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1991 Turbo MR2 Review

My MR2 First Impressions: January, 1995

My Subaru XT6 was involved in an accident midway through November of 1994. The damage was extensive enough that they were considering whether to total it or not. They ended up fixing it, against my advisements - with 140,000 miles on it, I was ready to look at a new car anyway, although I would have liked to have the Subaru through the winter, simply for it's four-wheel drive. While they were deciding whether or not to total it or not, I went car shopping, and picked a nice 1991 MR2 Turbo.

In any case, they fixed my Subaru, and I got it back, the day I left for Christmas for two weeks. When I returned, I finalized the arrangements on the Toyota MR2, and traded in the Subaru on it. I got the MR2 on Thursday, January 5, and have now had the car for two days as I write this.

The first thing I noticed about the car is that it is VERY comfortable to sit in. It looks like it would be quite small inside, but there is a surprising amount of room. Both the interior and the trunk are larger than the older style MR2. The steering wheel and shifter are wrapped in leather, and the interior is black. The shifter is extremely smooth, and there is no effort involved - virtually think about shifting, and the deed is done.

You can definitely feel the difference in having the engine amidships. The front end feels much lighter than other cars, and on bumps, it tends to hunt around a bit. The steering when driving is very light and extremely responsive, but it takes a lot of effort in sharp turns when parking. The turning radius is incredibly small. Coupled with the relatively short wheelbase, you can get this car in and out of anywhere.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics are very well done. The heater controls are simple, and control the very ample heater. Most controls are within easy reach of the steering wheel. Visibility is excellent to the front and sides, but rather restricted to the rear, thanks to the thick rear pillars on either side of the engine bay, and the spoiler on the back. The only complaint I have is the switch for the fog lamps, which is buried on the upper kick panel, near your left knee. The aftermarket radio is hopelessly complex, but I am wading my way through the 75 page novel that describes how to operate it. It has an "audition" button which, when pressed, removes the vocals from whatever music you happen to be listening to, so one can sing karaoke-style, if one is so inclined.

Driving

For all the available power, this car is amazingly docile and easy to drive. Excepting the large steering inputs required outside of normal driving and turning, the car drives like any recent Toyota. I compare the power output of the engine to that of the 1994 Celica. That is, until you mash the throttle enough to spool up the turbo. More on that later. Lateral adhesion is amazing (I haven't had the guts to push it enough to have it let go yet), it corners like a go-kart, on the proverbial rails. Overall handling is razor-sharp, with the exception of the minute front-end wandering over small bumps. You can definitely tell that this car is heavier than it's predecessor, however.

The Dr. Jekyl personality vanishes when you give the gas pedal a good stomp in 4th or 5th gear. You have the first indication that you are in trouble when you hear the turbine spool up (takes about 1 second, no noticable lag) somewhere behind you. Mr Hyde arrives with a vengeance: the next thing you know, you've been kicked in the ass, your head snaps back to the headrest, and the car is screaming towards its 149 mph top speed. Driving on the highway and pulling out to pass someone, it is very easy to suddenly find yourself travelling at 90 mph, and that's without even downshifting. Make no mistake, this is a very FAST car.

Winter Driving

Ok, so it's not perfect in every respect. A sleet/freezing rain storm greeted me on my way home from work this afternoon. There's nothing like driving a high-powered, rear wheel drive car on ice. The MR2 is SCARY in slippery weather. Touch the throttle a little too vigorously and the back end lets go. I crept home at 35 mph. Thank God for ABS.

I just can't wait for summer - I'm itching to take the roof off!

I always said that I would "never buy a red car unless it was a Ferrari." I think this car is about as close as I will ever come to a Ferrari - I mean, it is a mid-engined rocket, after all. So I'll allow the exception. I love this car.

Information courtesy of Scott MacLean