2008 Smart Fortwo Preview
By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2007
- First time available in the U.S.
- Coupe and convertible body styles
- Smallest car on the market
- Seating for two
- Rear-wheel drive
- Three-cylinder engine
- Sold through stand-alone Smart and Mercedes dealerships
- Sales to start in January 2008
The first-generation Smart Fortwo microcar went on sale in Europe in 1998, and the second-generation model was introduced in March 2007. The concept was originally developed by Swiss watchmaker Swatch. When Swatch teamed up with Daimler-Benz, the name Smart emerged as an acronym for "Swatch-Mercedes Art." In addition to the original Smart Fortwo, other Smart models have included the 4-door Forfour and the 2-passenger roadster. The Fortwo is the only Smart model currently produced.
It has been rumored that Smart cars would come to the U.S. for years. The Fortwo is finally arriving in January as a 2008 model. The car is produced by the Mercedes Car Group and will be sold through stand-alone Smart dealers and Mercedes-Benz dealers in the U.S. It is imported by Smart USA Distributor LLC, which is a division of Roger Penske's Penske Automotive Group.
The Fortwo is a 2-door, 2-seat car with rear-wheel drive. Two body styles will be offered: coupe and convertible. Power will come from a 3-cylinder engine, matched to a 5-speed automated manual transmission.
The 2008 Smart Fortwo will be available in three trim levels. Standard features on the entry-level Pure coupe will include power locks, remote keyless entry, cloth upholstery, fold-flat passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, outside temperature indicator, rear window defroster and wiper, and P155/60R15 front and P175/55R15 rear all-season tires on steel wheels. The Pure does not have a radio, but provisions are provided for radio installation and two radios are offered as options. Other options include air conditioning with automatic temperature control and a pollen filter, alarm, panorama roof, power steering, and heated seats.
The Passion coupe adds a panorama roof, air conditioning with automatic climate control, steering wheel shift paddles, power windows, heated power exterior mirrors, an AM/FM radio with CD player, and alloy wheels. In addition to the Pure's options, the Passion offers fog lamps, a tachometer and analog clock, a 5-speaker premium sound system with a 6-disc CD changer, and a Comfort package with power steering, heated leather seats, automatic headlights, and a rain and light sensor. The convertible Passion Cabrio has a power soft top with heated glass rear window and a 5-speaker premium sound system with in-dash 6-disc CD changer. The Passion Cabrio will be offered with the Comfort package, as well as the various separate options available on the other models.
Pricing will start at $11,590 for the Pure, $13,590 for the Passion coupe, and $16,590 for the Passion Cabrio.
Power for all Smart models will come from a rear-mounted 1-liter, 3-cylinder engine that makes 70 hp at 5800 rpm and 68 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500 rpm. The 5-speed automated manual transmission can be set to shift like an automatic or controlled manually via the gearshift or steering wheel paddles. According to Smart, the Fortwo takes 12.8 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 mph and is capable of a top speed of 90 mph. The EPA fuel economy ratings are 33 mpg city/40 mpg highway.
The Fortwo has a strut-type independent front suspension and a DeDion tube rear axle that encases both rear axle shafts in aluminum tubes and allows the axles to pivot via U-joints at the wheels and at the differential. The brakes are front discs and rear drums.
With a total length of 106.1 inches, the Fortwo is almost 40 inches shorter than the Mini Cooper and is short enough to fit "nose-in" in parallel parking spots, Smart claims.
Standard safety features include dual-stage front air bags with passenger-side occupant sensor, head- and torso-protecting side air bags, tire-pressure monitor, traction control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, and electronic stability control with Hill Start Assist.
Hill Start Assist maintains brake pressure for about a second after the driver's foot is lifted off the brake pedal. This provides enough time for the driver's foot to move to the throttle and prevents the car from rolling backward on hilly streets.
The Fortwo also has cornering brake control, which applies less braking force to the inner wheels when braking in a turn to help prevent a skid or spin.
The Fortwo utilizes plastic body panels around a "tridion" safety cell that is made of steel, half of which is of the high-strength variety. According to Smart, this structure has longitudinal and transverse beams that displace impact forces over a large area of the car to protect occupants in a crash. The tridion safety cell is available in black or silver, as elements of it, including the front pillars, are visible from the outside. Smart says that slip tubes up front and a steel rear structure will prevent front and rear crashes of up to 10 mph from affecting the tridion cell. Smart also says the wheels and tires, as well as side braces, will help dissipate energy in a side crash.
The Fortwo has not yet been subject to government crash tests, but Smart claims the car is designed to achieve 4-star crash test ratings.
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