Toyota MR2 Oversteer – how bad?

There is many parts to the suspension layout in a car, in this post i wll discuss the handling characteristics of an mr2 and what is fact or fiction.

The Mid-engined Myth

What i am going to start with is what sometimes really annoys me. A lot ofthe time when I hear people talking about mr2s they always mention snap oversteer. This is a phenomenon that causes cars to suddenly “snap” in to oversteer, this is common with mid-engined cars, particularly mr2’s, particularly mk2s, particularly early turbo models. So i feel the need to explain this as its not all as it seems and no where as near as some peoplw will tell you!

Snap oversteer occurs when suddenly the rear loses grip, cars can be prone to do this if:Modified suspension MR2

  • They have a high percentage of weight over the rear tyres (as a lot of mid-engined cars have) The sw20 mr2 has 44 front /  56 rear % weight distrobution so can be succeptable to this, but overall 44/56 is very good.
  • They have turbo lag. On exit of a bend, you put your foot down to power out, you get the feel of how much throttle you can use, after accelerating and the revs begin to climb, the turbo is now “on boost,” suddenly the engine is putting out a lot more power unnexpectadly, this can cause a number of situations to encourage oversteer, wether it be the rear wheels trying to spin and losing grip or through the driver suddenly backing right off the throttle and causing the front to dip, weight transfers to the front, the rear goes light and begins to slip outwards in to oversteer. Modern turbos are clever and have little lag, but older turbos in times of the mr2 did suffer from turbo lag and cause this.
  • Inexperienced drivers – Every car handles different, the low price of an mr2 in comparison to most mid-engined cars allowed almost any driver to be able to own one. A young person with little experience going straight from a 60hp front engine front wheel drive hatch back in to a 200+hp mid engine car and having a little fun on a twisty section of road could easily end up in disaster.

So yes an mr2, especially a turbo, will be prone to snap oversteer but! everyone ive known to own one and race them always claims there are not as bad as the internet will have you beleive. This was not toyotas first mid-engined car and many adjustments where made to the suspension for the revision 2 and 3 cars onwards to limit this problem, someone who will treat these cars as a mid engined sports car and expect them to handle as one always credit how they handle. I personally find they people who say the problem is massive have either never driven one or doesnt understand what not to do in a car similiar to an mr2. Many unexpecting journalists have got in to a mess with an mr2 and written reviews on the snap oversteer to emphasize the problem, road testing a more expensive mid-engine car they would be expected to handle a bit more “on edge” so stayed far from there limits.

Concluding my small rant, my opinion is the snap oversteer does exist but only as a small aspect and you should expect that in any similiar layout car, the fact that its “only a Toyota” and a small 2l engine should not mean the driver shouldnt be careful. Snap oversteer in an mr2 is not as bas as people say.

All Round Independant Suspension

Even today its common for cars to not come with independant rear suspension, usually front wheel drive cars but even high power performance FWD cars such as the Honda civic type r (FN2) where still using basic rear suspension. In the case of the civic, many road tests came back with the opinion that the older civic type r’s where much more fun because of the more expensive independant rear suspension that had been dropped for the FN2 model. This doesnt mean cars without this can’t be fun, old hot Peugeots didnt use them, neither did the AE86 Corrola and there where all legendary handling cars, but it does play a benefit.

An mr2, being mid-engined and rear wheel drive is a much more obvious car to find independant suspension, but it is still a clever set up they have.

The benefits of having each wheel react independantly to the other is mostly improved grip. This is achieved by using lower suspension arms and strut bars connecting the hubs to the chassis, allowing them to pivot still but resists all forces to keep the wheel in the desired place. As one wheel goes over a dip for example it will be forced down the dip by the compressed coil spring in the strut while not affecting the other wheel. Another benefit is that there is less unsprung weight, this keeps more weight pushing the coil springs down and less weight to react to suspension movements. This keeps the tyre in contact with the road properly and keeps as much grip as possible.Independant Rear Suspensio

When wheels are linked through a torsion bar or live axle then as only one wheel goes through the dip, the other wheel will remain at a higher height, as they re both connected the tyre over the dip will either skip over the dip or not have as much weight pushing it onto the surface of the road while in the dip. Without much weight or with uneven weight over each wheel it will create a situation where there is low grip levels on certain wheels and lower the overall cornering forces that the car can handle as well losing the “feel” the driver has of the car.

Having this indepenant set up on your MR2 will make it much more stable on predicable over the public roads, there will still be benefits on tracks, but being so much more smooth and level it is not as noticeable a difference.

Weight Distrobution

When it comes to weight distrobution ive heard many say that the mr2 has way too much over the rear wheels. In fact its not too far off 50/50, 44/56 is fairly close and better than the vast majority of cars.

A good way to think of it is that a lot of the weight over the rear comes from the engine and gearbox. A lot of mid-engined performance cars have engines as big as v8s or v12s, the 3s-ge is only a little 4cylinder in comparison. Theres many more cars out there that will have a harder time getting the weight distrobution near to 50/50.

Aftermarket Parts

This is another area where there is a massive amount of choice, i will go in to detail of in later more specific posts as each revolution does occasionaly use specific parts to other revolions. Parts such as coilovers, polybush kits, lowering springs, dampers, tension rods, anit-roll bar kits and more can all be found by performance part manufacturers such as Bilstein, Tein, BC and Cusco etc

So should you worry?

After doing some reading and more importantly, careful driving of an mr2 to find its characteristics and limits, no you shouldnt worry. This should be done with every new or different car you drive honestly. It drives different to most cars in the same price range being mid-engined so can catch people out if they dont pay attention to that, But differently is by no means badly or to the extent that the snap oversteer stories are told.





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