An Unlikely Partner Could Help Toyota Revive the MR2
First it was Subaru, then it was BMW, so who’s next?by Robert Moore, on
The Toyota MR2 was a legendary mid-engined compact sports car that instantly developed a cult following thanks to its impeccable design, mid-engined layout, and overall driving dynamics. Auto enthusiasts everywhere shed a tear when Toyota discontinued the compact sports car back in 2007 after three generations and 23 years on the market. As was the case with the Toyota Supra, old-school fanboys have been scratching at the door begging Toyota to bring back the MR2. It worked for the Supra, it worked for the 86, but can it work for the MR2 as well?
When the 2020 Toyota Supra launched, Tetsuya Tada made it clear that he wanted the “three brothers” back in the Toyota family once again. We have two, and we’re waiting on a third; the MR2, of course. Much like the Toyota 86 (twined with the Subaru BRZ) and the Toyota Supra (twined with the BMW Z4), Toyota can’t justify building another sports car on its own. The Japanese brand needs to branch out and partner up yet again. Tada has someone very unlikely in mind.
Supra Chief Engineer Tetsuya Tada Has an MR2 Partner in Mind – But It’s Not That Simple
Auto Industriya took part in a press event for the 2020 Toyota Supra this week and had the chance to interview none other than Tetsuya Tada – the Chief Engineer of the new Toyota Supra.
If you happened to stumble into the interview at just the right time, you would have heard Tada blurt out “Porsche!”
A very strange thing for a man from Toyota to blurt out, that’s for sure.
You probably wouldn’t know it at the time, but that was his answer to the question:
“You worked with Subaru to revive the 86, and with BMW to revive the Supra. Who do you want to work with to revive the MR2?"
Toyota and Porsche working together? Jesus Christ; I’m not sure what to think about it. In my mind, I imagine Porsche Purists having brain aneurysms left and right, dropping like flies, while Toyota fanboys hit every MR2 forum on the internet, gossiping like 13-year-old school girls with a crush on the varsity quarterback.
Those thoughts aside, it’s not as outlandish as you might think.
First off, Toyota partnered with Subaru for the 86 and BMW for the Supra, so we know the brand doesn’t have an issue with playing nice.
Porsche, on the other hand, could be a different story. Both BMW and Subaru had room for another sports car in their lineup, but what about Porsche? Does it make sense from a business standpoint for Porsche to develop another sports car that would sit below the $57,000 718 or above the $91,000 911? That’s a damn good question!
The Next-Gen MR2 Won’t Be Small, so It Has to be Big, Right?
Toyota has said on numerous occasions that it doesn’t want a car that sits below the 86 in terms of size or price. That’s completely understandable as we’re talking about penny profits at best. The problem is that the MR2 was always a compact, mid-engined sports car. Toyota did a good job at keeping the 86 and Supra in line with the models that came before them – hell it’s probably why the Supra is only available stateside with the inline-six. All we think about when we think Supra is 2JZ, so a four-banger in the new Supra just won’t cut it with us. Sorry, I’m not sorry; it’s true.
But, If the Mr2 name is to be revived, something needs to change, so it’s likely that the next-gen MR2 will be larger than both the Supra and the 86.
Will it be more powerful? Maybe; but that really depends on what happens going forward.
At the Paris Motor Show back in 2018, Toyota’s European VP of Sales and Marketing suggested that the next-gen MR2 could be an all-electric sports car. If that’s the case, then it really doesn’t have to be bigger than the Supra, but it could be more powerful and still stand on its own four wheels as an EV MR2 will appeal to a different base, even if it’s nearly identical in size to the Supra. At the same time, however, that dilutes the MR2’s heritage because you lose the whole mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration.
The Next-Gen Toyota MR2 Could Be a Mid-Motored, RWD EV
Now, I know that you just think I’m talking crazy at this point, but could a mid-motored, RWD MR2 be a real possibility? Well, placing the weight of the motor behind the rear seats could help preserve that mid-engined driving dynamic that made the compact MR2 popular in the first place. Thanks to the convenience of battery placement, weight distribution can be managed otherwise in that way to fine-tune the center of gravity and overall driving dynamic. There are a couple of tricks that Toyota will have to pull off to make it work, though. First; I suspect that to maintain proper distribution of weight, the motor would have to be positioned in a longitudinal layout with the output shaft facing the rear of the car. This would keep the bulk of the motor’s weight in the middle-rear of the chassis.
