significant amount of testing was performed on actual race circuits such as Willow Springs, where former Formula One driver Dan Gurney tested the car. All three generations are in compliance with Japanese Government regulations concerning exterior dimensions and engine displacement. It appeared around the same time as the Japanese competitors Honda CR-X, the Mazda Miata, the Nissan EXA, the VW Scirocco and Fiat X1/9 from Europe, and the Pontiac Fiero and Ford EXP from North America.

Toyota made its SV-3 concept car public in October 1983 at the Tokyo Motor Show, gathering a huge amount of publicity both from the press and the audience. The car, scheduled to be launched in the second quarter of 1984 in the Japanese market under the name MR2 (which stands for "mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, two-seater"),[2] was to become the first mass-produced mid-engined car to come from a Japanese manufacturer. In France the name was shortened to MR to avoid the similarity in pronunciation of MR2 with the French words est merdeux, meaning "(it) is shitty".

First generation (W10; 1984–1989)[edit]

Toyota MR2 -- 09-21-2011.jpg
Production June 1984–1989[3]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé
Layout Transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 1.5 L 3A-LU I4 (AW10)
1.6 L 4A-GE DOHC I4 (AW11)
1.6 L 4A-GZE supercharged I4 (AW11)
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,319 mm (91.3 in)
Length 3,950 mm (155.5 in)
Width 1,666 mm (65.6 in)
Height 1,234 mm (48.6 in)
Curb weight 1,066 kg (2,350 lb) (1988 NA)
1,131 kg (2,493 lb)(1988 SC)[4]
1986 MR2 AW11 in Light Blue Metallic

Toyota introduced the first-generation MR2 in 1984, designating it the model code "W10". When fitted with the 1.5-liter 3A engine, it was known as the "AW10". Likewise, the 1.6-liter 4A version is identified by the "AW11" code.

The small and light MR2 was something no one had expected from Toyota, known for their economical and practical family cars. The two-seat MR2 was definitely not practical as a family car, nor was it intended to be, having been designed instead with style and sport as priorities. The moniker 'Midship Runabout, 2 Seater' was more than a marketing tool - it was the fundamental design philosophy.

At its introduction in 1984, it won the Car of the Year Japan Award.

The folded angular lines evoked origami paper sculpture. Other cars with a similar design concept including the Lancia Beta Montecarlo, Fiat X 1/9 and the exotic Lancia Stratos were all produced in the 70s and early 80s. The MR2's proportions closely mirrored those of the X1/9, although it was somewhat longer - as Toyota engineered the car to be able to accommodate a 2-liter engine.[5] The most important features of the MR2 were its light body (as low as 2,095 lb (950 kg) in Japan and 2,350 lb (1066 kg) in the US), superior handling and lightly powered, small-displacement engine. The car is often referred to as the AW11, referring to the chassis code of the most common 1.6-litre, A-engined versions.

Some rumors have persisted that the MR2 was designed by Lotus. This is a reference to the Lotus M90 (a.k.a. the X100) project, but this was scrapped after a single prototype was built. This used the same engine and gearbox as the MR2. At the time, Toyota, along with the Chapman family was a major share holder in Lotus, but General Motors later acquired majority control. However, the MR2's suspension and handling were designed by Toyota with the help of Lotus engineer Roger Becker.[6] Toyota's cooperation with Lotus during the prototype phase can be seen in the AW11, and it owes much to Lotus's legendary sports cars of the 1960s and 1970s. Toyota's active suspension technology called TEMS was not installed. Built very strong, with five bulkheads, the MR2 was quite heavy for a two-seater of its size.[7]

As a power plant, Toyota chose to use the naturally aspirated 4A-GE 1,587 cc inline-four engine, a dual overhead-cam, four-valve-per-cylinder motor, borrowed from the E80 series Corolla.[8] This engine was also equipped with DENSO electronic port fuel injection and a variable intake geometry ("T-VIS"), giving the engine a maximum power output of 112 hp (84 kW) in the US, 128 hp (95 kW) in the UK, 116 or 124 PS (85 or 91 kW; 114 or 122 hp) in Europe (with or without catalytic converter),[9] 118 hp (88 kW) in Australia and 130 PS (96 kW; 128 hp) in Japan. Japanese models were later downrated to 120 PS (88 kW; 118 hp).[10] The engine had already been introduced earlier on the AE86 Corolla, gathering a lot of positive publicity. A five-speed manual transmission was standard and a four-speed automatic was optional. Road tests delivered 0-60 mph times in the mid- to high-8 second range, and 1/4 mile times in the mid- to high-16 second range, significantly faster than the four-cylinder Pontiac Fiero or Fiat X1/9.[11][12][13] In the home market, the AW10 base model was offered, which used the more economical 1452 cc 3A-U engine rated at 61 kilowatts (82 hp), but it attracted few buyers.

