1 Mar 1990
By CHRIS HARRIS
TOYOTA’S second generation MR2 was a completely different car to its classic 1984-vintage predecessor, despite sharing the “Midship Runabout 2-seater” badge.
Sure, the engine was slung behind the two occupants, driving the rear wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. But there is where the similarities ended.
Toyota, flushed with cash during the boom-boom 1980s, decided to develop a “mini-Ferrari” with its exotic little sports car.
The result, though, was more thrilling than Toyota had perhaps hoped for.
Early (1990-’92) MR2s displayed a frightening tendency to snap-oversteer midway through corners, whether there was sudden lift-off of the throttle or not.
Subsequently Toyota worked hard to rectify the problem with constant suspension and steering revisions, but the car’s reputation had stuck fast by then.
And despite its stunning looks, it was also let down by an entry price that had marched beyond $60,000 by the end of its life.
Initially there was the single MR2 Coupe, complete with its removable roof panels, anti-lock brakes, fog lights, power windows, central locking and other goodies.
It was powered by a mid-mounted, 2.0-litre, twin-cam, 16-valve four-cylinder engine producing 125kW of power and 186Nm of torque.
From March ’94 the model was split into two – the MR2 Bathurst (minus the ABS and fog lights) and MR2 GT – adding leather trim and a price escalating past $60,000.
As the car priced itself out of the market, sales ground to a near halt, forcing Toyota to withdraw the car from sale in late 1999, until the third-generation model appeared a year later.