This means, however, that Toyota needs to figure out how to change the direction of torque, much like we do today with a differential.
This isn’t impossible, and it could even be done with some kind of two-or-three speed transmission. It’s a strange idea, but not impossible – it’s just not common with EVs quite yet.
What if the Next-Gen MR2 is Twined with a Porsche 911 EV?
I bet a few people just spit out their morning coffee reading that line. Sorry about that, but think about this for a moment. The problem with Toyota building an all-electric MR2 boils down to the fact that it will need to develop an all-new battery, all-new motor, and all-new chassis to support it. If the guys over at Toyota did their homework, then maybe the Supra’s chassis could be adapted but who knows if that’s really the case?
Porsche is elbow deep in EV tech right now. The all-electric Taycan is on the way, and we’re sure an Electric SUV will be coming along soon enough (hello, Macan EV.) So, what if Porsche and Toyota did partner up? Well, I have a unique idea. Porsche will, undoubtedly, sell the 911 as an EV at some point. What if the two companies worked together to build and MR2\911 bastard child?
It would serve the interests of both companies, and it would – potentially – streamline the process and save both companies a truckload of money in R&D as opposed to going it alone.
But, will the brand – and more importantly, the purists – see such a partnership as diluting the Porsche or 911 name? That’s an important question to answer, but if you know any Porsche fanboys, I think you already know what the answer is.
What if the MR2 Wasn’t Electric but Still Built on a 911 Chassis?
If Porsche and Toyota really do partner up, things could be a little different compared to what we saw with Toyota’s Subaru and BMW love affairs.
Porsche doesn’t really need a new sports car, and even if it did, I believe that chances of the company teaming up with Toyota are pretty slim – I’m not sure there’s much that Toyota could really offer the company. Toyota could, however, cut a deal to use the current 911 chassis. That would cut down on some R&D for Toyota and would still allow the company to build its own two-seater cab around Porsche’s chassis. But, the 911 is also rear-engined, and it would be best if Toyota stuck with a mid-engine configuration for the MR2 – that’s what made it popular, and that’s why we still want one to this day.
If Toyota and Porsche Partner Up, Toyota Will be the Big Winner
If history tells us anything, it’s that Toyota will bring very little to the party in terms of Mechanics. The Toyota 86, for example, is powered by a Subaru engine. It also has a lot of Subaru mechanicals under the skin. The Toyota Supra has BMW’s inline-six nestled under its hood and even has some outdated BMW switches on the inside. Do you see a trend here? Let me make it clear just in case:
If Porsche and Toyota do partner up, the next-gen MR2 will, undoubtedly, come with a lot of Porsche DNA.
It will probably have a Porsche engine and a Porsche Chassis. The body will be all Toyota, as will the engine tuning, but everything else will probably feature a Porsche stamp somewhere. This isn’t a bad thing, but it still raises a question as to what Porsche can get out of the deal. It still doesn’t need another sports car, and I’m not sure Porsche needs a mid-engined car that slots between the 718 and 911. It’s not outside the realm of possibility, though.
Toyota and Porsche partnering up…. I’m curious as to what Porsche thinks about the idea, so I decided to reach out to the company’s PR department to see what they have to say on the matter. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from them yet. Something tells me it will never happen. It would certainly be interesting if it did, and I’d certainly be interested in seeing how it handles. For now, however, you can probably place your bets on the MR2 being the fruit of a collaboration with anyone but Porsche. Maybe Subaru will come in again, or maybe BMW will step up. If the latter happens, perhaps the next-gen i8 (or whatever its successor will be called) could be paired up with the next-gen Toyota MR2. That’s probably a more likely scenario in my book, but only time will tell.
Images by Esa Mustonen via Behance
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Toyota MR2.
Read our full review on the 2002 Toyota MR2.