Which early 2000s, mid-engine, Toyota-powered sports car: Elise or MR2?

Colin
By Colin Wood
Jun 10, 2021 | Lotus, Toyota, Elise, MR2, Spyder

On first looks, the U.S.-spec Series 2 Lotus Elise and the third-generation Toyota MR2 seem to have a lot in common: Both are lightweight, mid-engine sports cars powered by a Toyota inline-four.

A closer look, however, reveals a few differences. Although based on a similar engine family, the MR2 came powered by the 1ZZ-FED, with the basic Elise sold stateside making use of the 2ZZ-GE from the Celica GT-S.

And where the Elise was sold as a roadster with a cloth or targa-style removable top, the MR2 could only be had as a convertible.

The big question, though: Which one would you rather have?

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calteg
calteg Dork
6/9/21 10:15 a.m.

Having owned both, the Elise actually felt special. Though at 5x the price, it should. Ironically, the Elise had more practical storage space. 

fatallightning
fatallightning Reader
6/9/21 10:15 a.m.

How much money do you have is really what it comes down to. 

moxnix
moxnix Dork
6/9/21 10:16 a.m.

Money no object? Elise.

Money an object? I bought an MR2 and am now swapping in a 2ZZ.

chuyler2
chuyler2 New Reader
6/9/21 12:57 p.m.

I'm with moxnix.  Out of the box, assuming it has been well maintained, the Elise is ready to go if your wallet is ready too.  if you'd rather spend time in the garage installing go fast parts to save money, you can make an MR2 just as quick.  Both of these are getting to the age where there will likely be time spent in the garage anyway, and if that's the case, might as well consider the AW11 MR2 with a 2ZZ swap as well.  

colinshark
colinshark New Reader
6/9/21 9:55 p.m.

First gen elise (shhhhhhhhhhh). It's a secret!

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
6/10/21 12:09 a.m.

A tap on the nose of an MR2 might mean a new bumper cover.

A tap on the nose of an Elise might mean a totaled car.

Food for thought. 

mr2s2000elise
mr2s2000elise UltraDork
6/10/21 12:23 a.m.

Have my 95 mr2 turbo and elise. Both owned since new. 
 

have done cross country in both cars. Track days in both cars. 
 

95 turbo is the gt car. Elise is the sports car. 
 

Depends  which you need 

 

gen 3 mr2? No thanks. 

fatallightning
fatallightning Reader
6/10/21 7:46 a.m.

In reply to colinshark :

I'm waiting for more import eligible ones to pop up. Slim pickings at the moment. Ex S2 Elise and Sw20 turbo owner here. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
6/10/21 8:16 a.m.

I have to wonder: When they were drawing up the specifications for the 3rd generation MR2, who decided "We can't use the 2ZZ-GE here. It's too revy and aggressively tuned. Buyers are going to want the more sedate 1ZZ-FE for this car."?

That decision sums up everything that was wrong with Toyota in that decade.

AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter)
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
6/10/21 8:22 a.m.

What about Boxsters?

moxnix
moxnix Dork
6/10/21 9:50 a.m.
AnthonyGS (Forum Supporter) said:

What about Boxsters?

They don't have toyota engines in them.

calteg
calteg Dork
6/10/21 10:13 a.m.
Appleseed said:

A tap on the nose of an MR2 might mean a new bumper cover.

A tap on the nose of an Elise might mean a totaled car.

Food for thought. 

This is a very important point. I bought the Elise with the plans of it being a dedicated track car. Then I found out that minor offs that damage the clamshell will total the car. And that's how I ended up with another miata.

MidshipLove
MidshipLove
6/10/21 10:16 a.m.

The elise is a beautiful machine but honda K series swap mrs. fits well doesn't upset the balance. plethora of technology easily available.  and you end up with a better power to weight ratio than the elise for a fraction of the price..  

Carbon (Forum Supporter)
Carbon (Forum Supporter) UberDork
6/10/21 11:25 a.m.

It's no secret that I'm partial to the zzw30 chassis. They're awesome sportscars, they're almost free, they're wicked light, there's a strong aftermarket for them, lots of swap potential, and they're very simple and repairable. The rear quarters are fenders so almost any light damage can be repaired with bolt on panels. Also means widebody options abound. Elise are great, but zzw30 has 98% of the car for 10% the money. 

NickD
NickD MegaDork
6/10/21 1:14 p.m.

I'm a huge fan of the MR-S. Got to ride in Carbon's turbo car, which was a riot. And I've also autocrossed my friend's E/Street MR-S on two separate occasions and loved it. If I had room, I'd totally own one.

lowheat
lowheat GRM+ Member
6/10/21 4:55 p.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

I have to wonder: When they were drawing up the specifications for the 3rd generation MR2, who decided "We can't use the 2ZZ-GE here. It's too revy and aggressively tuned. Buyers are going to want the more sedate 1ZZ-FE for this car."?

That decision sums up everything that was wrong with Toyota in that decade.

You could add: "And oh, by the way, my fellow Toyota execs, we have a six-speed manual here we don't know what to do with--where shall we put it?" 

Other Exec: "I know, lets put it in the Celica; why would a sports car like the MRS need six speeds? We can also export what's left to the European market; more taste there; the Americans, who will buy 3/4 of the MR2s manufactured, won't know the difference."

Furious_E (Forum Supporter)
Furious_E (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/10/21 7:16 p.m.
lowheat said:
MadScientistMatt said:

I have to wonder: When they were drawing up the specifications for the 3rd generation MR2, who decided "We can't use the 2ZZ-GE here. It's too revy and aggressively tuned. Buyers are going to want the more sedate 1ZZ-FE for this car."?

That decision sums up everything that was wrong with Toyota in that decade.

You could add: "And oh, by the way, my fellow Toyota execs, we have a six-speed manual here we don't know what to do with--where shall we put it?" 

Other Exec: "I know, lets put it in the Celica; why would a sports car like the MRS need six speeds? We can also export what's left to the European market; more taste there; the Americans, who will buy 3/4 of the MR2s manufactured, won't know the difference."

At least they built their own sportscars back then...

Furious_E (Forum Supporter)
Furious_E (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
6/10/21 7:18 p.m.
MidshipLove said:

The elise is a beautiful machine but honda K series swap mrs. fits well doesn't upset the balance. plethora of technology easily available.  and you end up with a better power to weight ratio than the elise for a fraction of the price..  

^What he said.

The Elise is a super cool, super special car. I'd be terrified to actually use one though, due to the aforementioned clamshell cost.

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