• A Toyota MR2 Really Is On the Track With a McLaren And It’s Not Out of Place

Some cars age like wine while others add turbochargers

There once was a time when the Toyota MR2 was one of the darlings of the sports car world. That “time” occurred 30 years ago, but who’s counting, right? The MR2 still maintains a cult-like fanbase to this day, and one of those acolytes, a British-based man named Carl, decided to take former Top Gear host Rory Reid up on the latter’s offer to race his MR2 with a McLaren 540C that will be driven by Reid himself.

So, why is this race interesting? Well, the MR2 still carries the 3S-GTE engine, but it’s not producing just 200 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque.

The Toyota MR2 still looks like the second-generation MR2 that was one of the most popular Japanese sports car of the 1990s. Nothing much about it has changed it, either. It’s still powered by the legendary 3S-GTE four-cylinder engine. Power is still sent to the two rear wheels courtesy of a manual transmission. But just as it looks the same, it’s also different in one significant way: it’s packing a turbocharger the size of Montana that helps the four-banger engine produce an incredible 610 horsepower. That’s almost 80 horsepower more than the modern-day McLaren 540C that it’s racing against.

A Toyota MR2 Really Is On the Track With a McLaren And It's Not Out of Place
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Now, power isn’t everything, especially in drag races. Technology plays a critical role, too, specifically when it comes to getting off the line quicker and smoother than the opponent. This is where the 540C has the leg-up with its ability to tap into a launch control system. Its 533-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 engine is also mated to a quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission that changes gears far more smoothly than any manual gearbox is capable of. So does the McLaren 540C’s modern-day advantages have enough to carry the British supercar to the finish line against a heavily tuned Toyota MR2?

A Toyota MR2 Really Is On the Track With a McLaren And It's Not Out of Place
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Rory and Carl partook in a series of races and the results were expected, though not for the car that you’re probably thinking about now. No spoilers here, though. Watch the video to find out if this juiced-up Toyota MR2 is capable of going throwback on the McLaren 540C and all of its modern-day gadgetry.

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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