Toyota is mulling over bringing one of its iconic nameplates back in a different avatar. The MR2 could come back to life, and in the guise of an electric sports car no less.
Following the introduction of the new Supra, Toyota European vice president of sales and marketing Matt Harrison said the company is in the “discussion stage” with the model. However, he confirmed that the MR2 is a favoured potential addition to the product plan. Harrison also alluded to Toyota’s so-called ‘Three Brothers’, a term coined by company chief Akio Toyoda for the Supra, Celica, and MR2 trio, saying he would like to see these returning to the showrooms.
The Supra is due for a launch shortly, and the GT86 is sort of today’s Celica. That leaves the third brother, the MR2 due for a rebirth. The Japanese automaker has hinted as much with the 2015 S-FR concept which takes its inspiration from the 1965 S800 sports coupe. The S-FR would lend its shape beautifully for a modern-day MR2, and as such has a chassis layout similar to the latter.
Other options on the table include a platform-sharing collaboration with another manufacturer to produce a relatively cost-effective mid-engined car. The Supra is the result of just such a joint venture with BMW. Another alternative would be two develop a petrol or petrol-electric hybrid from scratch within the corporation. Lastly, Toyota could also look at creating a purely electric sports coupe, the most cost-effective solution.
An electric car has several clear advantages compared to the previous options. For one, Toyota could employ the new TNGA (Toyota New Global Architecture) platform for the new MR2. The compact dimensions of the electric motor enable it to be affixed behind the car’s two seats, a la the old MR2 albeit with a petrol motor instead. The battery bank could be placed below the floor, lowering the centre of gravity. The car’s relative simplicity should also result in lower overall development costs.
Today’s EVs suffer from the customers’ range anxiety. With the new MR2, Toyota does not need to emphasise on the range, instead being able to market the car as a low-cost, low-weight EV that is fun, environmentally friendly, short-distance commuter. If Toyota ultimately decides to produce the MR2 EV after all, it would not see the light of day before the mid-2020s. Battery technology will have substantially improved by then, and the Japanese automaker could already have a handful of electric models on sale with the same philosophy as the MR2.
Akio Toyoda is keen that Toyota should continue to offer “affordable, simple, fun-to-drive” cars among its EV range. He cited the original Mini which he owned while working in the United Kingdom in the 1980s as “the kind of car we should all dream of making”. To that end, it will be interesting to witness how the MR2 turns out, even in electric guise.