If not the greatest.
An engine layout is an important consideration when buying a car, as it affects everything. While generally the weight of the engine will help with traction on whatever area it resides - be it the front, middle, or back of the car - it acts as a kind of pivotal point on which the car swings. It’s widely accepted that, with this in mind, the best layout for handling is to have the engine mounted in the middle of the car. The engine, weighing more than most other components, provides a centralized position on which the car turns.
Which brings us to the 3rd gen Toyota MR2, the Spyder. This is hands-down one of the greatest handling cars, if not the single greatest handling car, for under $10,000. It handles like a go-cart with ultra-precise steering. The one drawback being it has virtually no understeer at low speeds and suffers from quite a bit of oversteer, so it can be inherently dangerous if not managed properly. The car is not only brilliant because of its engine placement, as all MR2s have mid-mounted engines, but it weighs just 2195 lbs., almost 600 lbs. less than the turbocharged version of the previous generation. In a front engine car, there is a kind of delay where the car catches up with the steering.
With the MR2, however, because of its light weight and engine placement, the delay is almost completely eliminated. Before getting used to it, this is a nerve- wracking sensation. The back end feels squirrely and twitchy in a straight line, and only in a corner does it feel solid.
That makes it perfect for a track or mountain roads. At higher speeds, the car feels even more solid through a corner. The car might oversteer easily, but it’s almost perfectly controllable. With a skilled driver behind the wheel, the MR2 can be relentless in the twisting mountain passes, and the oversteer can work to the driver’s advantage, resulting in swinging or bending around a turn, setting the car up for decent exiting speed. Essentially, using the throttle to make the car turn is what the MR2 is good at. The driver just needs to be sure they are paying attention so the oversteer doesn’t catch them off guard. All of this makes the Toyota MR2 Spyder just plain fun to drive, and makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up straight.