With the confirmation that the Toyota Supra is finally returning after years of begging, it seems the fun Toyota of the past is finally making a comeback. Toyota was never the most exciting car brand but in the past, they offered numerous fun to drive cars that proved you can blend reliability with a true drivers cars. When we look at the relatively beige line up of today’s Toyota in comparison to that of the past, it’s easy to see why fun Toyotas need to make a comeback. In addition to resurrecting the Supra, Toyota needs to bring back the Celica, a fun to drive Corolla, and the MR2.
When the Toyota Celica was originally released in the 1970s, it was meant to compete with the Ford Mustang and bring the Japanese into the pony car wars. This 2+2 coupe was the perfect car for someone looking for a relatively practical performance coupe that offered a built proof drive train and great overall build quality. The subsequent generations focused more on making the Celica a sports car but still remaining in the same price bracket as cars like the Mustang. The Celica eventually birthed the Supra which, was named for the high-performance trim level of the Celica. Before its death in 2006, the Celica had moved down market to compete with cars like Acura’s RSX, but a return to roots could bring the Celica back to its rightful place in the market.
Today a new Celica could slot above the GT86 but below the new Supra allowing Toyota to compete in multiple performance car segments without hurting sales. To build the new Celica Toyota already has the necessary pieces in its vast parts bin and merely has to arrange them into this perfect sports coupe. They could start with the chassis of the GT86 which we all know is light and makes for a great handling car. This new Rear Wheel Drive Celica could be a return to roots for the car that became front wheel drive in 1985. For power, the new Celica will use the new Turbo Charge inline-Four Cylinder engine from the IS200T which, is good for 241 horsepower and already adapted to work in a rear wheel drive car. With some simple tuning and enhancements, it could easily make at least 300 horsepower which, is enough to match the Ecoboost mustang but in a much smaller car. Since the chassis is made to be a sports car from the ground up it would give the Celica a clear advantage in a segment dominated by much heavier muscle cars.
The Toyota Corolla is the beige people mover that exemplifies the boring Toyota we know today. It may have a rich history of exciting trim levels but today’s Corolla lacks the fun to drive offering car enthusiasts crave. With cars like the AE86 and more recently the XRS, proving Corollas can be fun t it’s now time to remind the world that the Corolla is more than just a vanilla compact sedan.
With the incredible volume of Corolla sales every year, a sporty offering would not only broaden its appeal but also bring pride to this otherwise appliance of a car. Toyota would not be able to challenge cars like the Focus ST or upcoming Civic Si just yet, but a new XRS could easily slot above cars like the Sentra Turbo and Jetta Sport. It could offer the fun to drive dynamics that are lost on the base car but retain the affordability and ease of entry that make it so popular. No sport compact would be complete without forced induction, these days Toyota can probably just slap on a turbo and call it a day. But that would leave this car only partially complete, and to be a real competitor you need to offer a complete package. Toyota would need to re-engineer the suspension, and offer a 6-speed manual gearbox to create this exciting car. As for the engine, Toyota could use a turbocharged version of the current 1.8-liter 2ZR-FAE engine which could then be used in other cars across the lineup to diffuse the cost.
The MR2 is one of the maddest creations to ever emerge from Toyota dealerships, this mid-engined sports car which debuted in 1984, was the first car to bring the mid-engined layout to the masses. It promised the experience of a mid-engined sports car for a fraction of the price of the exotics. Although the MR2 was never a perfect sports car, an exciting Toyota like this needs to make a comeback.To create a modern MR2 would require a massive engineering effort by Toyota making this the least likely car to return. To make a competitive mid-engined chassis Toyota would need to start from scratch making this an extremely expensive car to build. However, if Toyota were to bring this incredible sports car back this is how we would build it.
Our vision for the new MR2 centers around the second generation W20 car which, was focused on being sporty and offered more performance than the other generations of the car. Although dangerous, the second generation MR2 showed the potential of an affordable mid-engined performance car and thanks to today’s advanced drive train technology it can easily be perfected. Once Toyota designs the bespoke chassis of the new MR2, the drive train could rely on the 2-liter turbo from the Lexus 200T. It would be able to fit in the small chassis while providing more than enough power. Even though we used it for our new Toyota Celica, this engine can be the basis for numerous new fun Toyota products. The MR2 would require a huge engineering effort but the chance to once again offer an affordable mid-engined sports car for those of us that cannot afford a Cayman would bring the desperately needed soul to Toyotas lineup.
Today’s Toyota may seem boring, but the exciting cars of the past could make a comeback. The new Supra and GT86 prove that Toyota has not forgotten about the glory days. If they could begin to offer more than one fun to drive car, the boring Toyota may be all be forgotten. As the world prepares for the new Supra lets not forget about the other great Toyotas of the past and what they could be today.