In 1987 (1988 for the US market), Toyota introduced a supercharged engine for the MR2. Based on the same block and head, the 4A-GZE was equipped with a small Roots-type supercharger and a Denso intercooler. T-VIS was eliminated and the compression ratio was lowered to 8:1. It produced 145 horsepower (108 kW) and 140 pound-feet (190 N·m) and accelerated the small car from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 6.5 to 7.0s.[14][15] The supercharger was belt-driven but actuated by an electromagnetic clutch, so that it would not be driven except when needed, increasing fuel economy. Curb weight increased to as much as 2,494 pounds (1,131 kg) for supercharged models, due to the weight of the supercharger equipment and a new, stronger transmission.[4] A fuel selector switch was also added in some markets, to allow the car to run on regular unleaded if required to. In addition to the new engine, the MR2 SC was also equipped with stiffer springs, and received special "tear-drop" aluminium wheels. The engine cover had two raised vents (only one of which was functional) that visually distinguished it from the naturally aspirated models. It was also labeled "Supercharged" on the rear trunk and body mouldings behind both doors. This model was never offered in European or Australian markets, although some cars were privately imported.

Changes by year[edit]


  • T-bar roof option available in Japan
  • Revised transmission
  • Color-keyed bumpers, side stripes, side skirts available
  • Leather interior becomes an option
  • Rear anti-roll bar discontinued on North American models


  • Supercharged model introduced in Japan, offered with four-speed A/T or five-speed M/T
  • T-bar roof available in North America and Europe
  • Slight unibody changes
  • Revised rear suspension and larger brake rotors
  • New front lip
  • New tail lights for North America
  • Naturally aspirated 4A-GE rated at 115 horsepower (86 kW) in America
  • Air filter relocated to the trunk
  • New center console, door panels, steering wheel, gauge cluster markings, and seat colors


  • Supercharged model available in North America
A 1986 model Toyota MR2 (AW11)
Cockpit in 1985 model MR2


  • Incandescent third brake lamp replaced by LED strip integrated into the rear spoiler
  • North American supercharged models equipped with rear anti-roll bar

The MR2's legacy[edit]

The press received the AW11 with open arms and praised its innovation, great feeling, and responsive engine. American car magazines Road & Track and Car and Driver both chose the MR2 on their lists of ten best cars which included some tough competition, such as the Ferrari Testarossa. The Australian Wheels magazine chose the 1988 MR2 as its favourite sports car. The MR2 was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1985. (It is worth noting that the MR2 was not eligible for the Car of the Year award, because only vehicles produced in the US were eligible until 1999. The 1985 winner, the Volkswagen GTI, was produced in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania.) The MR2 was also on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1986 and 1987. In 2004, Sports Car International ranked the MR2 number eight on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1980s.

In January 1989 Toyota produced a final run of fully optioned "Super Edition" MR2s.[16] The 'Super Edition' included all the extras of the G-Limited models along with extra features such as a MOMO-commissioned steering wheel and gear knob, Recaro "Milano" seats with matching door panels, and "SUPER EDITION" decals on the rear visor and side stripes). Super Edition cars were sold in special Midnight Blue or white/gold two-tone paint; 270 were produced in each color.[17]

Popular Swaps[edit]

A 1986 model Toyota MR2 (AW11) with a Fourth-Generation 4A-GE Twin-Cam 20-valve Silver Top swap

The MR2 Mk I still enjoys a fan base to this day. Its twin cam 1600 cc engine has potential, but its power has since been surpassed. Many enthusiasts have decided to turbocharge the engine as an upgrade, while others have decided to bypass this route and simply swap the engine out entirely. Popular swaps include both the fourth-generation 4A-GE twin cam 20-valve silver and black tops, the MR2 Mk II's 3S-GTE and the BEAMS 3S-GE engines, and the supercharged 4A-GZE 16-valve engines typically found in supercharged MR2's. Recently[when?], some enthusiasts are choosing to go with V6 engines found in the Toyota Camry and other models.[citation needed]

