The Toyota MR2 is a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive coupe that seats two. The design of the vehicle is rather different from Toyota's other models. The MR2 is similar to more exotic cars such as the line of mid engine Lotus vehicles (Elise, Esprit, etc...), however its price tag is much less. Gives the average car enthusiast the ability to experiance a mid-engine rear-wheel drive vehicle without needing a load of cash.
See Wikicars' comprehensive Toyota MR2 Review.
- 1 Recent Changes
- 2 Styles and Major Options
- 3 Pricing
- 4 Gas Mileage
- 5 Engine and Transmission
- 6 Performance
- 7 Reliability
- 8 Safety
- 9 Photos
- 10 Colors
- 11 Main Competitors
- 12 Unique Attributes
- 13 Interior
- 14 Resale Values
- 15 Criticisms
- 16 Generations
- 17 Worldwide
- 18 Design quirks and oddities
- 19 Awards
- 20 See also
- 21 External Links
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Styles and Major Options
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As seen on the FuelEconomy.gov website, the City/Highway MPG averages are as follows:
Engine and Transmission
Specifications, details, graphs, pictures and other information regarding the powertrain is placed in this section.
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Just like a Toyota, the MR2 is very reliable. Many owners took care of their MR2s and they take them out on weekend drives but to be sure, it's good to look for signs of hard driving. Toyota reccomends regular coolant changes and care should be taken whenn bleeding the coolant because air in the coolant can damage the engine. The engine's timing belt should be changed every 100,000 kilometres or 5 years but however, the engine uses a free spinning design so when the belt breaks, the engine doesn't receive any damage.
The MR2 is ranked 2nd place in Top Gear's latest reliability survey.
UCSR: Signifficantly worse than average.
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- Blue Mica
- Green Mica Metallic
- Super Bright Yellow
- Super Red V
- Super White II
- Silver Metallic
- Ferrari Red
- Blue Pearlescent
- Dark Green
- Grey Metallic
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Third generation (1999–2007)
After having been in the market for almost ten years, the SW20 had to move aside as Toyota released the new MR2, designated ZZW30. The new MR2 was, in a way, a return to the design concept of the AW11 since the weight of the car was once again dropped below a tonne and it was significantly smaller than the SW20. The biggest change was, however, the replacement of the solid, T-Top, and sunroof roof options with a true convertible soft top, giving the car the 'Spyder' designation. Due to a new car design rule from SAE (The Society of Automotive Engineers), the pop-up headlights as seen on SW20 had to be removed.
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 Tokyo Motorshow, which had slightly more angled and rigid appearance than the current production model. The production model includes additional curves for a more aerodynamic and appealing look. The MR2 Spyder chief engineer Harunori Shiratori once 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."
In Japan, the car is called the MR-S, which purportedly is derived from the forementioned designation. Toyota changed the American name to "MR2 Spyder" reportedly because the idea of a car with the nickname of "Mrs." would sound funny. In spite of this effort, the car is referred to as the "Mrs. 2" by some enthusiasts. The 1999 MR2 Spyder was an element of Toyota Project Genesis, a failed effort to bring younger buyers to the marque in the United States.
The engine of the ZZW30 was the brand-new all-aluminium 1ZZ-FED, a 1794 cc I4. 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 SW20. Unlike its predecessors, however, the engine was placed onto the car the other way round, making the exhaust manifold point towards the rear of the car. The 138 hp (104 kW) maximum power was quite a drop from the SW20 GT, but thanks to the lightness of the car it could move quite quickly, accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.0 to 8.3 s depending on the transmission option, the Sequential Manual being unable to launch and shift as quickly as the clutch operated manual. The car only weighs 975kg (2150lbs) with the 5 speed manual or 997kg (2200lbs) with the SMT, making this model MR2 the lightest of the MR2 series. In addition to the 5-speed manual transmission, a 5-Speed or 6 speed Sequential Manual Transmission (SMT) controllable from 2 pairs of buttons on the steering wheel was also available. SMT is standard feature in Australian market, however air conditioning was optional. After 2003, a 6-speed SMT was an option.
The feedback for the new model was somewhat mixed - some liked its return to the AW11's 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. 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. Although some complained of the relative lack of power the vehicle had, many owners have recently discovered a way to switch out the 1ZZ-FE engine in exchange for the 180 hp 2ZZ-GE. This drastically brings up the accelerating properties of the ZZW30. During a comparison test during a Japanese motorsports show, "NA vs. Turbo", the Techno Spirits ZZW30, outdrove several more powerful cars. However, the driver of the ZZW30, Manabu Orido, allowed the other vehicles (a much higher powered S15 Silvia, S14 Silvia, and Amuse S2000) to catch up (in an effort to demonstrate the difference between NA and turbo) and ended in the ZZW30 losing to the higher powered S15 Silvia. Although it lost, the ZZW30 proved the top-class handling abilities of the ZZW30. On race tracks, a stock ZZW30 has a superior handling around the corners but lacks power in the straights.
The Techno Pro Spirit MR-S was also the first car to be able to beat Tsuchiya's champion AE86 in its own grounds, the touge.
