Classic Sports Car
Buyer’s guide Toyota MR2 Mk2
The most exotic of the best-selling MR2 range is now being recognised as a rising classic
Light, lively and fun in an edgy kind of way, the Mk1 MR2 gained a strong following, but Toyota made the Mk2 (the SW20 series) more grown-up. It was larger and comfier inside, with more power and more weight. With Ferrari-esque styling, it was still a real sports car that, in GT form, showed a clean pair of heels to most hot hatches of the time and had few direct rivals. The slower, lower-powered entry model wouldn’t last long and the optional automatic is rare.
Mid-engined sports cars come with a health warning, though: in inexperienced hands, particularly in damp, slippery conditions, they can catch out the unwary and manufacturers have to balance sharp, sporty handling with reducing the tendency to swap ends. The Mk2 was progressively improved through production so the last ones look the best bet – especially because they have 15bhp more than the original GT. However, that extra power was higher in the rev range and peak torque was both lower and delivered higher up, too. The result was a car that, if Autocar’s test figures are to be believed, was actually less capable than before and required more effort and gearchanges to give its best. Was that a deliberate move, reducing torque and moving peak power further up the rev range so that only press-on drivers would discover it? Of course it was…
In Japan, a turbocharged MR2 was popular, with 221bhp at first, rising to 242bhp in 1993. The turbo was also sold in the USA, albeit with an emissions-checked 201bhp. Quite a few JDM turbos have made it to the UK (badged GT or GT-S) and are enormous fun, with 150mph and 0-60mph in 5.5 secs, though they need careful checking for signs of abuse and past accident damage. Japanese imports of all versions are common and generally cheaper: they can be a good option if well maintained, but finding correct parts, with different specs, can be tricky.
Modifications are so popular – body, wheels, exhaust, engine, suspension and more – that it was hard to find an unmodified car for our pictures, so every car you look at is likely to be different. Make sure any mods are to your taste and well executed, or easily reversed – and that they haven’t placed excess strain on other parts. Mechanically, the cars are durable – rust is what usually sends them to the scrapyard so, with values increasing, beware bodged repairs.