Toyota 222D rally car[edit]

A black Toyota 222D rally car

While Toyota's front-engine, rear-drive Celica rally cars proved dominant in the African Group B rallies of the 1980s, they were at a disadvantage on the twistier European stages. Thus, in 1985 Toyota Team Europe started a rally project codenamed "222D" based on the MR2, for competition in Group S and potentially Group B as well. Though somewhat similar on the outside, it's clear that it shared very little with the production car. Little is known about this project because it never competed. With Group B cancelled in 1986, the proposed Group S regulations suffered the same fate, and the car was reduced to a museum piece.

During a surprise appearance at the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, Toyota drove and displayed a black 222D. The race-ready car weighed around 750 kilograms (1,650 lb) and its transverse-mounted, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine (what appears to be a 503E race engine, though other prototypes may have used the 4T-GTE) was reported to produce as much as 750 horsepower (560 kW).[18][19] A V6-powered prototype was also rumored to exist, but has never been seen in public.

Second generation (W20; 1989–1999)[edit]

Toyota MR2 (SW20) ca 1995 at Snetterton 2008.JPG
Production 1989–August 1999[3]
Designer Kazutoshi Arima
Tadashi Nakagawa (roadster)
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door coupé or T-top
Layout Transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 2.2 L 5S-FE I4 (SW21)
2.0 L 3S-GE I4 (SW20)
2.0 L 3S-GTE turbo I4 (SW20)
Transmission 4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,400 mm (94.5 in)
Length 4,171 mm (164.2 in)
Width 1,699 mm (66.9 in)
Height 1,234 mm (48.6 in)
Curb weight 2,782lbs (1,262 kg) (1991T T-top); 2,599lbs (1,179 kg) (1991NA)[20]

The MR2 went through a complete redesign in 1989 (though North America did not receive them until late 1990 as 1991 models). The new car was larger and weighed 350 to 400 pounds (160 to 180 kg) more than its predecessor. The body styling was now much more rounded and streamlined, bearing a resemblance to both the Ferrari 348 and the Ferrari F355. Because of this, the new MR2 was labeled by some as "The poor man's Ferrari". Despite this, the new look was generally well received, and undoubtedly helped sales.

  1. G with an NA 2.0L 3S-GE engine producing 165 PS (121 kW; 163 hp); with an A/T standard and an optional M/T. The G was the base model of the SW20 line-up. Standard features included: climate control, electric mirrors, and fabric door/seat trim.
  2. G-Limited with the NA 2.0L 3S-GE engine; an A/T was standard or an M/T was optional. The G-Limited was the higher-specification naturally aspirated SW20. Additional standard features: electric folding mirrors, steering fog lamps, and rear spoiler.
  3. GT-S with a turbocharged 2.0L 3S-GTE engine producing 221 PS (163 kW; 218 hp); an M/T was the only choice. The GT-S had the same standard features as the G-Limited.
  4. GT with the turbocharged 2.0L 3S-GTE engine and manual transmission. The GT was considered as the luxury specification in the SW20 line-up and had alcantera/leather door and seat trim in addition to G-Limited standard features. All Japanese market cars came equipped with electronic climate control featuring 2 stage air conditioning.
  • European market trim levels:
  1. Coupe with the NA 2.0L 3S-FE engine producing 138 hp (103 kW) (not available with T-bar roof). This model had no rear spoiler or front fog lights
  2. GT Coupe with the NA 2.0L 3S-GE engine producing 154 metric horsepower (113 kW; 152 hp).
  3. GT T-Bar with the NA 2.0L 3S-GE engine. Options included as standard were full leather seats/door cards and the premium 8 speaker audio system.
There were no turbo models officially offered to the European market; however, many Japanese models were sold via the grey market.
  • US market trim levels:
  1. MR2 with a NA 2.2L 5S-FE engine producing 130 hp (97 kW) and offered with a four-speed A/T or five-speed M/T.
  2. MR2 Turbo with a turbocharged 2.0L 3S-GTE engine producing 200 hp (149 kW), offered only with a 5-speed M/T (offered solely with the T-bar roof after early 1993).

