12.9 @ 1/4-mile 282 hp @ wheels.

For about a decade, the Mazda MX-5, known in the United States as Miata, has been the one and only truly affordable roadster on American soil. (For our purposes here, affordable will be defined as a car that can be acquired for less than $25,000). That all changed last year with the introduction of a totally revamped, open-topped MR2 from Japan's largest automaker.

Now in its second year of production, Toyota's MR2 Spyder comes well-equipped to do battle with the venerable Miata in the open-topped two seater arena, but truth be told, its overall performance is a far cry from that of the turbocharged and intercooled second-gen MR2. Like its predecessors, the new MR2 features a mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout that lends the car favorable weight distribution, while advanced high-strength steel construction creates a rigid chassis and helps keep the convertible Spyder's curb weight down around a feathery 2200 pounds.

Mid-engined similarities aside, the new Spyder differs from its previous incarnations in two major areas. First is its styling-obviously, the lack of a hard top is a big factor here, and the very Porsche-esque head- and taillight assemblies and mid-engine configuration have helped the MR2 Spyder acquire the dubious nickname "Poor Man's Boxster."

The second area the new MR2 differs from the old is its powerplant and the lack of a forced-induction counterpart for its naturally aspirated base model. Motivation for the Spyder comes from Toyota's all-aluminum, high-compression 1ZZ-FE DOHC in-line four, the same engine found in the new Celica base model. In the MR2 application, this engine uses Toyota's VVT-i variable valve timing technology at its intake ports to produce 138 hp at 6,400 rpm, but that's where the fun ends.

Enter the visionaries at Axis Sport Tuning of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. For a company that purports to sell alloy wheels, Axis has recently been developing a reputation as a fairly prolific automotive tuning house. The company's latest project was the brainchild of Axis president James Chen. Having already tackled vehicles in the compact sedan arena, Chen wanted something different, something small and light coupled with ground-pounding engine output.