Do you fancy a frugal timeless looking cabriolet which sprints in under 9 seconds from 0 to 100 km, feels at home in our congested cities and is equally born for the poshiest (Riviera) boulevards? A car which is unashamedly sporting yet will steal the hearts of all the “green” aficionados? A car which is as easy to park as saying one two three? You guessed it, it is the Smart Brabus…
We had a magnificent time with this “city bullet”, despite the snow and ice in winter weather…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Indeed, this car is all about entertainment. The adventure begins when you open the door: your eyes fall on the leather seats, proudly bearing the “B” initial. They are beautifully finished, with contrasting stitches to match.
The three spoked steering wheel is also leather covered of course. Your hands fall on the gear selector, also bearing the “B” initial. You have put the ignition key close to the gear lever and turn it. The three cylinder turbo double overhead cam engine growls to life, with the hissing turbo sound of a thoroughbred unit. Indeed, with not less than 102 horsepower per litre this engine lets you hear I means business. But first some words more about its looks.
Our cabriolet was finished in matte anthracite with orange body accents mainly , on roof, side pillars and tridion cage; BRABUS Monoblock VI alloy wheels with wide tyres measuring 175/50 R16 at the front and 225/35 R17 at the rear let the car look taut and sporty. At the rear end, a double exhaust finishes the BRABUS note, and indeed, it sings a beautiful tune. It gained applause from many spectators, young and old…
The engine tune is good music to your ears, rather more in the cabriolet version we drove. This soft top is of course electric powered and you can open it while you are driving for as much as you want.
Quite frankly, we would not like our Smart without it. Even in winter time, we had it open with the slightest ray of sun… with heated seats of course! Another interesting gimmick is that the roof bars are removable and can be stored in a special compartment in the tailgate when they're not being used.
But now the driving. Having listened for a few seconds to the beautiful engine growl, just put the gear selector in D and leave it there.
Drive away, and yes, it seems that the (semi)automatic gearbox has a mind of its own. Pressing a side button on the gearstick will let you select fully auto or manual mode, and we suggest you start learning the Noble Art of Smart Gearshifting by putting it in the manual mode.
Now grab the gearshift paddles on both sides of the steering wheel and start learning. The trick is to coordinate the subtle lifting movements of your right foot with the fingertip movements on the paddles choosing a higher gear. Easy? Hmmm. It certainly demands a lot of concentration in the beginning. But that is the beauty of the human body, one learns until it becomes second nature, like Maurizio Pollini playing the Chopin Nocturnes, or Diana Krall touching softly the piano keys, coordinating it with the foot paddles to get that mellow Jazz tune. So be your own Maurizio or Diana, and soon you can listen to the engine staccato in an uninterrupted stream of acceleration.
Also you can let the gearbox do half the work. Just concentrate on changing up, the box will do the downshifting for you, so in any traffic situation you are always in the correct gear and, yes, you can really STORM ahead to get you out of a traffic “situation.” Interesting to know that the gearshift delays are now further shortened on the Brabus, and give reasonable results.
With the excellent power to weight ratio and the healthy engine output, acceleration is quite brisk, from 0 to 100 in 8,9 seconds. The beauty lies also in the long first and second gears, giving you plenty of acceleration speed range before the engine runs out of breath, so you can finish these (boulevard) sprints “en beauté”.
With its light, accurate steering and good brakes, the Smart is ideal for town driving. The short wheelbase makes it behave like nothing else on the road. The ride is good on most surfaces, but changes of road surface and potholes cause some pitching and bouncing. The stiffer Brabus suspension keeps these body movements under control however. The suspension has been lowered by 15 mm compared to the “normal” Smart, and indeed, it helps.
With its good power, the BRABUS is good fun to drive on winding roads, with very good road holding to match. The car has a tendency to understeer in normal road conditions. On ice and snow, the rear end will break out under power, but this is soon reined in by the electronic traction and stability controls. The BRABUS never got us into a situation of any kind.
On the motorways, the BRABUS also in its element, and can hold pace well with faster traffic. Due to its boxy shape there is some sensitivity to side- and crosswinds though.
Being rather tall, the Smart is surprisingly roomy inside, and the Smart feels never cramped nor is tiring on longer (city) trips. There is also plenty of headroom, even with the convertible top closed.The steeply raked windscreen lets you get an airy, MPV-like view forward and on the sides. The smaller rear window of the Cabrio version takes some getting used to, but using the side rear mirrors solves this completely.
The fuel consumption is quite good, considering this “pure sang” engine, but of course a lot depends on your more or less spirited driving style. The manufacturer quotes 5,2 litres/100 km, and this is realistic.
Needless to say, we grew very fond of “our” Brabus, and found it one of the Smartest ways to get around and enjoy undistilled driving pleasure…
Of course, we also have less sporty mortals in mind who would like to enjoy Smart transport, therefore we also tested the new Smart fortwo mhd Cabrio… read our test report soon!
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Photographer's notes: pictures were taken with the Fujifilm Finepix S. The low winter sun provided high(er) contrast. We underexposed a bit to avoid highlight areas without detail. The camera feels at home in taking longer telephotos (see last picture here above) as well as in extreme close up situations (see gearchange paddle). A report on this camera will follow soon...