What's this revving up for the Pikes Peak hillclimb?
You guessed right. This is the unmistakable shape of Smart's all-new ForTwo, due on European sale in mid-2007. An amazed CAR Online watched as two prototype Smarts pulled up at the ranger's hut at the bottom of the Pikes Peak. After a quick pause, they embarked on the legendary race into the clouds, a 12.4-mile ascent to 14,100 feet, through 160 corners many unguarded from perilous plunges. The perfect test for a three-cylinder city car prototype, then…
What it does/ how it looks
Smart has gone full circle, and is back to one model – the ForTwo city car – after the axing of the Roadster/Coupe, ForFour supermini and proposed ForMore off-roader. But there's a plan to grow ForTwo sales from 80,000 to at least 125,000 units annually by expanding into a key new market. Appropriately, considering its testing location, that market is the US. DaimlerChrysler has signed a deal with businessman Roger Penske to distribute the car Stateside, from 2008. Penske's United Auto Group operates 296 retail franchises. The new Smart is a wee bit bigger, more refined and it has a stronger engine. The looks remains true to the iconic original – much like its inspiration, the Mini – although details are funkier.
Under the skin
Codenamed 451, the ForTwo MkII has a longer wheelbase and revised suspension, to improve the choppy ride of today's car. The new chassis is modular, and can be adapted for a variety of concepts. A stretched 2+2-seater, cabriolet, boxy van and funky speedster like the Crossblade are all on the drawing board. Every model uses the same chassis, the same rear-engine/rear-drive layout, the same body structure and the same cockpit architecture. But they will be differentiated by their front and rear ends, different roof treatments and length. An electronic stability programme and multiple airbags will be standard, to convince skeptical Americans that it's safe as well as small.
The engine room
The humming engine note in Colorado confirmed that the ForTwo continues with a three-cylinder engine. DaimlerChrysler has a deal to use the 660cc triple from the Mitsubishi i. Breathed on by a turbocharger, it produces 64bhp and 61lb ft in the Mitsu. Transmission is via a four-speed auto ‘box, far smoother than today's jerky and ponderous 'box.