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Car and Driver: Mini Copper: Smart Fortwo Police Car Goes on Patrol in New York

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We’ve described the Smart Fortwo in many ways—often unflattering—but now we can add one more descriptor: “police car.” In New York City, dozens of blue-and-white Smarts will be out on patrol, with the tiniest light bars in NYPD history.

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In perhaps the microcar’s most practical application on U.S. soil, 110 Fortwo coupes will replace the NYPD’s aged fleet of G0-4 police carts. Compared to that vehicle, which is only slightly more refined than an Indian tuk-tuk, the Fortwo has an extra wheel, seat, two forward gears, 20 horsepower, and modern safety equipment like airbags, all sorely missing on the decades-old Go-4. The Smart police cars are also a foot shorter with a 4.8-inch shorter wheelbase, so officers can squeeze them into Central Park and other pedestrian-heavy areas where they’ll serve primarily in traffic enforcement.

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While there’s no “cop motor” aside from the normal Fortwo’s three-cylinder 89-hp engine (it’s 100cc less than in the Go-4), fleet commanding officer Scott Olexa reassured us the Smart police cars will never be used for pursuit. They won’t take anyone into custody, either, since no officer wants to rub shoulders with a perp in handcuffs. The city’s 8000 other police cars can handle those jobs.

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Some pressing questions to which the NYPD firmly answered “no”: Wouldn’t a police convertible have been cuter? And what about the electric version? To that last point, despite these cars driving at most a dozen miles a day, the NYPD didn’t want to deal with the battery-electric cars with their short driving range and long charging times.

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“We can’t have that kind of downtime, especially in an emergency,” Olexa said. “When [Hurricane] Sandy hit, all of our cars were out.”

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Heroic and tough? We might very well write new descriptions for the Smart, after all.

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