The Toyota MR2 didn’t really get the attention it deserved when it was released, and regardless of its JDM status in many tuner communities, popular and reliable 1ZZ engine platform that is easy to work on and tune, and enjoyable driving experience, it wasn’t even selected as a side character car in the Fast and Furious saga that put so many great cars on the map. But, even Toyota MR2 owners spend time arguing over where the MR2 came from and what it means — but, luckily for us, Toyota has stepped in to weigh in.
What does MR2 actually stand for?
When I was still a proud owner of a Toyota MR2 Spyder, I operated under the assumption that many other car enthusiasts and owners did: that MR2 stood for Midship Runabout 2, which made plenty of sense. After all, the Toyota MR2 Spyder had a plastic cover over the storage compartment in the front of the vehicle (the ‘frunk’) that clearly said: “Midship Runabout 2,” referring to the car’s mid-engine placement and two-seater cabin. While that isn’t an incorrect name for the MR2, that isn’t exactly what the model name stands for. Regardless of controversy on the topic, Toyota has stepped in to end the debate themselves: MR2 means mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2 seater. Plain and simple. So, it more or less stands for what you think it does — or have argued that it doesn’t.
The poor man’s Lotus Elise
The Toyota MR2 was a vehicle engineered before its time — and you could argue that a more modern rendition would work better for the brand today. Mid-engine platforms have increased in popularity, even with the more established sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette making the switch from front-engine to mid-engine. While power is important to many sports car drivers, performance and handling have become just as big of a concern, and mid-engine cars like the Toyota MR2 handle well for the weight distribution. Really, it’s like driving a more affordable, uglier Lotus Elise — though it doesn’t handle quite as well and isn’t as stiff. Regardless, the mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-seat design that inspired the name makes it very similar to the Elise in many ways.
The Toyota naming scheme
The Toyota MR2 name isn’t completely out of place for Toyota, as they have some other popularly named vehicles with similar naming structures. The C-HR, for example, stands for coupe high rider, and the FR-S has a similarly explanative name, standing for front-engine, rear-wheel drive, sport. Regardless of what Toyota claims the name actually stands for, it is hard to argue with those who would claim it also stands for midship runabout 2, which, if you think about it, pretty much means the same thing as mid-engine, rear-wheel drive, 2-seater anyways. Besides that, midship runabout is also printed throughout the vehicle in several locations, so regardless of what you expected, it is fair game to make a point of either naming scheme.