How the Toyota MR2 can make a comeback
Thursday 13th May, 2021 - 7:00am
Toyota is determined not only to be the world’s biggest car company, but also one of the most exciting. Under Akio Toyoda’s leadership the brand has revived the 86 and Supra as well as creating the Gazoo Racing brand for both racing and performance road cars.
But something’s missing.
Toyoda has mentioned several times in interviews his goal of bringing back Toyota’s “three brothers” from the 1980s and ‘90s – the Supra, Celica/86 and MR2. With the first two back in showrooms the final piece of the puzzle is the MR2, and as our illustration (by designer Rain Prisk) shows it would make a stunning addition to the Japanese giant’s line-up.
But how could a brand, even one as big as Toyota, justify a business case for a mid-engine sports car? Simple, make it electric and find a partner – just like the brand has done for the 86 (Subaru) and Supra (BMW).
There’s not only one partner that could not only make an electric MR2 a reality, but two – Porsche and Lotus.
Sound far-fetched? Well, Porsche has made several thinly-veiled comments that the next-generation 718 Boxster/Cayman model may switch to electric power. In a 2019 interview at the launch of the Supra, Toyota’s chief engineer of the Supra and 86, Tetsuya Tada, was quoted by Autoindustriya.com saying Porsche would be his ideal partner for an MR2 project. It’s not clear if he was being serious or flippant, but if the German brand does switch to electrification for the next-gen 718, having a partner to share development costs would be mutually-beneficial.
The same is true of the second potential partner for Toyota, British brand Lotus. Under the leadership of Chinese owner Geely, Lotus has embarked on an ambitious plan to reinvent itself as a premium brand with a range of electric sports cars.
As we wrote recently, Lotus is already working with Renault’s Alpine brand to create a new electric model that will replace the Lotus Exige and Alpine A110. This would be an ideal basis for a re-born electric MR2, and allow the three companies to create even greater economies-of-scale. Lotus and Toyota already have history, with the Exige and Evora using a Toyota V6 engine.
And if Toyota would like to build a petrol-powered MR2, Lotus is reportedly happy to take on partners for its new Emira sports car; which like the Exige and Evora is tipped to use a Toyota engine. It’s almost ready-made for Toyota if the company is serious about reviving another dormant sports car.
“If the right project and the right partner came along, I do not see why not. It’s a wonderful car,” Matt Windle recently told Automotive News Europe.
Toyota hasn’t made any official comment on the MR2 since 2019, so there’s no guarantee Toyoda will get his three brothers. Even if he does it could take time, regardless of who Toyota partners with – or if it decides to go it alone – it would likely take until the middle of the decade for the MR2 to hit the road. Cross your fingers, JDM fans.