The Toyota MR2 was one of those rare Japanese cars that evolved constantly throughout its life. There were five distinct revisions, called Type I through Type V, made to hone the small mid-engined runabout into a better driver’s car. We in North America missed out on the final two, but the last variant we got was still incredibly good.
Pre-1993 second-generation MR2s were criticized for being prone to snap-oversteer, the phenomenon when drivers lift off the throttle in response to too-high entry speeds. That transfers weight to the front, and in mid-turn in a mid-engine car, with the mass of the motor behind the cabin, it can have Code Brown results.
It’s a newbie error, but the criticism was enough for Toyota to redesign the suspension geometry and beef up the rigidity for model year 1993. That part is well-documented, but according to Motorweek in 1994 that suspension geometry was tweaked even further with new valving on the shocks and the steering feel improved. That would make this Type 3.5 MR2 the ultimate SW20 offered in the US.
They had nothing but good words for the 200 hp, 200 lb-ft 3S-GTE and 5-speed manual, which launched the MR2 Turbo from 0-60 in 6.6 seconds. The only knock on the car was its price tag, $22,538 for the naturally aspirated version and $27,588 for the Turbo. Adjusted for inflation, that forced induction 2.0-liter would sell for $48,961 today.
For comparison, a four-cylinder Zupr4 starts at $42,990 and a six-cylinder one at $50,990. However, that may say less about the MR2’s costliness and more about how affordable cars like the Toyota 86 are. A $27,000 86 would have cost under $15,250 in 1994.
In any case, it was a mid-engined sports car that you didn’t need a second mortgage to buy. With the internal combustion engine on its way out and electric vehicles all built on skateboards, engine layout has lost all meaning. It’s probably safe to say there won’t be another car like the SW20 ever again.