A Sports Car for the Eighties
The Toyota MR-2 has been a tantalising prospect for some time. First we heard news from markets where it had been launched, and the news was good. Then we were able to see it at the NEC, and most of us liked what we saw. In January I was able to drive it in Portugal, and two to three hours at the wheel confirmed all the reports and earlier Impressions. Toyota has built an extraordinary motor, car, the car MG or Triumph should have been allowed to build.
This will be a brief report for we hope to have one for a full test shortly, though it will probably cause strife in the office as everyone clamours to drive it.
Toyota’s 1,587 cc dohc 16-valve 4A-GE engine is mounted transversely amidships and is mated to a 5-speed gearbox. The same set-up is used in the fwd Corolla GT about which I wrote enthusiastically last month. The engine is remarkable for its smoothness and the way it revs freely up to 7,600 rpm, giving maximum power (122 bhp) at 6,600 rpm and 105 lb/ft torque at 5,000 rpm. The gearbox is crisp, light and positive and in combination the two units are exhilarating.
Only one level of specification will be sold in Britain and for £9,295 a buyer receives every option which can be put on the car, a detachable glass sunroof, electrically operated windows, central door locking, alloy wheels and a good quality radio / cassette player.
As with all mid-engined cars, storage Space is restricted. Much of the front space is occupied by the spare wheel though it is possible to add items such as overcoats and a few small packages. There is no space behind the seats but there are generous cubbyholes in the doors and a rear boot behind the engine will take two small suitcases. If packing for a holiday for two, careful thought is therefore needed.
Though it is a small car, entry is easy through the wide doors. Seated at the wheel, everything feels right: the seats, the style of trim, and the way in which the controls are set out, for nobody designs a better dashboard than Toyota.
The first thing which strikes one when on she move is the grip under take-off. I drove at over cobbles, and worse, and the car coped admirably under all conditions. Handling and ride were exceptional and road and wind noise low, though engine noise could be irritating at high revs.
Braking (discs all round, ventilated at the front) is excellent, as is the steering which communicates with a driver. Conditions did not allow adventurous exploration of road-holding, but the impression the car gave was that it was having fun with the driver and would forgive any indiscretions.
It was not possible to take accurate performance figures, but a top speed of 122 mph seems about right along with 0-60 mph in around eight seconds. Economy in the region of 30 mpg overall with a higher figure, say around 35 mpg on a long run, would seem to be about the mark.
With no fewer than four bulkheads, the MR-2 has been designed with strength, safety and rigidity in mind, and these virtues are conveyed to the driver in the way the car feels solid under all conditions.
Leaving aside the admittedly restricted carrying capacity, inherent with a small mid-engined coupe, and accepting that my experience of it was on a launch and not living with it for some time under workaday conditions, I feel that the MR-2 is well nigh faultless. — M.L.