Too much fun? That’s what we were asking after driving the 2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet in San Diego . We had been here before with the first generation gas-powered smart that had us of the opinion that it wasn’t very smart at all. Powered by an engine that made it feel like a motorcycle with a body, its rather crude gearbox had us lurching back and forth throughout the town.
What a difference a generation makes.
A Smart decision. Mercedes-Benz, US importer of the smart fortwo, has made a very smart decision, which they can take to the “smart marketing bank” if they are smart about it. Clever, huh? They realized (or listened to all of us auto scribes) when we told them the gasoline-powered smart fortwo wasn’t a very good car, or a motorcycle, for that matter.
As a result, they finally agreed, and have, with the 2018 model year, to go totally electric. That puts them in the same category as Tesla. For 2018 they will offer the smart fortwo coupe and cabriolet. We were invited by smart’s parent company, Mercedes-Benz USA, to travel to San Diego for a chance to try this new one out. Not exactly as they say on television, batteries are included.
Hello Kitty Car. Appearing as though it would be found in Hello Kitty’s garage, the smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet even looks like the famous feline from the front. It’s a two seater with a smallish trunk, 96-cell lithium batteries under the seats, and a roof that pops off making it into a cabriolet.
Power for the fortwo comes from a three-phase synchronous motor and storage for 17.6 kWh of battery capacity. The electric motor and batteries combine to produce slots 80 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque. That energy is delivered to the rear wheel drive system through a single-staged transmission. Mercedes says it’s good for a 0-60 mph jaunt in 11.7-seconds. Top speed is 81 mph, which is more than sufficient for the around-town excursions the cabrio is likely to be used on. The perfect vehicle for putzing around in the city, it has a turning radius of 22.8 feet, which is typically good enough to make a u-turn in the middle of a street.
Even though battery cells are rather weighted due to their density, the smart fortwo electric drive cabrio tips the scales at 2,383 pounds. Smart says the fortwo is good for roughly 57 miles on a full charge around town. It carries a fuel economy rating of 112 city / 91 highway /102 combined Miles Per Gallon equivalent (MPGe). It runs so quietly that at anything under 18 mph, a sound generator lets others know that a vehicle is in their proximity.
The smart fortwo cabrio is included with a 120 V home charging cord that takes 16.5 hours to reach a 100-percent charge. Charging on a 240 V supercharger completes the task in as little as three hours.
By Design. The 2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet is quite innovative and capable of being three cars in one. A coupe with the roof and rear fully closed, a convertible with roof and rear panels open, and a cabriolet with the roof and rear open, and the side roof bars removed. Mind you, you must plan according to the weather because if you have removed the roof bars, you won’t be able to reinstall the roof until the bars have been reinstalled first. Watch out for rainy days.
Seating was comfortable for two in the fortwo, belying its small size, which could actually accommodate two burly men inside.
Inside, the smart fortwo cabrio is equipped with a wide variety of options. A smart Media-System with 7-inch color touchscreen offers navigation, with charging station locations, a graphic representation of how far you can drive with the current battery charge, and live traffic information.
Other options include a climate package, lighting package and smart Media-System with JBL audio and removable sub-woofer.
Drivetime. Behind the wheel of the smart fortwo electric drive cabrio, was a car that was totally transformed from our last time in it. Peppy acceleration was the order of the day and did manage to shock a few owners of regular internal combustion engine powered cars. Especially, the woman behind the wheel of her Cadillac CTS, which we trounced off the line during a stop light drag race in suburban San Diego. She wasn’t having any of it, and quickly passed us but it was certainly fun to see the shock on her face.
Having the batteries stored under the seats help to lower the center of gravity, and enabled us to cut into corners nicely. But care must be taken when rolling over a railroad crossing grade, or one of these so-called sleeping policeman that are used to calm traffic speeds. Approaching too aggressively causes the rear torsion bar suspension to bottom out which in turn causes quite a jarring inside the smart’s interior.
Regenerative braking came into play throughout our driver around Extreme southern California. We could have sworn by the end of our time behind the wheel that we had exceeded the expected 57 miles available to us from a full battery charge. Instead of living on borrowed battery time, we observed was enough battery power remaining to run an additional 27 miles.
That’s pretty smart, too.
Story by Mark Elias. Photos courtesy of smart/Capital Sunset.
2018 smart fortwo electric drive cabriolet
Base MSRP: $28,100 As tested: $32,630
Includes: Prime Package: $1,000; Climate Package, $200; smart Media-System with JBL Sound, $1,780; Destination fee, $750.
Motor: three-phase synchronous motor
Batteries: 96-cell Lithium-ion pack
Torque: 118 lb-ft
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 11.7 seconds
Top Speed: 81 mph
Drive Type single-staged
Unladen Weight: 2,383-pounds
Charging 120V 16.5-hours
Charging 240V 3-hours