Another effective and typical modification to the MR-S is the addition of a turbocharger. Many companies such as Power Enterprise, Top Secret, Tom's, TTE, Monkeywrench Racing and Hass supply simple bolt-on kits for the MR-S. This simple addon can easily bring the car to 200bhp+, at only a low boost of 4-5psi. In a video by BMI, Tom's Turbo MR-S came only a split second behind the Techno 2zz MR-S at the touge. However, there is no doubt that the MR-S in turbo guise would easily outrun the 2zz MR-S in the straights.
In the JGTC/SuperGT GT300 class, a Reckless MR-S driven by Kota Sasaki & Tetsuya Yamano is the current 2005 champion. Previously in 2002 Morio Nitta & Shinichi Takagis' ARTA Toyota MR-S also won the GT300.
The MR-S was originally introduced in October of 1999 to the consumer market and received a sequential transmission in August 2000. For 2003, the ZZW30 received some exterior changes, including a new front bumper, front and rear lights, a new rear grille, and the computer also received an upgrade allowing the gears to change and engage much quicker than the pre-2003 models which were equipped with the sequential manual transmission. The air intakes on the sides of the car were now color coded and the interior was modified with new seats and a gauge cluster. The rear wheels were increased to 16" with larger 215 mm tires, while the front ones remained at 15" and 185 mm tread width. The suspension was uprated with new springs and shock absorbers and a brace was added to the bottom of the car to improve rigidity. A limited-slip differential was also available from the factory. For 2004, the body was strengthened, adding 10 kg to the vehicle's weight.
In July 2004, Toyota announced that 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.  The ZZW30 sold 7,233 units in its debut year, falling to just 121 for the 2005 model, for a total of 23,868 through its six years of production in the US. However, it is still sold in Mexico, Europe and Japan. The 2006 model year is the last for the MR2, with the United Kingdom getting 300 final models in a special numbered TF300 series. A special 182 bhp turbocharged variant called the TTE Turbo (TTE standing for Toyota Team Europe) is available as a dealer installed package. This package is also available for fitting to older Mk. III MR2s.
Second generation (1990–1995) in US(1990-1999) in other countries
The MR2 went through a complete redesign in 1989, when the new Mark II body was produced. No 1990 MR2s were produced for North America. The new MR2, designated SW20 (in America the chassis codes were SW22 for the turbocharged model and SW21 for the naturally-aspirated model), was longer, wider and heavier than its predecessor and had smoother bodylines. While the AW11 was a pure sports car, made in the spirit of Lotus, the SW20, being quite larger, could be classed as a GT-car. Since the resemblance between the Ferrari 348tb and the Ferrari F355 and the new MR2 was quite striking, the SW20 is sometimes referred to as a "poor man's Ferrari". Indeed, many bodykits became available to make the SW20 imitate the Ferrari F355 with, sometimes, indistinguishable results.
When the SW20 went on sale in spring 1990, it was offered with four different engine choices depending on the market area. All engines were 1998 cc I4 engines with DOHC and 16 valves, excluding the naturally-aspirated US model which used the 2164 cc 5S-FE engine. The most powerful engine was the turbocharged 3S-GTE, which was available in Japan at 220 hp (164 kW) (as the MR2 GT) and the USA at 200 hp (149 kW) (as the MR2 Turbo). Europeans had to settle for the naturally-aspirated 156 hp (116 kW) 3S-GE engine. The Japanese MR2 GT model was able to accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 5.6 s.
Keeping with the unique styling cues of the MK-I, the MK-II was offered with several choices of roof type for U.S. sale. Standard in the lineup was a hardtop coupe. Optionally the car could be ordered with either a T-top roof (commonly referred to as the T-bar option) or a moon roof option. The SW20's entry to the market was not quite as smooth as the AW11's. Toyota's goal was to make the car's suspension geometry work the same way that true supercars do. This made the SW20's cornering abilities quite excellent, but it was much too easy for an inexperienced driver to make a mistake, leading to sudden oversteer (also called "snap oversteer") which can result in a spin unless the driver reacts both quickly and correctly. This trait was not considered very desirable among the press, because the MR2, unlike expensive supercars, was priced so that even "average people" were able to buy one. Some magazines stated that the SW20 was downright dangerous to drive.
To respond to the feedback they had received, Toyota changed the 1993 model to include wider rear tires and changed the rear suspension, mainly the vehicle's height, shock absorbing properties and longer rear toe links, so that the car would be more consistent and less prone to "snap oversteer". Along with the suspension changes, the SW20 also got new 15" wheels to fit the larger brakes that were also introduced. Some shifting problems which affected the first revisions (1990-1991) were remedied with stronger dual synchronization rings.
