When Did Mercedes Become So Dumb With Its Smart?
|   Monday, October 15, 2012
Sometimes you have to wonder whether the various departments of car companies talk with one another at all! Take the Smart, for example. It is actually made by Mercedes-Benz and retailed through their dealers as the Smart or through separate "Smart" dealerships (Toyota does Scion and Nissan does Infiniti, so why not M-B and Smart?).

The Smart stands on a wheelbase that's about 95 inches and is about 111 inches overall. It's a bit tall in the tooth that means its roll center is a bit higher than it has to be.
Overall, it's a 65 inches tall which wouldn't be so bad if it didn't have that tiny footprint. And, tiny tires. The maximum patch it puts on the ground for each tire is roughly 5 or so so inches. Granted, each tire is somewhat low-aspect ratio, but, who'd have guess this, not us, right?

When you have a Tinkertoy-sized car with itty-bitty tires and a tallish roofline for the vehicle and a roll center that is at or above the mid-line of the car, you are asking for more than a little trouble.

We saw some of that trouble last week in an ad for the Smart where M-B just about shows how much it thinks of its vehicle's handling about when it has a yo-yo driver going up and down a six- or seven-story parking garage and all the vehicle is doing is turning into the curve. It's not even sliding through the corner, which it could do, provided you could get more than 1 liter about about 70 horsepower out of the three-cylinder engine.

Sure, it has a five-speed manual transmission standard and a six available, but you really can't toast the tires when you have a vehicle that takes about 14 seconds to do the 0 to 60 run and which exits a quarter-mile (we don't care what they tell you ) in over 17 seconds about 72 mpg. There's just not that much punch in the Smart.

But, here we have a yo-you going up and down and old-fashioned traffic structure, skidding to a stop at the entrance and dropping another $5 or $10 to the attendant so the yo-you can see if he can really, really throw the Smart off the roof which he will do one of these time or another.

Why would we say that? It's just that you can keep throwing a vehicle around like that and not have something nasty happen to it. What's we found interesting in the little two-seater – has anyone seen that silly blue-suited Smart ad telling the owner of the Blue Smart his lights were on (ouch, but you can have it your way) – is that the tiny tinkercar is a front-engine-rear-drive vehicle which means it should have reasonably good handling, however, when you see the Smart skid around the final turn with its right rear wheel completely off the ground and three tinker-wheels absorbing the pounding, you have to say to yourself "That's an accident on its way to happen."

It won't happen in the commercial, either because of two factors: 1. the drivers are professional and 2. they only run as many takes as they need to make you think they have been doing this all day long. Well, that's the video advertising game for you, now, isn't it? Make something seem like it isn't!

Mercedes does it well – seen the new CUV ads, they make a brick/mortar wall look like so much adobe? (Oh, we're sorry, it is!!) – but this is beside the point.

The Smart, for our money is one dumb vehicle. It's almost as dumb as the suicidal Fiats that are throwing themselves off what looks like the cliffs on the Amalfi coast (another story). You see, with its tiny powerplant that you really do have to rev to get any power you can't do much unless you do have a pretty good downhill run (the ramp is) and long enough to build up the inertia you need.

At other times, all you are trying to do is move a nearly 3,000-pound two-seat vehicle (we kid you not) from point A to B with the best mileage possible from an 8.7 liter gas tank. The problem is the weight. You have lots of weight and lots of transmission and lots of low-level parts to counteract the high roll center (physics being physics, the high roll center will win and you can bet some 17-year-old will try it and find out just how far six or seven stories can be).

The Smart should easily get 50 or 60 mpg, but, instead, it's happy with its 36 average. That's a sin in a 95-inch wheelbase, 110-inch vehicle. Granted it is a rather tall vehicle so its wind cheating ability is more on the sailboat side than the ride side, but still, you should expect 45 mpg overall and the Smart just doesn't do it. Nope, it just doesn't do it.

Perhaps its time for us to share the real options list with you – it's a skate key. You see, you buy two and then you roller them down the road. You will develop great wind and leg muscles, but you 'll be getting better treatment than then current two-door gives you.

Have you seen the commercial where the Smart is advertised as the only vehicle to have tritium frame for strength? You must have seen it, it's the commercial where the Chevy Suburban is balanced at its center point on the center support point of the Smart's roof. Again, don't believe everything you see because if you line everything up correctly with a professional stress engineering program and you then place the Smart frame on the bottom, while placing the large SUV at exactly the right spot on top, you know what happens? Nothing, at all – just don't try moving it very far or you'll have to wonder which way the big SUV will crunch the Smart.
PHOTO GALLERY
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