Alternative Tire Sizes for Your MR2 Spyder

Thursday, December 29, 2011 by Cy Chowattukunnel
With approximately 500 tire models and 17 different manufacturers to choose from, you would think that every driver would have many choices when selecting their next set of tires from us; however that's not always the case. 

The Toyota MR2 Spyder is one of those hard-to-fit vehicles. 2000-2002 MR2 Spyders (we'll call these early Spyders) ran O.E. 185/55-15 tires on the front and 205/50-15 tires on the rear, while the 2003-2005 MR2 Spyder (the later Spyder) ran the same front size but had 215/45-16 rear tires.

When searching for alternative sizes, we need to consider the following before coming to a final decision: overall tire diameter, oversteer vs. understeer balance, rim width, potential effect on anti-lock brakes, tire clearance and availability.

Overall Tire Diameter

To ensure that the vehicle's center of gravity remains the same while maintaining Original Equipment gearing and an accurate speedometer, we need to stay close to the O.E. tire diameters: 185/55-15 at 23.0 inches, 205/50-15 at 23.1 inches and 215/45-16 at 23.6 inches.

Oversteer vs. Understeer Balance

Every car has a tendency to understeer or oversteer at its limit (or in an emergency evasive maneuver). When the front tires lose grip the car understeers or "pushes" through a turn instead of following the line of the turn. Or the rear tires may lose grip, causing the vehicle to oversteer or "fishtail." To learn more about understeer and oversteer, read "Winter Driving Tips."

When changing the size of tires, it's important to maintain the O.E. balance or only slightly tweak to fit preferences. If you change to a wider size in the rear without a corresponding change in the front, the vehicle will have more understeering bias relative to the Original Equipment set-up. Doing the opposite will move the vehicle towards an oversteer bias.

Rim Width

Both early and later Spyders ran 6" wide wheels in the front (referred to as 15x6) and 15x6.5 in the rear. Later MR2 Spyders used the same front size and 16x6.5 on the rear. 

Tires have enough bead and sidewall flexibility to allow the same rim width to accommodate a variety of tire widths. All other things being equal, wider tires on the same rim width diminish steering response but help protect the rim from curb scratches.

ABS

Vehicles equipped with ABS work by looking at the differences in rotational speed. Therefore, avoid a major change in the difference between the front tire diameter and the rear tire diameter compared to O.E. set-up. The car may think the taller tire (which is rotating slower) is slipping and therefore the ABS brakes may not work properly. There's no exact percentage difference to stay within, but our experience suggests that you want to be within three percent of the Original Equipment. 

Tire Clearance

We need to make sure the tire clears the fender, the wheel well and the suspension. We're very conservative when we look at the risk of rubbing. 

Tire Availability

When looking for tires that fit a staggered (wider in the back) set-up, shop for tires by size.

Early (2000-2002) MR2 Spyder Tire Sizes

Some Spyders came with Yokohamas as Original Equipment while others were equipped with Bridgestones. The Yokohamas have been discontinued and are unavailable but you can still purchase the O.E. Bridgestones.

195/50-15 (22.7" diameter) front and 205/50-15 rears maintain the overall diameter, fit the O.E. rims, preserve the vehicle's handling balance, don't rub and offer more choices.  

Later (2003-2005) MR2 Spyder Ti
re Sizes

You can still purchase the O.E. Bridgestone Pontenza RE-040 in 185/55-15 fronts (23.0") and 215/45-16 rears (23.6"). The rears are W-speed rated and the fronts are V-speed rated, so these tires won't appear in a matching pair search even though they're the Original Equipment tires.

Alternative tandem sizes include 195/50-15 fronts (22.7") and 205/45-16  rears (23.3") and 195/55-15 fronts (23.4" ) and 205/45-6 rears (23.3").

Which Tire Do I Recommend?

