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Why the Toyota MR2 Is So Dangerous

Is the Toyota MR2 dangerous? A legacy of crashes makes that easy to answer. The legendary sports car was a game-changer for Toyota, but it proved deadly to some of its fans. Why is this popular and inexpensive car so deadly?

A silver Toyota MR2 coupe on display
1992 Toyota MR2 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

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Why the Toyota MR2 has a deadly reputation

The Toyota MR2 is so dangerous that it illustrates why sports car makers should hold back while designing their vehicles. Fans of the MR2 loved it for its performance, but all that speed and power made the car more dangerous. The MR2 was so fast and powerful that it was difficult to control for inexperienced drivers.

Toyota created the MR2 to be an affordable sports car. Its lower price tag made it popular with young drivers. The MR2 lacked even the most basic safety features.

What is oversteer and why does it happen?

A silver 2000 Toyota MR2 Roadster convertible parked in a shipping yard
2000 Toyota MR2 Roadster | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

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Oversteer happens, then rear tires skid and pulls the vehicle out of control. The Toyota MR2 has a reputation for snap-oversteer. Snap-oversteer, predictably, describes the same scenario but with more speed and power behind it.

The MR2 was designed with a heavy rear end. Its mid-engine platform meant the car could easily spin out of control if a snap-oversteer scenario occurred. These spin-out crashes were incredibly dangerous, and the car developed a reputation for being deadly.

What can be done about oversteer?

Drivers can compensate for oversteer and prevent it from causing the car to leave their control. Understanding the physics of why the car is moving that way means drivers can counteract it. To stop oversteer, drivers need to give the front wheels leeway to take a wider radius. Allowing the front wheels to widen up means they can balance out with the rear. When both axels are traveling at the same radius, the car will straighten out and recover.

A lack of safety features spell disaster

A silver 2000 Toyota MR2 Roadster convertible parked at the docks
2000 Toyota MR2 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images via Getty Images

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Modern cars come equipped with an array of safety features. The MR2 had fewer safety features than most comparable cars of its time. Airbags are one of the most basic pieces of safety equipment. The MR2 lacked even a typical array of those. One set of forward airbags were insufficient for a car prone to spinning out.

The MR2’s successor may be on its way

Rumors of an MR2 successor have been flying for years. Several car magazines in Japan have released information on what appears to be an MR2 inspired supercar. It may even be an EV.

This rumored supercar is philosophically much different from its predecessor. The MR2 was meant to be accessible. It was a performance car with a mid-level price tag. This hypothetical replacement would likely be more comparable in price to the Acura NSX.

This future supercar won’t be designed with the same features that lead to snap oversteer issues in the original MR2. The replacement supercar will likely have advanced safety features beyond what’s routinely standard today. Interestingly, Toyota’s homage to its popular sports car will most likely have a much different reputation than its predecessor.