While the popular opinion says that Miata is always the answer, people in the know always said that the last Toyota MR2 Roadster was actually the more exciting sports car.
The mid-engined layout along with a lightweight construction and a sorted chassis meant that the Toyota offered a purer driving experience but its design never really caught on with customers.
The main issue however was the 1ZZ engine, which left a lot to be desired in terms of power and plagued some of the early cars with reliability issues. And that’s where the 2ZZ-GE engine comes into the spotlight, as it’s the most popular engine swap currently in the small but passionate community of the MR2 Roadster.
The Yamaha-designed 2ZZ is still an 1.8-liter four-cylinder but unlike the factory-installed engine, it featured a variable lift system called VVTL-i (like Honda’s VTEC). It was originally fitted in models like the Celica GT-S, the Corolla T-Sport and of course the Lotus Elise 111R, offering up to 189hp and revving up to 8,200rpm. The high cam kicked in at around 6,200rpm but that can be changed depending on the tune of the engine.
Toyota never offered the MR2 with the 2ZZ which is a crying shame because the combination of the two sounds just perfect. As Matt Farah says on the video below, a 2ZZ-swapped MR2 Roadster is actually a better car than the Lotus Elise and perhaps that’s why we never got one straight from the factory.