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Thoughts on MR2

25 September 2012
Markham, Ontario, Canada

I would like to know your thoughts on the Toyota MR2 of all generations, but more specifially for the Mk1 and Mk2 for financial reasons.

I ultimately would like to purchase an NSX at some point in time (sooner the better) however, I will be graduating univerisity soon and will likely not have the financials to aquire and treat the NSX the way I want/the way it should. Essentially, I think it would be a good idea to "warm up" on an MR2, get a feel for the midship layout, and basically learn how to work on a mid-engine bay.

I am curious to hear your opinions!


I have owned both as my signature indicates. You can't go wrong with either. I liked the body style of the MK2 better, looks like a mini NSX. But I put 220K miles on the my MK1 and it was still running great at the time I sold it to get the MK2. I only sold my MK2 because of an argument with the wife after getting my 4Runner but that led me on the path to my dream car, the NSX. Pm me if you want more details.
I had a 91 (Mk2) MR2 for a couple years before I got my NSX. I really liked it, and it's definitely what gave me mid-engine fever. In many respects, it's like a 2/3 scale NSX.
I have owned both a couple of aw11 and sw20 before. They are great fun but not that good of a car to work on... space is tight on these things. Unfortunately however, the driving experience of the both those mr2's is definately not similar to that of the NSX. Even after some basic enthusiastic suspsension upgrades (bushings, sway bars, chassis enforcements, springs and shocks...etc, didn't wanted to spend more on coilovers because its just not good value compared to what the car is worth), those car feel much more sloppy and soft on the road and track. Completely different than the NSX.

On the track or autox, the softness translate to less control and feel in the corners which can result in an even snappier oversteer (which is scary when you experience it for the first time xD) and trying to correct it is rather impossible - extremely difficult (don't have the reaction time of f1 drivers :rolleyes:).

All in all though, I say get one. If is by far one of the most reliable little car and is a TON of fun regardless. Just don't push it too hard towards its limites then you'll be fine. Make sure if you can get a supercharged/turbo'ed version if you can afford it. Also, the aw11 tends to rust quite easily, make sure you don't buy one that has too severe of a rust or it will be a PITA to fix it (if its fixable at all).

Good Luck! :wink:
I've owned 3 MK2's. 91/93 turbo models and a 93 non turbo. My biggest regret was selling them. Even the non turbo was a blast to drive. No boost but the 2.2 non turbo motors are quiet torquey. If financially you can, look for a 94/95 model since they were the last made. 91/93 red models were not clear coated so expect some fading if not waxed very regularly and your rag will be red everytime you wax it. Power steering models have electric P/S pump that should be flushed on occasion. Otherwise excellent cars.
If I were in your shoes I'd be shopping for an older S2000.........something to consider.
If I were in your shoes I'd be shopping for an older S2000.........something to consider.

I agree. Alot of members here had an S2000, myself included. Or course it all depends on your budget. You can pickup a MK1 for $1-3k, MK2 for $3-8k or a S2000 for $9k+.
Docjohn, Coconut:

I have concidered the S2000 as well. It's quite the car. I would rather try to keep some cash stowed away for the eventual NSX pruchase. That is my intention. (I will likely be asking Primers about the S2K as well). Thanks for that suggestion!

I figure, if I can spend $5K on a mk2 mR2 vs $10K on a S2K, I'll have that extra $5 towards my "NSX Fund" (which everything goes into hehe).

How about some thought on the maintenance cost any Primers might have run into for the MR2?
How about some thought on the maintenance cost any Primers might have run into for the MR2?

On my MK1 that had 220K miles it needed a clutch at 140K, starter solenoid at around 120k and a water pump at around 150K. The rest was routine maintenance that I did 90% of. On my MK2 in the 80K I had it only routine maintenance. So in my opinion, low cost of maintenance.
If you want to go really inexpensive for a mid-engine car... I owned a Fiat X/19. It was like a go kart, such a blast to drive full throttle everywhere. Then I bought a '93 turbo MR2, upgraded the turbo and added a boost controller... *that* was a blast, no question! I think the turbo MR2 is one of the best secrets out there. It is definitely affordable, rock-solid and there are a lot of after-market mods you can do. Going to an NSX after that blew me away, though... good luck in your search!
The http://www.mr2.com/ forum was a fantastic resource as well....
I had a 1985 MR2 and loved it. It was a great city car, it fit in spaces that other 'compact' cars had to pass up.

Replacing the fuel pump is a labor-intensive job on the 1985; I heard an access panel was added for later years to make the job faster. Definitely replace the fuel filter on schedule (if not sooner) to make life easy on the pump.

The front brake rotors on mine became lumpy very quickly (causing pulsation and steering wheel shake on braking). People recommended switching to 1989 calipers and rotors (larger); I did that and the same thing happened. I don't know how common this problem is or if there was a good solution, but it was annoying (braking got pulsy 10,000 miles after turning or replacing the rotors).

Valve adjustment requires replacing shims; if you're doing it yourself it helps if you live near a dealer. The book says every 30,000 but lots of people stretch that out. I did it myself every 60,000 miles and typically 3 or so valves out of 16 would be slightly out of spec. The good news is, the valves are all on top (much easier to get to than on an NSX).

The MR2 had better space utilization than the NSX. You can get a fair amount of stuff in the two trunks. And there is more passenger legroom in a 1985 MR2 than in an NSX! (passenger only; driver's footwell in the NSX is deeper than on the passenger side)

The 1985 MR2 was available in an electric blue metallic color that was really striking.

You definitely don't need power steering.

I liked the glass moonroof.

Anyone need a bike rack for a MK I? I still have one. Looks funny with the rails longer than the roofline but it works. I strapped stuff like bookshelves or plywood sheets on it (not an option on the NSX).
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I'm not sure how mechanically inclined you are, but keep in mind we are talking about cars at or beyond 20 years old (you'll probably end up with a 91). Even if the major components don't give you issues, bearings, suspension bushings, mounts, rubber hoses, anything related to a hydraulic system, etc are going to have issues sooner or later and the mr2 isn't super easy to work on. As a second car it would be great but it may turn into a hassle as your only car IMO.

I bought a 300zx TT my senior of high school, it was 12 years old at the time. It only gave me a couple minor problems but with limited mechanical skill and financial resources at the time it definitely caused some stress. I'd lay low and buy an AP1 if you can afford the insurance. It'll hold it's value well.