What's New for 2001
No changes this year.
Given the popularity of two-seat roadsters, it was only a matter of time before Toyota joined the fray. Last year, the company resurrected an old timer of the performance line, the MR2, in a new convertible incarnation called the Spyder. Although it has its work cut out for it with the plethora of roadster competitors on the market these days, its relatively low price is its selling point. The MR2 is one of three new vehicles (the others being the Echo and Celica) recently trotted out by Toyota to appeal to younger, first-time buyers.
The Spyder rides on a low-slung, long-wheelbase platform with MacPherson struts supporting each corner. A five-speed manual transmission drives the rear wheels, and an amazingly sharp and responsive electric hydraulic power steering system makes this little droptop a blast when ripping along canyon roads.
Sharing an engine with the Celica GT, MR2 Spyder's 1.8-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine produces 138 horses at 6,400 rpm and 127 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm, thanks in part to VVT-i variable valve timing technology. Weighing in at a diminutive 2,200 pounds, it provides plenty of vroom from the get-go, reaching 60 mph in about 7 seconds. Not to worry, however, because a wide track and sticky tires will keep you firmly planted to the asphalt. With the mid-engine design and its speedy recovery ability, acrobatics on curvy roads equal some good times.
The kids will have fun with the exterior sheetmetal, which features steel panels bolted onto a rigid unit-body that allows for aftermarket customization. Considering the no-frills, form-over-function style of the dated-looking interior, this may be the only outlet to express your inner artiste.
The MR2 Spyder comes one way and pretty much includes any features you might want. Air conditioning, ABS, power windows and door locks and a tilt steering wheel are all standard. Plus, it boasts something its higher-priced competitor, the Honda S2000, doesn't have: a glass rear window with defroster. However, the ragtop, though made by the same company that makes lids for the S2000 and the Miata, is a bit more cumbersome than those two models. It is necessary to get out of the car before putting it up or down. Plus, you can't get leather upholstery.
Some might find contention with the chunky styling of the little machine, Danny DeVito-esque being one of the ways to describe the bulging headlights and rotund yet busy lines of the sheetmetal, especially when compared to the sleek and curvaceous Miata. But one sometimes feels more affection for the less comely child...
Besides, once you get the MR2 Spyder revved up and onto the proper racing line at a track, you'll be smitten no matter what your opinion of the styling, inside or out. Thinking of autocrossing a small, inexpensive roadster? This Toyota is your car.
Ah, to be young, beautiful, and racing around town in a convertible. You may not be the first two, but you could have the last for a lot less money than you might expect.