There are many subtle visual differences between the normally aspirated and turbocharged models: including the "turbo" emblem (US) on the rear trunk, 'TWIN CAM 16 TURBO' decal above the side intake (Japanese market), a fiberglass engine lid with raised vents, fog lights (though most Japanese and European NA models came with fog lights), and an added interior center storage compartment located between the two seats. All SW20 MR2s came with a staggered wheel setup, with wider wheels and tires in the rear than in the front.

Mechanical differences on the Turbo models include, but are not limited to:

  • 3S-GTE engine with associated air-to-air intercooler and different exhaust configuration;
  • Stronger and heavier E153 gearbox with different ratios and stronger axles;
  • Larger fuel pump and radiator.
  • Models with 3S-GE and 3S-GTE engines had twin-piston front brake calipers. Models with the 5S-FE engine had only single-piston calipers.

The US market MR2 Turbo model was able to accelerate from 0–60 in 6.1 seconds and finish the 1/4 mile in 14.7 seconds.

A Japanese market 1995 rev3 GT turbo was timed by Best Motoring at 14.227 seconds in the 1/4 mile.

Toyota MR2 (US)
1994 MK-II Toyota MR2 SW20

Revisions and model year changes[edit]

The second-generation MR2 underwent a variety of changes during its 10 years of production, grouped in four different periods:

Jan-1992 (as the 1993 model year) to Oct-1993 (Revision 2):

  • Fitment of a catalytic converter, lowering the power to 156 Bhp
  • Revised rear suspension with longer toe links
  • Revised front suspension which removed castor angle adjustment
  • Larger front lip
  • 15-inch wheels and wider tires on all models (Front: 195/55/15, Rear: 225/50/15)
  • Larger brakes (turbo only in US market, All cars for Japanese and European markets)
  • Shorter shift lever and smaller knob
  • Viscous LSD option (turbo only)
  • Upgraded transmission synchronizers
  • US turbo models now only sold with T-bar roof (except for a few sold in early 1993)
  • EBFD and TC added as options on Japanese market models

Nov-1993 and later (as 1994 & 1995 model year) (Japanese market Revision 3):

  • European & Japanese market 3S-GE now rated at 173 Bhp
  • American market 5S-FE now rated at 135 hp (101 kW)
  • Japanese market 3S-GTE now rated at 245 PS (180 kW; 242 hp)
  • Round tail lights
  • Prior 3-piece rear wing replaced with revised one-piece
  • Color-coded center panel, front lip and side skirts.
  • Passenger airbag (not available for the Japanese market)
  • Viscous LSD added as standard in Japanese market Turbo models
  • Japanese market E153 gearbox revised with upgraded synchros
  • Cruise control no longer an option on Japanese market models
  • Upgrades made to ABS system, which now induced an acceleration sensor located behind the gear stick
  • Upgrades to electronic power steering system (EHPS) to boost assist at low speeds and reduce assist at high speeds[citation needed]
  • Strengthening pieces added to rear strut towers
  • American sales cease in 1995; turbo models are not offered in California-emission states after 1994

1996 (Revision 4):

  • Fender mounted turn signals on all models
  • 5 spoke alloys featured diamond cut faces
  • Passenger airbag added as an option in Japanese market
  • Revisions to ABS system
  • European 3S-GE down-rated to 168 Bhp due to the introduction of EGR.
  • Unavailable in North America

1998 (Revision 5):

  • Clear fender mounted turn signals
  • New 15-inch wheels featuring narrower spokes
  • Adjustable rear spoiler, revised from the earlier versions
  • Red rings around gauges, red stitching on leather shift knob (and on leather seats on turbos)
  • Japan receives the new BEAMS 3S-GE rated at 200 PS (150 kW; 200 hp)

Changes to the suspension geometry, tire sizes and power steering in Jan of 1992 (as the 93 model year) were made in response to journalist reports that the MR2 was prone to "snap-oversteer". As a counterpoint to the snap-oversteer phenomenon of the MR2, other journalists point out that most mid-engine and rear engine sports and super cars exhibit similar behaviour, and that a change to the driver's response to oversteer is really the solution. In any car, braking shifts the weight forward, and acceleration to the rear. When drivers enter a corner with too much speed, and lift the throttle mid-corner, the weight transfers forward causing the rear tires to lose traction (called lift-off oversteer), which can result in a spin. When improper steering inputs were made attempting to correct this non-power-on oversteer, the rear of the MR2 would swing one way, then wildly (and quickly) the other—thus the term "snap" oversteer. Toyota elected to change the MR2 suspension and tires to reduce the likelihood that this would occur, though many drivers would lament the change and claim that it "neutered" the sharp edge the MR2 was known for.[21] Toyota claimed that the changes were made "for drivers whose reflexes were not those of Formula One drivers." [22]


TRD2000GT. Notice the wider, more aggressive stance.

