- 1976 - Project inception.
- 1979 - First prototype SA-X, designed by Seiichi Yamauchi.
- 1983 - Toyota made its SV-3 concept car public in the autumn of 1983 at the Japan Motor Show.
- 1984 - Some changes made to SV-3, and the MR2 available to the Japanese market.
- 1985 - MR2 introduced to U.S. with the first cars sold in February. Available with 1.6L DOHC, producing 112bhp.
- 1985 - MR2 is introduced to the UK in February.
- 1985 - Earns Motor Trend "Import Car of the Year".
- 1986 - Supercharged version introduced in Japan.
- 1987 - Many changes are made to improve the car's engine, brakes, suspension, and handling.
- 1988 - Supercharged engine introduced to the USA.
- 1989 - Last year the MKI is available. Sway bar added to supercharged model.
- 1990 - All new MR2 on display at the Tokyo Show including a brand new Turbo version.
- 1990 - MKII goes on sale in Europe in April.
- 1991 - MKII is introduced to the USA in December.
- 1991 - Wins Motor Trend's "Bang for the Buck" test.
- 1992 - Suspension upgraded.
- 1992 - Automatic transmission discontinued in the UK.
- 1993 - MKII moves into the second generation.
- 1995 - Production ceases in the USA in June.
- 1996 - 4th generation MKII released in June.
- 1997 - MR-S concept car first seen at Toyota Auto Show.
- 1999 - MKIII MR-S roadster (Spyder) previewed at Tokyo and London auto shows.
- 1999 - Production of MKIII started in Japan.
- 2000 - All-new MR2 Spyder launched in May for sale to North America. This is the first convertible MR2.
- 2002 - MR2 Spyder is the first U.S. market Toyota model to feature a new clutchless sequential manual transmission.
The MR2 was introduced to America in 1985 and was intended to offer Americans exotic-car looks and excitement without the exotic-car price. With it, Toyota proved they knew how to build sports cars. With its mid-engine/rear-wheel drive and two seats, there was no doubt this was a true sports car.
Powered by Toyota's wonderful "Sweet Sixteen" engine, the MR2 was as much fun to drive as it was to look at. The 4A-GE engine displaced just 1.6 liters, but the 16-valve DOHC electronically fuel-injected engine produced 112 horsepower, and was enough to propel the MR2 to 60 mph in a little over eight seconds, and on to a top speed of over 120 mph. The original MR2 featured four wheel independent suspension (of course) and disc brakes all around, the fronts being vented.
The motoring press was so taken with Toyota's MR2 that year that it was given the honor of "Import Car of the Year" in 1985 by the editors of Motor Trend.
1986 saw few changes, save the addition of body-colored bumpers (rather than black) and the removal of the rear anti-roll bar. MR2 was also available with an automatic transmission for 1986.
1987 cars received changes to the interior, exterior, suspension, and engine, as well as a T-top option.
1988 was the next milestone for MR2, seeing the introduction of the new 4A-GZE supercharged engine. The belt-driven Roots-type SC12 supercharger added 30 percent more horsepower to MR2, boosting the raw number to 145, and lowering 0-60 mph times by over a second. All models of the MR2 were available with either a four-speed electronically-controlled automatic transmission or a five-speed manual transmission. Normally aspirated models now produced 115 horsepower instead of 112. There was officially no 1990 MR2, but the second-generation 1991 MR2s arrived at dealerships in spring of 1990.
Toyota made a few changes during the last model year. The most obvious is the addition of an LED third brake light in the rear spoiler. 1989 Supercharged cars also received a rear sway bar.
The second generation MR2 was an all new car. It retained the mid-engine, two-seat layout, but it was longer, wider, heavier, and more powerful. Now powered by the 5S-FE 2.2l four-cylinder, it retained its 16-valves, but produced 130 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. Also brought to market in 1991 was a turbocharged version of the MR2. With 200 horsepower available from its 3S-GTE 2.0 liter intercooled engine, it was capable of 0-60 mph times in the low-six-second range. Car and Driver proclaimed the 1991 MR2 Turbo as "an exotic for the rest of us." In testing by Motor Trend, MR2 Turbo won the "Bang for the Buck" award in 1991, and finished a close second in 1992.
The 1993 MR2, as introduced in Spring 1992, received minor front and rear suspension upgrades for superior handling, 15 inch wheels, and a minor face-lift resulting in new front and rear fascias. Normally aspirated models now made 135hp due to a minor revision of the EFI system, however the turbo engine was basically the same for all USDM model years.
For 1994, MR2 was again updated with revised rear styling and further refinements to the suspension. CFC-free air-conditioning and dual airbags round out the changes.
After a number of years of lackluster sales, though, Toyota finally decided to end U.S. sales of the MR2 after the 1995 model year. Sales were to continue in Japan and other markets for at least one further year.
The all-new 2000 MR2 Spyder two-seat roadster was capable of delivering a level of acceleration, braking and maneuverability that came very close to vehicles pegged at nearly twice its price. Weighing in at 2,195 pounds, the MR2 Spyder rode on a wide, low-slung platform, supported by MacPherson struts at all four corners. It had a wheelbase of 96.5 inches and an overall length of 153 inches. The Spyder was powered by a 1.8-liter twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine which featured VVT-i cylinder head technology. Rated at 138-hp at 6,400 rpm and 125 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, the Spyder's favorable power-to-weight ratio contributed to a zero-to-60 acceleration time of 6.95 seconds. Power was applied to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual transmission.
The Spyder's coachwork features steel panels that are bolted onto a high-rigidity unit-body, making repairs and customization easier and less expensive. There were storage compartments under the front hood and behind the seatbacks. The center cluster console was designed to accommodate audio equipment, or could be removed completely. The manually operated convertible soft-top folded completely out of sight, and needed no tonneau cover, unlike most convertibles.
The MR2 offered six exterior color choices and three interior color combinations. The list of standard features was extensive and the only options were dealer-installed accessories.
For 2001, the MR2 Spyder carried over with no new changes.
The 2002 MR2 Spyder is available with a clutchless sequential manual transmission (SMT). The MR2 Spyder is the first U.S.-market Toyota model to feature this new, sophisticated transmission. The clutch pedal and gear selector have been replaced with a single shifter. The SMT clutch and gear selector operations are performed by ECU computer controlled actuators and the engine is also equipped with electronic throttle control to allow the ECU to reduce torque during shifts. Spyders equipped with this new transmission also come with cruise control.
In 2003 the MR2 received several updates. The front and rear bumpers were revised, in addition to new headlights, taillights, and side vents. The chassis also received additional bracing and a limited-slip differential was available as an option. Wheels and tires were also slightly increased in size.
The MR2 Spyder is discontinued in America (along with the Mk VII Celica at the same time). No replacement is announced. It's sold for another year in the UK, where it also gets a special limited edition model.
NOTE: All chronology dates are model year, unless noted otherwise. CY refers to "Calendar Year."
Source: Toyota MR2 SPYDER Product History 09/15/2001