When two Toyota MR2 owners get together to compare notes on their different generations, the conversation is sure to get heated.
The first generation Midship Runabout, known by its AW11 chassis code, is a lighter and less powerful car with more driver focus, emotion, and feedback. The second gen—SW20—punched higher than its weight class, attempting to take on comers like the Acura NSX and Ferrari 348.
And yet, somehow they still feel related to each other. Roads Untraveled set out to determine which one is better.
When Toyota created the original MR2, it was aiming to create an incredible driver-focused experience with little more to the car than seats and a steering wheel mated to a perfectly-placed engine. It was, to mid-engine cars, what the Miata later became to roadsters. It was accessible more than it was aspirational, delivering a balanced mid-rear driving experience to the everyperson. Light, rev happy, and engaging were the touchpoints of the car then, as now.
The second generation MR2 was a much more ambitious endeavor for Toyota, sneaking their small four-cylinder mid-engine car into the big leagues with turbocharged power from their 3SGT-E engine.
With gorgeous early ‘90s smooth wedge styling and mini-Ferrari cues, the SW20 MR2 was a knockout. It was a lot faster and more capable, but it was heavier, more expensive, and less dynamic, too.
While the two cars share a lot, it’s clear that they are two different segments of the timeline. The SW20 could not have existed without the AW11, but it’s not exactly the full realization of its potential. Would you rather have a faster and less focused wannabe Ferrari driving experience, or the no-nonsense stuck-in-the-’80s two-tone Toyota experience?
Find out in this video from Roads Untraveled.