In 1998, Toyota Racing Development offered an official kit body conversion and tuning program for MR2 owners to transform their existing SW20 MR2 into a wide-body TRD2000GT replica car. This was to pay homage to the TRD2000GT wins in the GT-C Japanese racing series, since the TRD2000GT racing series cars were based on the SW20 floor pan. The TRD2000GT body kit widened the MR2 by a total of 102 mm (4 in). Prior to MR2s being fitted with the TRD2000GT body kit, TRD had its customers select which additional engine, suspension, wheel, and interior upgrades they wanted. For these reason, no two TRD2000GT MR2s are alike. It is rumored that at least one was built to produce up to 370 kW (500 bhp) whereas some others had few modifications to their engines. Surprisingly, not all TRD2000GT MR2s were turbocharged. For example, TRD2000GT #001 came with a naturally aspirated 2.2L engine.

In order to ensure exclusivity, a high price tag was charged and total of just 35 factory car conversions were completed by Toyota Technocraft Ltd. Each official Technocraft-converted car was made using lightweight fiberglass components (front fenders, trunk lid extension, rear quarter panels, gas door, front and rear bumpers, 3-piece wing) and re-classified as completely new cars (with their own specially numbered TRD VIN plate riveted to the body to indicate their authenticity and rarity).

The Toyota Technocraft Ltd. TRD2000GT had a 60 mm (2.4 in) wider front and rear track (due to the addition of wider wheels and tires). Virtually every car converted also had other TRD parts fitted too, including extensive changes to both the suspension and engine. Most cars left the factory making more power due to TRD bolt-ons, some cars even left the factory boasting up to 500 metric horsepower (370 kW; 490 hp) and less than 1100 kg (2425 lb) for a very impressive power-to-weight ratio. While TRD Japan only offered a small number of kits with all body parts required for third-party conversion, Toyota Technocraft Ltd. offered complete car conversions.

Apart from the cars listed on the TRD2000GT register[23] it is unknown how many original Toyota Technocraft Ltd. cars still exist today, but it is rumored that approximately 10 conversion kits were imported from TRD Japan into the US for conversions. In many respects, the extended body can be compared to that of a Porsche Turbo wide body. The car's width is extended and body dimensions dramatically changing the car's overall visuals. Very little is known about these cars outside of Japan.[24]

SW20 Spider[edit]

Between 1996 and 1999, Toyota TechnoCraft (TTC) produced 91 MKII SW20 MR2 Spiders. These cars featured a retractable, cloth softtop roof, wingless trunk lid, and an engine lid that was unique to the SW20 spider. Most of these cars were automatics and nearly all of them sported a naturally aspirated engine. Interestingly, Toyota decided against putting its name or logo on these cars as a result of its desire to distance itself from cars that featured leaky roofs. Most of the Spiders came in Lucerne Silver with a blue side moulding and featured black and blue accented cloth seats. [25]

Several of these cars have been imported into the UK.


Le Mans: SARD MC8-R[edit]

The Sard MC8-R was a modified and lengthened version of the SW20 built for GT racing by Toyota's works team SARD (Sigma Advanced Research Development). The MC8-R housed a twin-turbo version of the 4.0-liter Toyota 1UZ-FE V8 producing 600 bhp (450 kW).[26] Eligible for the GT1 category, the MC8-R lacked pace against the new generation sports cars and homologation specials such as Porsche 911 GT1, but did compete alongside a similarly modified Toyota Supra. One MC8 road car was built in order to meet homologation requirements, but its current whereabouts are unknown.

A SARD MC8 road car built for homologation

1995 and 1996


Juan Fangio and a teammate drove a pair of Turbo MR2's with a one-two finish against Porsche competition. They had lapped the Porsches during the race

Japanese Grand Touring Championship (now Super GT)[edit]


  • Team Taisan Jr. with Tsuchiya campaigned a Toyota MR2 powered by the factory 3S-GTE powerplant in the 1998 JGTC season. Keiichi Suzuki and Shingo Tachi drove five class victories in seven races, winning the teams' championship and tying for the drivers' championship.