The optimum choice depends on what's best to balance steering response, ride, wear, oversteer/understeer bias and budget. However, if I had a late model MR2 Spyder as my fast summer car, I'd select the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11 with 195/50-15 on the fronts and 205/45-16 on the rear.

Comments on Alternative Tire Sizes for Your MR2 Spyder

Monday, November 11, 2013 by Tommy Mabry:
I used the above information to purchase tires for my '05 Spyder. I opted for the Goodrich Sport Comp II. With a few hundred miles on them I'm impressed with the ride comfort, noise level and handling. Needless to say, I got 4 tires for less money than 2 Potenzas for just the rear. Running 32psi in front and 35psi in the rear?? Thanks so much for the information.
Tommy Mabry
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by cy:
Mr. Mabry, thanks for your feedback. Since overall carrying capacity of alternative sizes is similar to that of the OE sizes we recommend using the OE factory air pressure recommendations of 26 front & 32 rear as a starting point. Usually OE plus 2-5 pounds more pressure provides the best balance of ride compliance, steering response, efficiency, grip and tire wear. So your 32 psi front & 35 psi rear air pressure is consistent with the "normal" range. Thanks. Cy.
Thursday, December 5, 2013 by jeff:
Mr Mabry could you please tell me the exact sizes of your tires,so I could also purchase them for my 2004 Mr2. Thanks Jeff.
Friday, December 27, 2013 by Tommy Mabry:
Jeff, sorry but I just saw your comment today. Front:195/55 R15 and Rear:205/45 R16. I'm an old guy but I love the handling and improved ride with this tire versus the Potenza. Late reply but I hope this helps, Tommy Mabry
Friday, January 31, 2014 by Chris:
I own an early model MR2 Spyder. I'm guessing that the ABS system on a later model accounts for the difference in rotational speed between front and rear. So my question, based on that assumption is: Is it okay to get 16" wheels on the back and retain 15" wheels on the front in an early model Spyder?
Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by cy:
Chris, as long as you stay with overall tire diameters that are close to OE diameters of 23” (185/55-15 front) & 23.1” (205/50-15 rear), there’s no significant issue going with 15” front wheels & 16” rear wheels. For example, Yokohama makes the S Drive in 185/55-15 (23”), see:

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?tireMake=Yokohama&tireModel=S.drive&sidewall=Blackwall&partnum=855VR5S&tab=Sizes&affiliate=HK8

and 205/45-16 (23.3”), see:

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tires.jsp?tireMake=Yokohama&tireModel=S.drive&sidewall=Blackwall&partnum=045WR6SXL&tab=Sizes&affilliate=HK8

In addition to our website, I’d recommend getting anecdotal feedback from other Spyder drivers at Spyderchat, see:

http://www.spyderchat.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?12-Appearance-Modifications


Thanks Cy.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 by Tommy Mabry:
Cy, just an update on the Goodrich Sport Comp II. With about 7K miles on the tires, I'm very impressed with them. Quiet for that type tire, good handling and superior in the rain. Thanks again for your article on alternatives for the MR2 Spyder. Without your help, who knows what I may have purchased! Also, with our extreme summer heat in souteast Georgia I have dropped the tire pressures to close to OEM specs with 28psi in front and the OEM 32psi rear. Tommy
Sunday, June 15, 2014 by D.B.:
i have a 2000 mr2 spyder
i was offered 4 195/60 15 tires not sure if itll fit good or run right if they are all the same size
is it alright for my spyder to have this size?
Tuesday, June 17, 2014 by cy:
D.B.
These sizes aren't ideal because at 24" in overall diameter compared to the original equipment 23" overall diameter, they’ll raise your center gravity making your Spyder less stable & sporty. Also running the same size front and rear can change the car's handling bias so it's easier to over steer (fishtail).
As far as physically fitting, they're a little bigger than what we've test fit but I suspect if you check:
http://www.spyderchat.com you'll find anecdotal feedback from other Spyder driver's that squeezed them in.
Thanks. Cy.

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