2011 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet Road Test Review

Brian Armstead - CAP staff
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While anticipating the media program for the new smart fortwo electric drive, I wondered whether I would need a red wig, yellow and white suit, and big red shoes. Yes, I'm talking Ronald McDonald, as the smart is so small, and I am so big, I wondered if a clown scenario would play out during my drive through the upscale borough of Brooklyn, New York. As you may know, the smart platform is diminutive. I am 6'9" tall, a feather shy of 275 pounds. Surely I would not be comfortable in this tiny urban commuter. To my surprise, not only did I fit, but I fit pretty well, albeit with long legs gently wrapped around the steering wheel. Now in fairness to smart, the giant demographic was surely not on the whiteboard at parent company Daimler when the fortwo electric drive was planned. But the demographic smart is targeting: hip, young urban commuters in touch with the needs of Mother Earth, surely will find the fortwo electric drive enticing.

Piggybacking on the success of its gasoline- and originally diesel-powered models – smart is banking that the infrastructure to power an electric fleet of cars in cities across North America will soon be in place. Is this a realistic expectation? Time will tell. Do keep in mind that smart is linked to Mercedes-Benz through Daimler, and the German firm doesn't make very many mistakes.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Daimler developed the fortwo electric drive from the same platform as the gasoline-powered smart coupe and cabriolet. The 16.5 kWh lithium-ion battery pack resides in a space that would normally hold a fuel tank. The 30 kW electric motor, along with the charging unit, single shift gearbox and drivetrain-cooling unit are packaged in the rear of the vehicle. The smart fortwo electric drive can be charged in 3.5 hours from 20- to 80-percent using a 220-volt outlet. A full charge occurs in less than 8 hours. A 110-volt household outlet can also be used to charge your smart. While the smart is no Tesla in terms of acceleration, it's no turtle either. It can reach 0 to 60 km/h in 6.5 seconds and has a 132-km range per charge. Top speed is electronically limited to 100 km/h.

And what would any new technology be without an iPhone app? Yes, you can control several parameters by plugging your iPhone into a custom angled bracket on the fortwo centre console (iPod Touch models will not work). GPS navigation is a major part of the app, but you can also control charging rate and view charging status, check your driving range, find the cheapest time to recharge your car based on electric company rates, listen to Internet radio and more. The app can even let you know where you parked your car. About the only thing it won't do is let Ronald know you want a large order of fries with your Big Mac!

Driving the smart fortwo electric drive is just plain fun. The body is remarkably rigid, owing its strength to the Tridion safety cell that makes the tiny cabriolet one of the safest small cars on the road. Smarts come standard with electronic stability control; corner brake control; electronic brake assist; acceleration skid control; engine torque control; and front, side, head and thorax airbags, among other safety features. You can find stories of real world crash survival at www.safeandsmart.com.

Ride quality belies the small size of the car. Even with its tiny 2.5-meter plus body, the ride feels as smooth as a car with a much longer wheelbase. Smarts ride on 15-inch wheels, a certain plus to fight off impacts from potholes and other road imperfections.

The list of standard equipment is impressive. Air conditioning (with automatic temperature control and pre-air conditioning), electric power steering, electric windows, electrically adjustable and heated side mirrors and a decent amount of storage space behind the built-in roll bar are no-cost features. Two dash-mounted pod gauges house an ammeter and battery charge indicator. The canvas electric convertible top stores behind the seats, and does not block rearward vision.

All smart fortwo electric drives feature green painted alloy wheels, green mirror caps, green contrast components and green side trim.  The words "electric drive" adorn the rear and sides.

The smart fortwo electric drive will lease for $599 a month for 48 months and includes a 4-year warranty in the U.S., and smart's Canadian division expects that pricing and lease terms in Canada will be similar to the U.S. pricing model. Canada will only receive 45 smart fortwo electric drive vehicles beginning in Q4 of this year, which will be leased to municipalities, corporations and private customers in key cities across the country. Details regarding specific customers will be available later this summer. In addition, for the 2012 model year the smart fortwo electric drive will be produced in large volumes and available in Canada through the smart dealer network as part of the smart model range.

I enjoyed my brief time behind the wheel of this car, and did not feel like a circus clown driving it. Let's hope the infrastructure to recharge such innovative vehicles becomes a priority here and worldwide.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Convertible, smart, 2011, fortwo electric drive cabriolet, Subcompact,

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