  • For following year, Team Taisan Jr. moved to a Porsche chassis in GT300, while Momocorse Racing Team with Tsuchiya campaigned another Toyota MR2 and won both championships. Morio Nitta and Shin'ichi Takagi drove to one victory, two 2nd places, and one third place to secure the teams' championship, with Nitta winning the drivers' championship by just one point over the Nismo Silvia that was driven by Takeshi Tsuchiya and Yuji Ide. Momocorse Racing would move to the MR-S chassis for the 2000 season, marking the end of the SW20's participation in JGTC.[28][29]

Third generation (W30; 1999–2007)[edit]

Third Gen Toyota MR2.jpg
Also called Toyota MR-S (Japan)
MR2 Spyder (North America)
MR2 Roadster (Europe)
Production October 1999 – July 2007[3]
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door convertible
Layout Transverse mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine 1.8 L I4 (ZZW30)
Transmission 5-speed manual
6-speed manual (Europe)
6-speed Sequential Manual
Wheelbase 2,451 mm (96.5 in)
Length 3,886 mm (153 in)
Width 1,694 mm (66.7 in)
Height 1,240 mm (48.8 in)
Curb weight 996 kg (2,195 lb)

The third-generation MR2 had three different names, depending on country; Toyota MR-S in Japan, Toyota MR2 Spyder in the US, and the Toyota MR2 Roadster in Europe. With the previous MR2 having been in the market for almost ten years, the newest MR2 took a drastically different approach than the outgoing model. The new MR2 was a part of Toyota Project Genesis, a plan to attract buyers from the younger age bracket in an effort to increase sales in the US. The most obvious change was the switch from a hardtop/open-roof option to a true convertible soft top, giving the car the 'Spyder' designation.

Many claim that this car was inspired by Porsche Boxster which was released in 1996, due to its similar appearance. However, the first prototype of MR-S appeared in 1997 at the Tokyo Motor Show, which had slightly more angled and rigid appearance than the current production model, which included additional curves for a more aerodynamic and appealing look. The MR2 Spyder chief engineer Harunori Shiratori said, "First, we wanted true driver enjoyment, blending good movement, low inertia and light weight. Then, a long wheelbase to achieve high stability and fresh new styling; a mid-engine design to create excellent handling and steering without the weight of the engine up front; a body structure as simple as possible to allow for easy customizing, and low cost to the consumer."[22]

The only engine available for the ZZW30 was the all-aluminium 1ZZ-FED, a 1794 cc inline-four. Like its predecessors, the engine used dual overhead camshafts and 16 valves. The intake camshaft timing was adjustable via the VVT-i system, which was introduced earlier on the 1998 MR2 in some markets. Unlike its predecessors, however, the engine was placed onto the car the other way round, with the exhaust manifold towards the rear of the car instead of towards the front. The 138 hp (104 kW) maximum power was quite a drop from the previous generation, but thanks to the lightness of the car it could still move quite quickly, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.8 to 8.7 s depending on the transmission option,[30][31] the Sequential Manual being unable to launch and shift as quickly as the clutch operated manual. Curb weight was 2,195 pounds (996 kg) for manual transmission models.

In addition to the 5-speed manual transmission, a 6-speed manual or 6-speed Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT) was also available starting in 2002. SMT is standard feature in Australian market; however, air conditioning was optional. After 2003, a 6-speed SMT was an option. The SMT had no conventional H-pattern shift lever or clutch pedal. The driver could shift gears by tapping the shift lever forward or backward or by pressing steering-wheel mounted buttons. Clutch engagement is automatic, and the car will automatically shift to neutral when stopping. Cruise control was never offered with the manual transmission, but was standard for SMT cars.

The MR2 Spyder was also distinguished from most of its competition (including the Honda S2000, Mazda MX-5, and Porsche Boxster) by a standard-equipment heated glass rear window. At the time of its debut, most convertibles were still using a plastic rear window. A hard top was also available from Toyota in Japan and Europe.

Introduction configuration and changes by year[edit]

The MR-S was originally introduced in October 1999 to the Japanese consumer market in three distinct trim models - the "B", the "Standard", and the "S". The "S" trim level included power windows, locks, mirrors, AM/FM/CD radio, cloth seats, tilt steering wheel, and alloy wheels.

