Once upon a time, owning a mid-engined machine didn't have to mean a six-figure supercar or a new Corvette. In fact, we will be very disappointed if there isn't at least one mention of the Toyota Previa in the comments. This video features a very different mid-engine Toyota, one that's a bit more prepared to face a proper supercar that's nearly three decades younger.
Ah yes, the MR2. Born in the 1980s, refined in the 1990s, then arguably neutered in the 2000s, the first two generations endure as favorites among enthusiasts around the world. One of those enthusiasts is a chap by the name of Carl, who lives in the UK. We don't know anything else about him, but he did slap a big turbocharger onto a 1993 MR2. The mighty 3S-GTE four-cylinder now generates a claimed 610 horsepower (449 kilowatts), turning the rear wheels through an old-school manual transmission.
Meanwhile, we have Rory Reid back behind the wheel of a McLaren 540C, and if this sounds familiar, it's the same car he drove back in November for a showdown against a Mercedes SLR McLaren. He seems to fancy old-versus-new races in the entry-level McLaren, though as a reminder, entry-level in this case still means a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 making 533 hp (397 kW) connected to a quick-shifting dual-clutch gearbox. In stock trim, it can grab 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and if you stay on the throttle, it will kiss 200 mph.
Still, provided Carl's hp claim is on the money, the 540C is at a disadvantage in this race. Of course, it was also at a disadvantage in the aforementioned SLR McLaren showdown, and that contest easily went to the 540C. Yes, the SLR had traction issues with its engine sitting up front, but the MR2 suffers no such penalty with its mid-engine configuration. In other words, this contest should be a close one.
Except it isn't.
We aren't going to be coy about this. Reid was a bit harsh regarding Carl's engineering savvy more than once during this short clip, but therein lies some truth. Whereas the 540C was built to handle big power, the MR2 was designed for about 200 ponies in top trim. The poor Toyota spins its rear hides like crazy for the first half of the race, and if that's not bad enough, the McLaren takes a noticeable leap forward every time Carl swaps cogs. Yes, a manual transmission can be more engaging and involving for the driver, but it will never be faster than a paddle-shifted dual-clutch box.
So yeah, chalk up another win for the 540C. Perhaps a crazy-modified Previa with people riding in the back would make for a better challenge?