The next big change occurred in 1994, when Japanese SW20s received some small new engine mods for each model and some considerable changes to its exterior. For Japanese market cars, the 3S-GTE switched to the use of a MAP-sensor (as opposed the Air Flow Meter (AFM)), in addition to the removal of T-VIS in favor of smaller intake ports, a lower compression ratio and a new Ceramic CT20b (1990-1993 had CT26 Ceramic Turbo Chargers) turbocharger running an increased turbo boost pressure increased the maximum power to 245 PS (180 kW). The normally aspirated 3S-GE received fewer changes but still improved its maximum power to 172 hp (128.3 kW). The US market still received the 200hp variant from 1991-1995. New round taillights and a color-coded center panel replaced the old square-shaped lights and the rear grille. The original three-piece rear spoiler was replaced with the lighter one-piece spoiler which attached only to the trunklid. The side stripes and skirts were also color coded, and the "dot matrix" pattern on the glass was replaced with a solid pattern. The steering wheel was also replaced with a slightly smaller model, now universally shared across many Toyota models (the "MR2" insignia was replaced with the Toyota symbol). 1995 was the last year Toyota sold the Mk II in North America. In 1996, the front and side signals were changed to use a clear lens but no other modifications were made. The 1998 model, known as the "Revision 5" model, came modern looking 5 spoke 15" alloy wheels, a more aggressive spoiler, and a leather shift knob with red style baseball stitching.
On the SW20's last production year in 1999, the car was updated with a few significant changes. While the turbocharged engine remained the same, in JDM models the normally aspirated 3S-GE engine was equipped with Toyota's VVT-i system which allowed the timing of the intake camshafts to be modified according to the engine's rotation speed and load. This, and some other changes improved the engine's power output to a respectable 198 PS (148 kW). All models also received new wheels, optional Recaro seats, and a three-way adjustable rear spoiler.
The SW20 has become a major collector's car since the 2003 Ultimate Street Car Challenge win of Brad Bedell and his yellow V6-powered MR2. The 1MZ-FE motor, that comes from the V6 powered Solara and Camry, has quickly become a popular modification as the expense of switching to the V6 motor is roughly in line with installing a turbocharged motor into a formerly naturally aspirated car.
First Generation/Origins (1985–1989)
The small and light MR2, code named AW11, was something no one had expected from any Japanese car manufacturer, known for their economical and practical cars. The two-seat MR2 was definitely not practical as a family car, but the design criteria were different from that of most previous cars. The most important feature of the AW11 was its light body (as low as 2,200 lb (998kg) in Japan and 2,350 lb (1066kg) in the US), superior handling and lightly powered, small-displacement engine. 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.
As a powerplant, Toyota chose to use the 4A-GE 1587 cc I4 engine with two overhead camshafts which allowed the use of 16 valves for a better gas flow through the combustion chamber. The engine was also equipped with a Bosch L-Jetronic type multi-point fuel injection and a variable intake geometry (T-VIS), giving the engine a maximum power output of 128 hp (95 kW). US engines were rated at 112 hp (84 kW), European engines at 124 hp (93 kW), Australian engines at 118 hp (88 kW) and Japanese engines at 130hp (97 kW). The engine had already been introduced earlier on the Toyota AE86, gathering a lot of positive publicity. This engine was the first mass-produced 4 valve/cylinder engine. There was also a JDM model AW10 which used the more economical 1452 cc 3A-U engine, but it didn't gain too much popularity.
For the 1986 model year, the AW11 went through several changes which affected both its looks and performance. The most important addition was probably having the option of a removable t-top, not available in the US until the next model year. The exterior was modified by color-coding the bumpers and side stripes, adding small side skirts and a translucent spoiler to the rear of the roof. Other new options included a leather interior and a four-speed automatic transmission. Some further changes were made to the exterior for 1987, such as new tail lights and wheels, but more notable were the addition of larger brakes and a heavier and stronger C52 transmission which replaced the older C50. The significance of the introduction of this newer transmission is readily apparent today, as the C50 is known to develop a fifth gear popout problem as it ages.
Also noteworthy is the lack of a rear anti-sway bar after 1985 (although the 1989 supercharged model was equipped with one again). Models with the rear bar are considered more valuable to those who enjoy racing. Retrofitting a car not sold with an OEM rear bar can be either simple or complex. Toyota reportedly continued manufacturing strut towers with the proper rear sway bar mounting tabs until well into the 1986 and possibly 1987 model years, but no actual numbers or cut-off dates are available.
In 1987, (1988 for the US market) Toyota brought a new choice for an engine for people longing for more power. Based on the same block and head, the 4A-GZE was equipped with a Toyota SC-12 roots-type supercharger and Denso top mount intercooler. The compression ratio, valve timing and ports were modified. The engine produced a maximum power of 145 hp (108 kW) and accelerated the small car from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62 mph) in 6.7 to 7.0s. In addition to the new engine, the MR2 SC was also equipped with stiffer stabilizer bars and reinforcements in the bodyshell to improve rigidity. Unfortunately, this model was never sold in European markets, although some cars were privately imported.
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 AW11 on their lists of ten best cars which included some tough competition, such as the Ferrari Testarossa. The Australian Wheels magazine chose the 1988 AW11 as its favourite sports car. The MR2 was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1985. In 2004, Sports Car International named the MR2 number eight on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1980s. The MR2 was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1986 and 1987. This vehicle was often referred to as a "Pocket Rocket". Silver models were often called "The Silver Bullet".
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Design quirks and oddities
- A first generation MR2 appeared in La Roux's music video In for the kill.
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