Toyota MR2 Supercharged: Spotted

It's a wonder really that eighties-era Toyota deigned to build the original MR2 in the first place. At launch the Honda CR-X and the long-forgotten Nissan EXA were contemporaries - built along the same youth orientated, fun-to-drive, cheap to run ethos. But where their two-door, CAD-themed bodies and small-capacity engines were prudently welded to generic front-drive platforms, the bespoke, featherweight MR2 had its high-revving 1.6-litre inline-four in the middle, its driven axle at the back and a suspension setup fettled by one Mr R. Becker.

The supercharged version though - the subject of today's Spotted - achieved an even higher rank of nonconformity. By 1986, forced induction certainly wasn't unheard of in more affordable faire: the EXA could already be had with a turbocharger and so too of course could the Renault 5 GT Turbo. But a supercharger was decidedly novel; so much so that when it reached America in 1988, it was the first supercharged production model introduced there in more than twenty years.

This being Toyota, things were done properly, too. The compact, Roots-type blower was made in-house and though it was fused to essentially the same 4A-GE unit, the new four-pot received forged pistons and a cylinder head gasket designed for better sealing at higher pressures. There was a new camshaft as well (the variable intake system having gone) alongside a recalibrated Denso fuel injection system. The same firm provided the car's new intercooler, too.

The result might not have been quite as sweet as the tuneful NA version (and the extra 95kg it added to the kerbweight reputedly demanded some sacrifice of the car's deft handling) but the 4A-GZE produced nearly 50 per cent more torque at 4,000rpm and increased output to 145hp at 6,400rpm. That resulted in a 0-60mph time of 6.5 seconds - sufficient to see off a contemporaneous Porsche 944S when Car and Driver tested it back in the day. Flat out, it was also capable of 130mph; fairly dazzling for a 1,600cc motor then, and respectable even now.

Toyota hadn't completely forgotten about the MR2's economy either. Under light throttle loads, when the ECU deemed the supercharger's involvement unnecessary, an electromagnetic clutch disengaged it from the engine completely; an air-bypass valve allowing the intake air to flow around it. And just in case you missed the sound of the belt-driven blower spooling up, there's a friendly green light situated on the dash to let you know she's a spinnin'.

Said bulb is clearly visible on the '89 example in question. Like all original Supercharged MR2's in the UK, it's an import - the manufacturer having deemed Europe unworthy of the model (although DIY transplants do exist). There was a four-speed automatic available, but happily this one has the five-speed manual you really want and a comparatively modest 130k on the clock. Throw in a new clutch and rebuilt head courtesy of the current owner, and it feels like there might be some considerable charisma left in Toyota's tiny maverick.

: 1,587cc 4-cyl, supercharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 145@6,400rpm
Torque (lb ft): 140@4000rpm
MPG: 23
CO2: N/A
First registered: 1989
Recorded mileage: 130,000 miles
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £4,995

See the original advert here.






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Comments (37) Join the discussion on the forum

  • danllama 18 Sep 2017

    Ohhh I want this car so much. Been looking at MK1's all weekend, toying with the idea of replacing my MK2 Turbo with one for a little (or long) while. And of course the SC was also on my radar.

    But at the end of the day, I kept on thinking how much I'd love to put my 3sgte into a MK1. Best of both worlds. But I don't have the time or money for that so until I have the balls to sell my Turbo i'll just have to put up with it. First world problems.

  • Escy 18 Sep 2017

    If memory serves me correctly these were the fastest accelerating production cars in the world for 0-30mph in 1987 (which includes the Ferrari F40).

  • CoolHands 18 Sep 2017


  • V8RX7 18 Sep 2017

    Having owned one (about 20 years ago) I can only say that mine was a bit of a disappointment

    I'm sure that it was faster than a std one when accelerating to overtake and was certainly more flexible but in a straight 0-90ish it wasn't appreciably quicker than my mate's standard car - needless to say I wasn't impressed.

    I doubt 20 years of aging has improved them

  • s m 18 Sep 2017

    Escy said:
    If memory serves me correctly these were the fastest accelerating production cars in the world for 0-30mph in 1987 (which includes the Ferrari F40).
    There might be some qualification needed round that! The 959 was out in 1987

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