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Toyota MR2 Supercharged

By Kevin Smith

BASE PRICE: $17,068

ENGINE: Supercharged 16 valve DOHC 1587cc four

Competitors Honda CRX Si, Nissan Pulsar

Ann Arbor-

I worry about the future of small two-seat cars, what with rising prices, dwindling production volumes, and soaring insurance premiums. but for now, Toyota's little MR2 remains one of my favorites, especially in it's 145-bhp supercharged form. And word from Toyota is that the snappy mid-engined sportster will stay with us at least through a second-generation car, to be introduced in a year or two.

The clever, electrically clutched supercharger disengages on light throttle. It transforms the MR2 and fills a serious hole in the cars personality as well as in its output curve. I even like the half growl, half whine from behind my ear when the blower comes on, accompanying a satisfying lunge up the road. Chassis tuning would prove helpful, as Toyota has gone pretty soft with springs and dampers. (An anti-roll bar for the back is one of the few changes coming for 1989.) But the cars basic balance, comfortable cockpit, and slick shifter give it a high grin factor.

Okay, mid-engine layouts don't use space very efficiently (there's no way to carry a truly serious suitcase), and we know that a modern front-engine design can provide a good mix of maneuverability and directional stability. But there is still something tidy, close-coupled, and right about a small mid-engined performance car. I hope the market - and Toyota - will keep that alternative alive.