The MR2 is one of the best sports cars to ever come out of Japan. In fact, it is one of the best sports cars ever, from anywhere in the world.
Produced over three distinct generations, the MR2 combines a lightweight chassis, ample power, and the excitement and precision of a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive setup.
Although opinions differ as to which generation MR2 is the best, many seem to love the SW20 generation (as pictured above) the most. Although NA/non-turbo cars are still a great steer, many lust after the powerful turbocharged models. In some respects, a turbo MR2 is a bit like a Baby Ferrari … with the added bonus of Japanese reliability and much lower running costs.
In a recent article we looked at whether or not you can daily drive a Toyota MR2. We concluded that while you definitely can daily an MR2, it might not be the best choice of car … but if you have your heart set on one as your everyday vehicle, then you should go for it!
In today’s edition of Car Facts, we dig deeper into a specific question that seems to pop up online from time to time – can you drive a Toyota MR2 in the rain?
While this might seem a bit of an odd question to ask, there are two distinct areas of interest with regards to this question.
We look to answer them both:
Is The MR2 Dangerous In The Rain?
The biggest point of concern with regards to driving an MR2 on a daily basis seems to be the potential “danger factor” that comes with the territory of MR2 ownership.
It’s well known that the MR2 – particularly the earlier AW11 and earlier SW20 MR2s – has a reputation for being prone to snap oversteer. Some argue that this risk is overstated, which we discuss in more detail in our article about whether the MR2 is an inherently dangerous car.
YouTube is chock full of videos of MR2 drivers finding themselves spinning off the road or racetrack, often due to a combination of the inherent handling characteristics of the MR2 in conjunction with incorrect driving technique.
For the purpose of this article, we won’t go into great detail about what causes this oversteer or why the MR2 is prone to it. Instead, you might like to watch this short explainer video:
The MR2 is not alone in this characteristic either; other mid or rear-engine RWD cars like Ferraris and Porsches can demonstrate similar tendencies.
The main thing to bear in mind is that the MR2 does have some inherent characteristics that make it more prone to getting the tail out and possibly spinning out.
As you’ll no doubt be aware, rain/wet road surface doesn’t do much for the handling of your car. It’s harder to get traction, and you are more likely to lose control especially if bumping up against the limits of the car or your own driving skill (or a combination of both).
Does this mean that you can’t drive an MR2 in the rain because it’s too dangerous?
No, of course not.
You can definitely drive an MR2 in the rain. Normal, everyday driving won’t be an issue at all. However, if you are thinking of “pressing on” a bit more aggressively with your driving, e.g. on a track or your favourite back road, then you need to be aware that there is a higher-than-usual risk of loss of traction and a potential accident.
The most important things to do to reduce the risk are:
- Know your own driving limits, and don’t exceed them – especially not on the public road.
- Know the limits of your car. If you want to push the limits of your MR2 or your own driving skills, do so in a controlled environment e.g. at a race track or driver training facility, or on a closed road.
- Ensure that your MR2 is properly maintained and set up with good tyres, correctly-functioning suspension etc. An MR2 with worn tires, clapped out suspension, poor alignment etc is going to be far more likely to experience dangerous, unexpected oversteer.
- Once again, don’t push the limits in the wet on public road!
Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with driving an MR2 in the rain or in wet conditions. You should do it, you should be comfortable doing it. However, if you’re going to go out and re-enact a scene from one of the Fast & Furious movies, all during the middle of a downpour, then you might want to think again.
Drive to the conditions, respect the drive, and you won’t have any problems.
Water In The Engine Bay
One other issue we have seen some people complain about with regards to driving an MR2 in the rain (or even parking it up in the rain) is whether water will make its way through the engine cover.
Unlike a normal front-engined car, the MR2 doesn’t have a conventional bonnet/hood.
Instead, you’ve got an engine cover that looks a bit like a giant cheese grater.
Some people have posted concerns that water may ingress through this cover, and potentially damage the engine.
There are also forum posts, discussion threads etc online from owners claiming a number of issues such as alternator failure, squeaky belts and failure to start after using or parking their MR2s in rain.
In theory, driving and/or parking your MR2 in the range should not be an issue from the perspective of water finding its way into your engine.
Under the engine cover sits a rain guard, which effectively deflects water away from the engine and channels it so it is less likely to drain into the critical components of your engine. The shape of the grates themselves on the engine cover is also not particularly conducive to water getting past.
It can be hard to make out the rain guard when observing your MR2 engine cover from the top. However, this image makes it easier to see, from an Imgur user called zp001 who showcases the refurbishment of the rain guard on his 1990 MR2 GT.
The engine cover is in black, while the guard has been refinished in red:
Some owners will remove the rain guard as it can help to improve cooling/heat dissipation. Whether this makes a massive difference is open to debate, and you need to weight up the potential risk of a higher chance of water making its way into the engine bay of your MR2.
If you live in a dry area, or you only take your MR2 out when the forecast is sunny, then you could look at removing the rain guard to save a bit of weight and possibly improve cooling.
If you are going to be using your MR2 somewhere where there is lots of rain, or you’ll be parking it outside and exposing it to overnight downpours etc, then it’s best to keep the guard.
However, short of leaving your car out in monsoon conditions (which should be avoided if possible) it is perfectly safe for your MR2 to be outside and occasionally be rained on.
As with any car, if you’re going to be exposing it to the elements you should also keep it properly washed and waxed. This won’t help water ingress risk to the engine, but will help to preserve the paint and bodywork of your car. We recommend Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Wax & Polish.
Conclusion – Can You Drive An MR2 In The Rain?
Yes, you can certainly drive an MR2 in the rain.
However, from a safety perspective (in terms of risking the car spinning out on you/loss of control) this is definitely a car you want to respect on a rainy day drive. For example, if you’re choosing to daily drive your MR2, then you’ll want to be wary of driving beyond the limit of both the car and your own skills.
If you’re concerned about water making its way into the MR2’s engine bay because of the placement of the engine cover, then you shouldn’t worry too much about this. Provided you have still go the factory rain guard, you’ll be fine. If you want to remove your rain guard, then it’s probably prudent to avoid major downpours where possible, but you should still be fine for most conditions.
Ultimately, the MR2 is probably better suited to being a “dry conditions” car, but both from a safety perspective and design/construction perspective, there is no reason why you cannot drive your MR2 in the rain.
It’s not like the MR2 is one of those weird and wonderful low volume sports cars that lack a roof. You can stay safe and dry in the cabin and get around perfectly safely, provided you take sensible precautions.
After all, if Toyota didn’t intend the MR2 to be able to be driven in the rain, would they have gone to the effort of taking “rain shots” (like the feature image of this article) for promotional purposes?
If you have a Toyota MR2, let us know in the comment section below how you get on driving it in the rain. You might also like to check out our Toyota MR2 buyer guides for the various generations of this legendary car: