You’ll know Brabus as a manufacturer of bonkers horsepower mega Mercs. But the tuner is also the official in-house performance partner for Smart and has been turning its expertise to the diminutive Fortwo and dearly departed Roadster for some years.
Official status hasn’t reined in the instinct for going a bit bonkers every now and then though. First there was the V6 biturbo Roadster Coupe. And now we have the lairiest, most in your face Fortwo ever seen: the Ultimate 112.
The 112 derives from the pferdstärke power output Brabus has managed to tickle from the familiar 999cc triple. And the Ultimate bit? Well, Brabus would argue that derives from the fact that this car wears a unique bodykit, 18-inch wheels, ice white paint and has a bespoke interior. However we can’t take our eyes off the €45,900 pricetag…
You said how much for the Brabus Ultimate 112?
Yup, at current exchange rate that works out at over £36K. Or more than double the cost of the production Brabus Smart Fortwo. Or, to put it another way, £1500 per horsepower gained. But of course that is an attempt to rationalise a luxury product using conventional parameters.
And Brabus buyers aren't a rational bunch. These are, after all, people who reckon 720bhp is a sensible amount of power for a CLS. Or that G-Wagens aren’t complete without a V12 biturbo engine conversion and full multi-media fit. In this context Brabus bills the Ultimate 112 as a companion piece to tuned SLRs and suchlike. And you’re unlikely to see an Ultimate 112 towed behind a Brabus’d Maybach, motorhome style, but if you asked nicely something could probably be arranged.
Brabus can prepare your Ultimate 112 in the colour of your choosing, one customer apparently having the exterior paint and leather matched to his SLR and another choosing NATO-spec olive drab. Brabus has even built a Polizei version with blue lights to promote a German road safety initiative.
So what do I get for my money?
Exclusivity in a word. Just 112 Ultimates will be built, one for each of those very expensive horsepower. And the special ‘Widestar’ bodykit is unique to this model and won’t be available for any other Fortwo, ditto the engine mods.
These comprise shortened conrods to lower the compression ratio and allow extra boost of 1.7 bar, a sports catalytic converter with cast aluminium twin-exit pipe, a tweaked ECU and revised gearshift programming. It's a world away from the usual chip-it-and-whack-the-boost-up approach of other Smart tuners, but you’d expect as much from Brabus.
Meanwhile the interior comes in for a full re-trim in Brabus’s soft Mastik leather. Seats, dash and door cards are all covered in it, with contrasting stitching colour-matched to the exterior paint. The contrasting black and red seen here are best described as vibrant. There’s also the chunkiest steering wheel known to man and a retrofit touchscreen sat-nav/ICE unit.
Is the Brabus Smart as fun to drive as it looks?
Oh yes. With its engorged panelwork and ridiculous 18-inch wheels the Ultimate 112 looks like a caricature of the standard Fortwo and this character extends to the driving. The familiar three-cylinder growl takes on a harder, meaner edge than before, building to an invigorating roar audible even from our E-class chase car on the autobahn.
Come off the throttle and you’re rewarded with a loud chirrup from the wastegate, and if the soundtrack alone doesn’t put a huge grin on your face within the first few hundred yards someone needs to check you for a pulse. And while the numbers don’t sound dramatic, the Ultimate feels invigoratingly fast, the boost rushing in after a short delay and hurling you down the road. Probably giggling.
Harrying startled traffic on the autobahn is huge fun in a Smart. If they don’t hear you coming, the sight of a bright orange Smart jinking around in their mirrors is enough to have even the most hard-nosed road hog moving over. And it pulls so strongly up to its 106mph limiter, you wonder what it would manage shorn of its restrictor and furnished with safer aerodynamics.
But corners must be a bit scary in a Brabus Ultimate 112?
Like any Smart the top-heavy seating position and short wheelbase are not a recipe for cornering prowess. But its wide track and vast 205/35R18 and 235/30R18 rubber mean your tolerance levels will give out long before grip is relinquished. Memories of the old-school understeering Smarts are long forgotten.
No, this Brabus isn’t designed for trackdays or B-road blasting. Instead you catapult forwards on a huge wave of boost, then enjoy decent cornering grip and agility; it's more of a point-and-squirt weapon. And it’ll put a huge smile on your face in the process. Until you hit a speed bump or pothole, that is … sports suspension and those ludicrous 18-inch wheels make for a choppy ride.
Flicking up and down the gearbox via the paddleshift only adds to the cartoon driving style. And while there is still the old push-wait-for-it-POWER delay in the upshifts you get in any Smart, the rude blipping downshifts are lots of fun.
The wide wheelarches, monster wheels and comedy driving style certainly back up the promise of the extreme looks, even if the actual stats aren’t quite as impressive as you might hope. Rational arguments don’t really apply to this Brabus Smart, so forget trying to find a way of justifying the pricetag and instead enjoy it for the fun it represents.
This being a Brabus the frivolity is backed up with some serious engineering of course. And while others might get bigger numbers on the dyno, there’s real integrity behind the Ultimate’s upgrades. This car doesn't feel like it will disintegrate after six months.
For the money-no-object crowd the Ultimate is aimed at we’d have no hesitation recommending it. Back in the real world, the standard Brabus Smart ticks most of the same boxes and is a far more rational purchase.
But it's nice to know it shares its genes with something as outrageous and gleefully frivolous as the Ultimate 112.