Friday, July 18, 2003

A very Smart idea.

I really angered and made this otherwise very intelligent British girl irrationally defensive when I told her that the Smart city car couldn't be sold in the US due to safety issues. She took that to mean me saying EU standards are less than the US and as an insult. After bickering we agreed that it was moot as not enough people in the US would be into a 50hp car the size of a golf cart to make importing viable. For most Americans a car is not just how you get around town, it's also how you get across country. Compared to Europe there is no intercity public transportation in the US so if I want to get from Columbus to Cleveland for the Liz Phair show I can drop $500 to fly up one day and back on next plus hotel charges or I can make the 280mi round trip all in the same day for $15 in gas. Even if you over taxed the gas like in Europe it would be around $45, still a fraction of the cost of airfare and hotels. The point is as Americans all we have is the car and if you've ever driven across Kansas into a headwind you'll understand why the Smart city car wouldn't do well here.

Enter the For4.

Smart's new sedan which will be coming to the US is excepting to go on sale either '05 or '06. I can't find any stats on the car but I would except it to have reasonable performance. No doubt with a larger more powerful engine than other markets. Based on the picture you can see it is has a more traditional "car" look to it and while it might never take off in Flint I'm sure they can sell enough to be worth the time in the cities and along the coasts. So we will be getting a Smart we probably won't get the new Roadster and Coupe.

The Smart Roadster and Coupe are very light weight aggressive sports cars. The main problem is power and price. For $17,000 dollars you get a .7l L3/61hp engine. Yes, that's point seven liter 3 cyl. That's smaller than the 3 popper in the Geo Metro. It's just not a viable power plant. For $17,000 I can get a used BMW Z3, Saab 9-3, Ford Mustang, Chevy Camero SS and so on. These are 200 to 300 hp rides and they are only a fraction of the ragtops available on the used market. Add into the mix the reality that Pontiac is going to be rolling out the tiny Solstice roadster with a sub $20k price tag and a supercharged L4 with over 200hp in a few years and it's easy to see the Smarts collecting a lot of dust.

But what if it had a better engine?

Take 2 of those .7l turbo 3cyl and mate them into a 1.4l turbo V6 with 170hp and now you have a viable car. The base curb weight is a mere 1,746lbs. The larger engine wouldn't add more than a few pounds. This car could be a real machine eating larger more power cars for lunch. This is what Smart has done. At $25,000 range they could sell these. Not tons but I think enough to make it worth while as its number would be very good with only around 10.5lbs per pony. 0-60 would be in the mid 5 second range.

I'd look into getting one.

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