1997 Toyota MR2

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Years Represented: 1997

Class: Sports Car

Type: 2 seater sports coupe

Country: Japan ```````````````````````````````````````````` Host: GT3, GT5

Price: 27,130cr (GT3)

Construction: unitary steel, ladder frame
Length: 164.6 // Width:66.9 // Height 48.8
Wheelbase: 94.5
Overhang: 5ft 6 in
Track 57.9[F] 57.1 [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.3”
Curb Weight: 2800lbs
Weight Distribution
Tires: 195/55R15(f) 195/55R15(r)
Suspension: Macpherson struts, coil springs
Brakes: Vaccuum assisted vented discs
Layout: Mid Engine, Rear Drive

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Engine: 2.0 liter DOHC inline-4

Aspiration: Intercooled Turbo


Tested HP:                   239bhp @ 6700rpm GT3

Tested Torque: 214lb/ft @ 4000rpm GT3


Tested HP:                   243bhp @ 6,000 rpm GT5
Tstd Torque:                217lb/ft @ 4,000 rpm

GT5 Odometer: 11,000 miles


Idle speed: 800rpm
GT3 Redline: 6,750rpm

GT5 Redline: 8,000rpm


GT3 Credits / HP: 113.5

GT5 Credits / HP:

GT5 Pound / HP ratio: 11.52

GT5 HP/ liter: 121.5


````````````````GT3 ````````````
0-60 mph:         7.0 seconds
0-100:               15.9 seconds

mile:             15.0 seconds @ 91mph (152km/h)
1 KM:               27.1 seconds @ 119mph (200km/h)

Top Speed:       236km/h (146mph)

GT3 Top Speed at Redline
1st:       52km/h (32mph)
2nd:      88km/h (57mph)
3rd:      135km/h (84mph)
4th:       186km/h (115mph)
5th:      236km/h (146mph) @ 7250rpm

````````````````GT5 ````````````
0-60 mph:         6.8 seconds
0-100:               15.9 seconds

mile:             14.7 seconds @ 96mph (156km/h)
1 KM:               26.6 seconds @ 120mph (202km/h)

Top Speed:       257km/h (160mph)

GT5 Top Speed at Redline
1st:       62km/h (38mph)
2nd:      106km/h (65mph)
3rd:      163km/h (101mph)
4th:       225km/h (139mph)
5th:      257km/h (160mph) @ 7250rpm

SS Route 7: 6:47.167

Nurburgring Nordschliefe: 9:14.260


The MR2 GT-S is one of Gran Turismo’s more popular rides and one of a handful that has had the honour of being featured in every major instalment of Polyphony’s racing king. And ever since the first Gran Turismo hit the shelves, the MR2 GT-S has come to be regarded as one of the game’s most loved mid-engined sportscars.

First released in 1993, the MR2 was intended to carry over the rapidly ageing1st generation AW11 style into the 1990’s. Toyota’s designers penned a more curvaceous figure for the AW20, moving away from the angular creases of the origami theme that had been draughted almost 10 years earlier. However the inspiration and final product was lauded by some as being nothing more than a deliberate copy of Ferrari’s stylish 348.

The similarities between the two are obvious and precisely what you’d expect if you were paying for a home-made kit-car of Ferrari’s finest. Toyota’s designers evidently didn’t mask their admiration for the Prancing Horse and whilst they would never quite shake the copy-cat perception, it didn’t really matter because generic designs were turning up everywhere in the 1990s and “bland” was the buzz word of the day.

I say that hesitantly, because after all, there certain constraints around designing a two seater sports car. The mandate of a mid-mounted engine, tight cabin and minimal frontal area immediately put a certain boundary around a designer’s possibilities. The fact that the MR2 went down the commonly tried (and some say outdated) path of pop-up headlights and flat-deck engine cover with flying buttresses either side of the cabin meant that much of the existing styling was already dictated.

Is it handsome? It seems hardly the right word. Whilst many would agree that the MR2 isn’t a bad-looking machine, it comes across as pretty and delicate, rather than brutal or muscular. The rear wing looks a decidedly tacky, the rear end is uninspired and the overall ride height and stance is nothing to drool over. Thank heavens for the 15” tyre and wheel combo as earlier models had even less-impressive 14” flat-spoked items that looked like parts-bin spares from the Celica. And the MR2 just doesn’t score it’s wheels from the Toyota catalogue, even the engineers skimped on other parts.

ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN-------------------------

Celica? You guessed it. Yes indeed, the MR2 has the same 2.0 litre powerplant as featured in the Toyota Celica, albeit mounted in a vastly different place and to a very different transmission and driveline. But the GT-S gets the very best of the 3S-GTE powerplant, the same turbocharged item that was featured only on the rally-bred Celica GT-Four and as a result shares similar performance. That’s good enough to see the MR-2 GT-S to 60mph in under 7 seconds and onto 100mph in under 16 – certainly not the kind of thing you sneeze at. But whilst sprint times can be replicated, the driveline and gear ratios from various incarnations throughout the GT series differs quite alarmingly.

In GT3, the gear ratios are incredibly short and you’ll have the MR-2 bouncing off the rev-limiter in fifth gear at only 146mph. I got the impression that PD didn’t model the gear ratios correctly and merely ported over the same gearbox as found in the Celica GT-Four. Given enough room, the GT-S felt like it was capable of near enough to 160mph stock.

In GT5, the five speed transmission is nicely spaced, with 5th being the shortest, but 2nd being where all the explosive acceleration really happens. 3rd and 4th are where you’ll spend most of your time out on the circuit and each offer a chance to use the broad band of torque that’s on offer. There really isn’t any need for modifications either, as the ratios will allow the MR2 to head heady speeds of 160mph which is more than adequate for anything but the fastest of circuits and the longest of straights.

But there are of course those among us who simply aren’t satisfied with factory power and when the nearest rival to the MR-2 is generally Honda’s sublime NSX, you really need to start pushing the boundaries of that 3S-GTE powerplant. And the differences here between certain incarnations in each game are also just as startling.

In GT3, you can extract upwards of 500hp plus, from the engine, which is quite frankly, overkill in a car that handles like it does in factory trim. 3 stages of turbo tuning available mean that doubling the output of the 239bhp 2.0 litre engine is a breeze, and with that sort of horsepower, well you’re looking at needing a full custom gearbox, as 200mph is within easy reach with this sort of grunt. It goes without saying that the rest of the driveline, suspension and tyres will need similar modifications too.

Come Gran Turismo 5 though and the MR-2’s performance ceiling is barely 400bhp at full trot with a Stage 3 turbo kit. This seems to be a more realistic limit for the 2.0 litre engine without going too deep into serious race-prepped territory. Let’s face it, the engine bay is tight and cramped - massive intercoolers and dinner-plate turbos with tuned length exhaust manifolds are simply not possible without some major structural changes, although I once knew a gentleman who had a 420bhp MR-2.. needless to say it ended up wrapped around a tree in southern England about two years ago after he sold it to a chap with more money than sense. And nowhere near the driving skill required to handle such a beast!

Overall, the GT-S exhibits the sort of engine performance envelope that easily puts it on par with a similar era Honda NSX, which is all the more impressive given the Honda’s “supercar” status. I daresay that the handling differences between the Toyota and the NSX won’t be anywhere near as comparable, but for those who are speed demons, the MR-2 has plenty under the bonnet and room to move.

CHASSIS / HANDLING---------------------------

Toyota engineers had to work hard on the 2nd generation MR-2 after critics lambasted the tricky handling of the first model. The oversteer in the AW11 was enough to have contemporary motoring publications push the Toyota towards the same corner that was reserved for dangerous machines like the Porsche 911 Turbo. Even though the two cars were literally poles apart, the journalists found the snap-oversteer to be an unwelcome tarnish on what was otherwise a stellar effort.

Toyota couldn’t afford to carry over the same perceptions if they wanted the 2nd generation AW20 to succeed, and unfortunately, try hard as they might, early models hit the market in 1993 with the same razor-sharp steering and touchy handling characteristics.

By 1997 however, changes to suspension and tyres had largely dialled out the oversteer issue and the critics had found favour with the more benign handling, labelling it one of the best sports cars available for under $50,000. And whilst they still had issues with the overly powerful GT-S and its traction-breaking torque, the general consensus was that finally the MR-2 had come of age and was a driver’s car and not a racers rocket.

