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Car and Driver: Slighty Mightier Mite: Smart Debuts Latest Brabus-Fettled Fortwo


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Smart-Fortwo-Brabus-edition-PLACEMENT

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There was a time when Brabus was considered sub-par by Daimler, to the point that the tuner’s high-performance renditions of Mercedes-Benz cars were legally barred from displaying the three-pointed star. That’s a thing of the past and Brabus now enjoys a more-than-cordial relationship with Daimler. It extends to Mercedes products, but this change of attitude originated in the cooperation between Brabus and Smart. For the latest, third-generation Smart, Brabus has served up its best effort to date.

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Almost from the get-go, the Bottrop, Germany-based tuner has provided extra power, handling and body kits for Smart, not on the aftermarket but offered through the official sales channels. For this latest version, unveiled at the Beijing auto show, Brabus starts with the turbocharged 0.9-liter 3-cylinder, the top engine offering in the Fortwo for Europe and the only one we get here. The tuner extracts 107 horsepower at 4750 rpm; maximum torque is rated at 125 lb-ft at 2000 rpm. Those are big steps up from the 89 horsepower and 100 lb-ft rating on the Smart Fortwo we know and, well, we don’t love it but we can respect the latest Fortwo.

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Smart-Fortwo-Brabus-edition-INLINE1

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Unfortunately, the Brabus engine upgrades can’t be had with a manual transmission, even though the stick shift is offered on other Smart models in Europe and with the turbo in America. Instead, Brabus reworks the six-speed dual-clutch automatic for quicker shifting. Its maker claims a 0-62 mph time of 9.5 seconds and a top speed governed at 103 mph, making the Brabus Smart quicker than ever. “Quick” is a relative term, of course, but getting to highway speed in less than 10 seconds is revelatory in the Smart context.

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Improved straight-line performance is good, getting the power onto the road safely is better. The new Brabus Smart stands on 185/50R16 front and 205/40R17 rear tires on Brabus Monoblock aluminum wheels; the suspension has been lowered; the stabilizer bar is stronger; and the ESP stability control system is reworked to allow for a bit more fun. It’s a delicate undertaking, this tuning of Fortwo handling for more agility; with its ultra-short wheelbase and rear engine placement, the chassis makes engineers walk a thin line. The power steering is tuned to require more steering effort, a trait that is typically seen as “sporty.”

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We like the way the new Brabus Smart looks, and we suspect that Daimler’s design team had some say in the matter. Previous generations have been politely described to us as “additive,” meaning that the tacky, angular body kit failed to match the styling language of the base model. But the Brabus amendments to this Fortwo look integrated and contemporary. The interior matches the harmonious look of the exterior—particularly when ordered with the “XClusive” program, which adds leather seats and a model-specific fabric and vinyl dashboard cover.

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We expect this Brabus Smart will eventually come to the U.S. market. Watch out, Abarth.

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Smart-Fortwo-Brabus-edition-REEL

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