In March 2000, the car was introduced into the US and Europe as a "monospec" level, which included the same features as Japan's "S" trim level.

2003–2005 Toyota MR2 (US)
ZZW30 MR2 modified for road racing. Note the rare hardtop fitted.


  • 5-speed Sequential Manual Transmission introduced
  • MR2 Spyder introduced in Australia;[citation needed] SMT is the only available transmission


  • New paint colors
  • New front and rear fascias, standard fog lights, power antennae, and color-matched side air intakes
  • 16-inch rear wheels with larger tires
  • New seats, slight changes to the gauge cluster and interior
  • Sequential Manual Transmission now has six forward gears and faster shifting
  • New springs, dampers, and a new underbody brace


  • Torsen (helical) limited-slip differential available as an option (C65-01B transmission)
  • Strengthened unibody for crash intrusion protection (resulting in 10 kg (22 lb) greater curb weight)[22]
  • Ride height increased approximately 1" in all markets


  • 6-disc in-dash CD player standard
  • Last year of sales in North America


  • Last year of sales
  • Special "V-Edition" and "TF300" editions sold only in the United Kingdom.

Performance and handling[edit]

The feedback for the new model was somewhat mixed - some liked its all new design concept, while the fans of the SW20 would've liked it to continue along the path of the previous model. All agreed, however, that the ZZW30 had nearly perfect handling. The ZZW30 is considered to be the best-handling MR2 in both overall limit and controllability. For example, Tiff Needell, a very experienced race driver and the former host of the BBC TV show Top Gear, praised the handling of the ZZW30.[32] Although some complained of the relative lack of power, many owners have opted to switch out the 1ZZ-FE engine in exchange for the 192 PS (141 kW) 2ZZ-GE found in the USDM Celica, USDM Toyota Corolla XRS, USDM Toyota Matrix XRS, Pontiac Vibe GT, AUDM Toyota Celica SX and ZR, AUDM Toyota Corolla Sportivo, EDM Toyota Corolla RunX and Lotus Elise.

Motorsport (Super GT)[edit]

Disney Japan and Toyota backed up racing team, Cars Racing introduced the "Lightning McQueen apr MR-S" in the 2008 Super GT season.

Between 2000 to 2008, several teams campaigned the MR-S in Super GT (known as JGTC prior to 2004 season).[33]

  • In 2002, Morio Nitta and Shinichi Takagi shared the GT300 drivers' championship in the ARTA MR-S.
  • Team Reckless' MR-S won both drivers' and teams' championships in 2005, driven by Kota Sasaki and Tetsuya Yamano.
  • For 2007, Kazuya Oshima and Hiroaki Ishiura shared the drivers' championship in the Toy Story APR MR-S, with wins at Okayama and Sepang, but lost the teams' championship by six points to the Mooncraft Shiden prototype racer of team Privée Kenzo Asset Shiden.

The end of the Spyder[edit]

In July 2004, Toyota announced that sales of the MR2 (as well as the Celica) would be discontinued in the US at the end of the 2005 model year because of increasing competition and lack of sales.[34] The ZZW30 sold 7,233 units in its debut year, falling to just 901 for the 2005 model, for a total of 27,941 through its six years of production in the US. The 2005 model year was the last for the MR2 in the US. While the MR2 Spyder was not sold after 2005 in the US, it was offered in Japan, Mexico, and Europe until 2007. Production of the car ceased permanently in July 2007.

Special editions[edit]

As a farewell to the MR2, Toyota produced 1000 limited-production V-Edition cars for Japan and the UK. They are distinguished by different color wheels, titanium interior accents, minor body changes, a helical limited slip differential, and different steering wheel trim.[35]

Also for model year 2007, the United Kingdom received 300 models in a special numbered TF300 series. A special 182 bhp (136 kW) turbocharged variant called the TTE Turbo (TTE standing for Toyota Team Europe) was available as a dealer-installed package. This package was also available for fitting to customer MR2s.

VM180 Zagato[edit]

The Toyota VM180 Zagato was designed by Zagato, based on the MR-S, and built at Toyota Modelista International for sale in Japan only through the Toyota Vista dealer network. It was first shown on 10 January 2001 in Tokyo and then at the February 2001 Geneva Motor Show. The body panels are attached to the original MR-S chassis, as can be seen by the recess around the door handles.[36] The stock engine was tuned to produce 155 bhp (116 kW).[37]


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External links[edit]