GT3: For most experienced GT veterans, the MR-2 will most likely have been their first mid-engined car, after having moved through the ranks of front wheel, rear-wheel and four-wheel drive machines. And after having spent so long with the reassurance of an engine mounted forwards of the driver, the experience of having it behind the driver is initially a scary one. The steering response is so much quicker, the grip coming out of corners and the general way a mid-engined car dances around a circuit means that you really have to step your game up and quicken those reflexes. One criticism of Gran Turismo 3 was that the steering feel on the physics model felt delayed and vague and this translates into a certain bluntness on the MR-2 that does away with sharp feedback. Considering just how toey the Toyota is, that’s no bad thing and actually helps to be able to push the car very hard into corners without fear of overcooking it.

Don’t be too fooled by it though as the rear end is prone to getting away from even the best of drivers through the long switchbacks and S-bends of various circuits! And once its gone, it’s very hard to get back, especially on Simulation tyres as the car was tested. But GT3 was where the MR2 was at the height of its popularity and the physics engine makes the Toyota feel much more natural and much more at home, sliding behind the wheel here is like being reacquainted with an old friend.

GT5: To be fair, the MR2 these days is no longer the mid-engined cult hero it once was. Which is inevitable given a game that features over 1000 cars, most drivers having moved on to the likes of Ferraris and Lamborghinis and leaving Toyotas once-loved sports car rotting in a barn like a ’75 Ford Falcon. But does it still have that grin-factor that we all once knew and loved?

In short, the answer is mixed. The engine doesn’t seem at all lusty like it once was, the soundrack emanating from the exhaust pipes is about as exciting as everything else Toyota builds these days. The engine will happily detonate at 8,000rpm but you really need to be shifting up gears well before 7,000rpm in order to keep the torque on tap as peak horsepower is reached as early as 6,000rpm and from here it’s all downhill.

On comfort hard tyres, the GT-S is a nightmare of oversteer and opposite lock, it feels tremendously back-heavy and instills the driver with all the confidence of a wild-donkey. The engine will happily fry up the rear tyres coming out of hairpins and the Toyota will gladly spit you sideways if you decide to jump off the gas at the apex of a corner. Gone is the cornering advantage that the MR2 had in previous games and in order to bring it back, you have to tack some decent rubber on the rear and dial on a touch of ABS and perhaps even traction control if you’re a bit of a lead-foot.

But don’t doubt that the MR2 is a quick car in the right hands – even with only 240bhp it’ll happily outrun a late model Mustang V8 GT around the Nurburgring. In the hands of the truly skilled, a sub 9 minute time on Comfort Hard tyres is possible, although this part-time scribe could only manage a low 9’14. The light chassis and excellent engine makes the MR2 GT-S a proper track warrior, providing you can handle the tricky mid-engine characteristics.


1). Excellent turbocharged 2.0 litre engine, mounted where it counts.

2). Fantastic top speed of 160mph stock in GT5.

3). Cheap and affordable entry point into the mid-engined ranks.

4). Broad performance envelope for those who love to modify.

5). Very quick off the line – a drag racer’s delight.

6). Can easily dice with the 300bhp class.

7). Feels planted and comfortable in GT3 – a few hot laps and you’re ready to start knocking some serious socks off, especially at the B-class performance level.


1). Oversteer and opposite lock – there’s simply too much of it to ever be comfortable with and the short wheelbase and torque-surge don’t help.

2). The looks – Toyota never quite pulled it off and made the MR2 styling too generic and too bland. And it’s feminine too, but a bit too much like a girl with no makeup.

3). Dismal orange-juice exhaust note – lacks the deeper bass of the GT-Four.

4). Charm – the MR2 doesn’t really have any. There’s no longer any aura or allure around it like there once was. The NSX and Elise are still feared machines, the MR2 is now a boy’s plaything.

5). Colours! There’s not enough of them! The purple and orange are the highlights, but why didn’t PD give us the yellow?

6). The chassis limits are reached very quickly with just a few engine upgrades – a fully worked MR2 is just as tricky as a factory one on the racing track.

7). Torque and power peak too early and taper off rapidly after 7,000rpm.

8). Pathetic top speed of only 146mph in GT3.


Published: November 25, 2011