It's all about what will be under the hood, or rather won't be.
Toyota has done a commendable job over the past few years to change its image from boring to emotional. Sports cars like the Lexus LFA, Toyota 86, and upcoming Supra are all part of that plan, as is the much more fun to drive Camry. There have been rumors claiming Toyota wants to launch yet another sports car and Autocar has learned that the MR2 nameplate has been chosen. However, this reborn MR2 could be all-electric.
Toyota's European vice president of sales and marketing, Matt Harrison, mentioned at Paris last month that the automaker was in the "discussion stage" regarding a new MR2. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda has referred to the Supra, Celica, and MR2 as the "Three Brothers" and he'd like to see them all return, assuming the circumstances are right.
Think of today's 86 as the reborn Celica and with the Supra set to be revealed in Detroit, all that's left is the MR2. Toyota previously hinted of this with 2015's S-FR concept (pictured here), but we've yet to see that materialize to a production car. Perhaps the reason why is because Toyota is examining the possibility of doing something rather drastic with a new MR2 by giving it an all-electric powertrain. This could really happen because Toyota already has the flexible platform, TNGA, which can accommodate EV powertrains, and the battery technology itself.
One advantage of going all-electric is the compactness of the electric motor. Assuming it would be mounted behind the car's two seats, the battery itself would be located below the floor, thus resulting in a low center of gravity.
This is a generally simple layout that would aid in keeping the car's development costs down. Perhaps the biggest obstacle would be range because proper batteries for that purpose can get expensive. Fortunately, Toyota has time on its side as a reborn MR2 wouldn't appear until the mid-2020s at the earliest. By that time, battery tech will have improved enough to resolve any range concerns.
Again, none of this is guaranteed but introducing an affordable, relatively entry-level all-electric sports car that's fun to drive could make a good business case. Question is, would anyone buy it?