Toyota Supra Chief Engineer Hints All-New Sports Car Could Be Mid-Engined, Developed In-House
Tetsuya Tada reveals his project wish-list for Toyota’s third sports car, which many believe will be a new MR2.
Tetsuya Tada, the chief engineer on the all-new Toyota GR Supra, is the automaker's biggest advocate for reviving the fabled three-model "three brothers" sports car lineup. With the GR Supra newly on the market and the 86 rumored to be due for refresh or replacement in the next few years, all eyes are on the mysterious third and undecided entry. According to a recent interview with Australia's Go Auto, Tada hinted that the all-new sports car could be mid-engined.
"Fortunately, I have made two FR [front-engine, rear-wheel-drive] sports cars already," he said in reference to the 86 and GR Supra to Go Auto. "I was really lucky to make two. But a third sports car? Mid-ship, maybe."
Mid-ship is common slang for the mid-engined layout in Japan, referring to how the engine is mounted amidships; inside the wheelbase. The last road-going Toyota to use this layout was the MR2, historically a member of the "three brothers" trifecta, which in its prime included the Celica, MR2, and Supra. Tada has previously stated that the third member of its sports car triumvirate won't undercut the already Celica-esque 86, suggesting that Toyota's next sports car could be more MR2-like in nature, but Tada couldn't guarantee that the nameplate itself would return for this model.
Tada also expressed a desire to keep the development of this sports car in-house if possible, unlike Toyota's two current sporting models, as the 86 was developed jointly with Subaru and the GR Supra with BMW.
"It's much less stress if I can make it with just Toyota and not with another company," Tada continued. He warned, however, that an exclusively Toyota-developed, small-market sports car could fall short of lofty expectations due to technological constraints, using smartphones as an analogy.
"It's not just sports cars. If you make something in-house, you can't actually make anything exciting. For instance, smartphones. For every company, the best technology [from other companies] is integrated in there and that's the excitement. It's the same for cars. If you want to make something exciting and suited to each era, you have to find which company has the best technology and generate new value."
The MR2 was historically a more niche product that the Celica was, or the 86 and GR Supra are, with their larger followings. Considering that even these models required outside aid to reboot, it stands to reason that any potential MR2 will likely result from cooperation with a third party. In a separate instance, Tada told Auto Industriya that his ideal partner for an MR2 revival would be Porsche, though this was seemingly a tongue-in-cheek comment. He concluded his Go Auto interview by throwing a curveball at MR2 speculators by suggesting collaboration with a company that doesn't produce cars to be an equal possibility.
"It maybe doesn't have to be a car manufacturer. It could be Google, Microsoft, Panasonic. It could be from a different industry. Nobody will know."
Though likely inconsequential, Tada's mention of Panasonic is curious given statements from Toyota officials that confirmed the MR2's revival was in consideration, potentially in the form of an electric sports car. Toyota is already affiliated to some degree with Panasonic, one of the world's largest electric vehicle battery suppliers, suggesting that an electric MR2 successor may not be as far-fetched as some may think, though don't hold your breath for such a car. In the end, Toyota remains wishy-washy on the final member of its sports car trinity.