Toyota TE-Spyder 800 Hybrid - The MR2's Spiritual Successor?
Photos and video courtesy of Toyota Motor Corporation.
MR2 owners rejoice, for our prayers have been answered—or so it seems. The Toyota MR2 is coming back. In a recent press release with EVO, Tetsuya Tada, the force behind Toyota's GT86 and Gazoo Racing, mentioned the “three brothers” (Supra, Celica, & MR2) would be in production together “as soon as possible.”
Yet, even with such exciting news, one can't help but wonder. When auto enthusiasts talk of spiritual successors, it also comes with the age old debate over nostalgia versus progress. The revivalist versus the futurist. And with the Supra's rumored release date incoming as well as the GT86 currently being marketed as the Celica’s spiritual successor, which is right in their reasoning? Can Toyota truly invoke the spirit of a former model, or should they simply focus on the road ahead?
Regardless of which side you rest on, the Toyota TE-Spyder 800 Hybrid concept leaves a check in all of the proverbial boxes that made the MR2 unique. Is it mid-engine? Yes. Is it rear-wheel-drive? Yes. Is it lightweight? Well—at 1000 kg, or 2204 lbs for the Western world, this makes the new model TE-Spyder slightly leaner than the 3rd generation 1999-2007 MR2 Spyder, which totaled in at 2,195 pounds. And for today's standards of "bulk" safety regulations and "excess" luxury options, that's an impressive weigh-in.
And now you may be wondering, "That's a nice interior...wait...you forgot the most important checkbox. Is it a manual transmission?" And therein lies the crux of the futurist's argument. The TE-Spyder 800 Hybrid, is exactly that— a hybrid. Meaning for now, it was conceptualized with a reformed 1.5 L 1NZ-FE 4-cylinder engine and an electric motor built to rival the Prius. I'm not kidding. It will likely share the same target demographic, marketed as a cute and compact economical car, easy to drive through life's many distractions (like Snapchat and Instagram). What stops dangerous multi-tasking while driving? A steering wheel in one hand and a gear stick in the other. But, I digress.
If this view of the TE-Spyder engine compartment looks familiar, that is because the chassis has been borrowed from an MR2 Spyder for the 2014 concept. Nevertheless, Tada-san notes a respectable 0-100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds. Not much else is known about the engine specifications at the moment, but we can hope that Toyota has learned from the growing number of MR2 Spyder enthusiasts, who largely preferred the performance oriented, Yamaha designed 2ZZ-GE VVTLi engine, over the factory equipped 1ZZ-FED VVTi model.
It's too soon to say whether all production models will be hybrid, or even mid-engine for that matter, however, Tada-san's closing remarks were that Toyota is “working very hard” to make the hybrid powertrain a possibility.