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Why the 400-HP Toyota MR2 Revival Rumors Are Just Wishful Thinking

It'd be great, but let's get real.

Toyota has been seeking for years now to complete its “Three Brothers” sports car lineup with a model between the 86 and Supra, and it has all but counted out the Celica. In other words, we can only be in line for something like the mid-engined MR2, whose long-rumored revival may finally be underway according to Japanese media.

Spyder7, which foretold of a flagship performance Lexus SUV months before American media, reports the development of a mid-engined successor to the MR2 is underway. This revived sports car is allegedly styled after the Toyota Alessandro Volta concept shown here, which debuted in 2004 as a proposal for a hybrid supercar. Twenty years on, in 2024, its design will reportedly see the light of day again, and at a price below the equivalent of $52,550. That’d make it several grand cheaper than either a Chevrolet Corvette or Porsche 718, though it’d still be several thousand costlier than what a 1995 Toyota MR2 Turbo with T-tops cost, adjusted for inflation.

2004 Toyota Alessandro Volta concept, Toyota via NetCarShow

Rough translation makes it unclear whether Spyder7 claims to know the new MR2’s technical makeup, or if it’s merely speculating, as it commonly does when reporting on future models. Use of the word “expected,” however, conveys confidence that power would come from a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, headed by a 2.8- or 3.0-liter V6, and with a peak system output of 345 to 394 horsepower. Like that of the 86 and Supra, it would supposedly occupy a chassis said to be co-developed with another carmaker, with Lotus and Porsche reportedly making up the most “promising” candidates.

Though Toyota stated in 2018 that an electrified MR2 was in “discussion,” this is the only detail of this purported sports car that currently appears feasible. Toyota produces no V6s in either of the specified displacements at this time, and developing a whole new V6 for the MR2 would be a departure from the MR2’s parts-bin roots. On top of this, Toyota doesn’t really have any appropriate transaxles for a performance car, only the longitudinal box used in the (very German) Supra, and the lame eight-speed that lets down the Camry TRD. As for the Porsche link, it’s not completely infeasible, as the Supra’s chief engineer Tetsuya Tada has previously stated he’d prefer Porsche as an MR2 partner over any other automaker.

Tada’s comment, though, seemed to be tongue-in-cheek, and can’t be taken as evidence of a Porsche linkup. More significantly, Toyota Europe executives told Autocar in February 2020 that the MR2 was “not a priority.” A hell of a lot has happened since to dampen the business case for a new sports car, especially one said to use a new V6, and in all likelihood require a new transmission too. Altogether, the case for the MR2 coming back seems as weak as ever, so with Toyota finally leaning into electrification, we may have already seen the last of the breed of affordable mid-engined sports cars.

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