The world’s fastest rollerskate is back, then?
From spring 2008, yes. And those mentalists at Brabus have gone and made it even faster, too – by giving it 30 per cent more power. 30 per cent! Now it warbles out 98bhp with half-a-911-timbre, reaches 62mph (after a couple of nodding-dog gearchanges) in 9.9secs. And goes to – whoa – 95mph (sensibly limited).
So it’s far more than just a tarted-up Fortwo?
Oh yes, Brabus has done a thorough job here. The rear wheelarches are wider, to encompass 17-inch wheels with 225/35-section tyres. They’re connected to 10mm lower suspension, with stiffer springs and dampers, and driven by a gearbox that, apparently, shifts 20 per cent faster than standard (with revised first and fifth gear ratios). Paddles on the steering wheel mean you can avoid the idiotic semi-auto logic and keep the revs high. Lift off, and the twin Brabus exhausts pop and rasp; downshift, to enjoy it again, and the throttle’s blipped perfectly. Go back on the power and 103lb ft at 3500rpm surges you away with enough vigour to demand ‘complex surface treatment’ strengthening for the transmission shafts…
But does the Smart Fortwo Brabus still go round corners like a pogo stick?
It’s better; they’ve completely reviewed the suspension. Hey, it now almost never terrifies you with uncontrolled hyperactivity. The biggest boost is tyres, though. At the front, there are now 16-inch 175s. Instead of the old car’s bicycle wheels. Steering, which at last has semblance of weight, responds like no Smart’s ever done – to inputs other than just exaggerated arm waves. It still understeers ridiculously early, but the ESP is far less nannyish. Trick? Keep the throttle planted, and stability control will cut the power just enough to get round. It’s like a dynamic speed limiter. Yes, it still feels like cornering a kitchen stool. Just a less precarious one.
You’re going to tell me it’s not cheap, aren’t you?
Ahem. £13,520? For a tiny two-seater? No wonder they’re predicting to sell handfuls. And if you want a cabrio, the £15,470 list price is higher than a 207 GTi, an Ibiza Cupra – heavens, it’s half as much again as a Panda 100HP. You get Brabus jewellery, of course, plus excellent leather seats and a heavy metal gearshifter. Those monoblock 16/17-inch wheels are gorgeous too, and set off the bodykit glued to the longer, same-but-smoother body. It’s just a pity that 54.3mpg equates to 124g/km, thus excluding it from congestion charge exemption. Bit daft for the ultimate city trinket, that. The handfuls they’re going to sell mean it probably won’t be reviewed, either.
The Brabus Fortwo is never going to be a sports car, and lacks the depth and subtlety of a conventional car. It’s a frenetic point ‘n squirt tool, with corners merely serving as breaks in this flow, irritations that the car would rather not encounter. Saying that, it’s been improved through them, and the steering is at least marginally encouraging. But not so smart are the CO2 emissions and the list price. It genuinely does feel special, makes a great noise and looks so wantable, but a Mini Cooper is also iconic, handles far more like a sports car, is faster and (ostensibly) seats four. Even so, just you try not grinning when you’re behind the wheel.