Model history: A smart family

Jul 12, 2007
  • The smart is continuously being refined
  • Lineup expanded by the addition of new models
  • Powerful versions created with BRABUS expertise
1998: smart city coupe
This car was the ancestor of the smart idea come true – and it became an automotive style icon: 26 years after Johann Tomforde’s first idea, the smart city coupe came off the assembly line. The dimensions had remained surprisingly small: the sub-compact car was 2.5 meters long, 1.51 meters wide and 1.52 meters high, and it owed its dynamic, youthful appearance to a well-thought-out design.
The bodywork structure and the engineering features under the skin demonstrated the extent to which its developers had turned their backs on conventional car concepts: the engine, a three-cylinder gasoline unit with a displacement of just 598 cubic centimeters, was fitted in the rear underfloor section of the car. Convincing accident safety was ensured by the revolutionary Tridion safety cell. It gave the smart a high level of stability and, in conjunction with effective deformation zones at the front and rear as well as state-of-the-art restraint systems, a level of passive safety that was on a par with that of much larger sedans. The second element of the bodywork was made up of the body panels which were painted in a color differing from that of the safety cell.
The city coupe was offered in the pure, pulse and passion equipment versions. The turbocharged engines developed 45 hp (33 kW), 55 hp (40 kW) and 61 hp (45 kW), respectively. While retaining displacement, the engineers boosted engine output by raising the charge pressure in the turbocharger to maximally 1.0 bar in the 61 hp (45 kW) smart pulse. This meant that a maximum torque of 88 Newton meters was available in the engine speed range between 2250 and 4500/min.
A slightly less powerful version was the smart passion with 55 hp (40 kW). This equipment version attracted buyers with its glass roof and sunshade, light-alloy wheels in the starline design and bicolor rear lights, SOFTOUCH automatic transmission, air conditioning with outside temperature gauge, leather-covered steering wheel and leather-covered selector lever.
The standard equipment of all smart variants included trust plus, a dynamic handling control system derived from the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®), the anti-lock brake system (ABS), electronic brake power distribution, full-size airbags for driver and passenger, integral safety seats, belt tensioners and belt force limiters and the wiring for the quick-action attachment of a child safety seat – active and passive safety systems which were the prerogative of luxury cars at the time.
The dynamic handling control system, trust plus, derived its name from the elements of traction and stability control. The system was designed to prevent critical driving situations. To this end, the ABS sensors and a lateral-acceleration sensor continuously record the driving situation of the smart. In the event of excessive lateral acceleration, trust plus automatically reduces the throttle. In the case of oversteer, the clutch is disengaged.
As early as the market launch in October 1998, an exclusive special model of the smart city coupe, limited to an edition of 7,500 units and named limited/1, was offered. In this variant, the seats, door pockets, steering wheel and selector lever were covered with light-colored leather. Several limited/1 signets and a badge displaying the progressive car number distinguished the special models from the production cars at the time of the smart’s market launch.
From an early stage, the smart also demonstrated the city coupe’s potential for a variety of uses. There were special versions for airfield control, police and fire brigade. The Mercedes-Benz fire brigade at the Sindelfingen plant used a smart as a mobile alarm and control center as early as 1998. The red car was equipped with signaling horn and flashing blue lights, as well as with phone, two-way radio and fire extinguisher in the interior.
Sale of the smart city coupe began in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and Spain. By 2007, the smart was marketed in 36 countries around the world. With the second generation of the smart fortwo, the brand will also enter the US market.
1999: smart city coupe cdi
As early as 1994, the smart developers joined forces with Mercedes-Benz engine developers to start an ultra-low-emission engine project as an alternative to hybrid drive. The trailblazing cdi diesel technology was incorporated in the smart in 1999: the three-cylinder engine had a displacement of 799 cubic centimeters and developed 41 hp (30 kW) – the world’s smallest production diesel engine for automotive use. Like the more powerful engines from Mercedes-Benz, it was equipped with common-rail direct injection, ensuring smooth-running characteristics which were unprecedented in the diesel segment, and low emissions.
The smart cdi had an average fuel consumption of just 3.4 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers according to the NEDC norm (69 mpg). With this compression-ignition engine, the model was a genuine three-liter car and, with just 90 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer also one of the cleanest in terms of emissions. The ecologically exemplary diesel became the first smart version to be offered in North America: in 2004, the smart cdi made its debut in Canada. In the very first year, 4,000 Canadian buyers became enthusiastic owners of the economical car. “ The smart fortwo is ‘cool’, and the Canadians love this car” – this is how Marcus Breitschwerdt, President of Mercedes-Benz Canada, summarized the car’s first successes in 2005. The smart cdi even proved itself in the Canadian winter, not least thanks to the Electronic Stability Program which had been part of the standard equipment since 2003.
2000: smart cabrio
On the occasion of the smart launch at the 1997 Frankfurt International Motor Show, the smart design team displayed 1:5-scale models to demonstrate how the brand could develop in emotional terms. The smart finally opened up to the skies in 1999 when the brand presented a cabriolet based on the city coupe. It was received with great enthusiasm because this bodywork variant convincingly adopted the youthful and unconventional character of the smart concept. This cute car hit the road as early as spring 2000. The cabriolet had the same highly compact dimensions as the city coupe, and at 740 kilograms, it weighed only ten kilograms more than the enclosed version. The airy smart was available with the two large gasoline engines and the diesel.
In the cabriolet version of the smart, three variants of open-top motoring were made possible by the innovative soft-top design: the electrically operated soft-top was adjusted to any desired position at the push of a button. Over and above this, the electrically locked rear-end soft-top was easily lowered by hand. And finally, the lateral roof pillars could be removed and stowed in a special compartment on the inside of the tailgate. Even greater openness was provided by a special model which came onto the market in 2002: the smart crossblade.
2002: smart crossblade
There could hardly have been greater freedom. The smart crossblade came without doors, roof and windshield. Its drivers moved through the landscape with nothing but the deep blue sky above them, the wind in their faces – an incomparable driving experience. It was only above the cockpit that a narrow, dark-tinted wind deflector braced itself against the slipstream. Instead of conventional doors, the crossblade featured steel safety bows at the occupants’ shoulder level. They moved vertically upward with the help of a gas pressure spring.
The first advertising campaign for the smart had demanded the concentration on the essential: “reduce to the max” . This promise was already kept by the design study of the smart crossblade, which was presented at the Geneva Motor Show in 2001. The media response to this radical interpretation of the smart idea was overwhelmingly positive, and visitors to the motor show were baffled. Therefore, smart decided to launch a small series of this model, limited to 2,000 units, into the market one year later. In June 2002, the first customers took delivery of their individually numbered units of the crossblade.
The minimalist equipment moved the Tridion safety cell into the foreground as this structural element was particular conspicuous on this smart model. The safety cell was lined with matt titanium-colored plastic panels in the areas of rollover bar, B-pillars and door sills. Black-painted wheel embellishers in a minimalist format underlined the dynamic looks.
The interior of the smart crossblade was perfectly prepared to cope with the influence of the sun, the wind and adverse weather conditions. Dashboard and seats were covered with water-repellent, bright red plastic with black backrest inserts to create the contrasting scheme so typical of the smart. The floor was lined by an undivided plastic tub with four water-diverting channels which ensured that after a cloudburst, the rainwater would be channeled off through the floor of the safety cell. This tub also protected the electric cables from moisture. Two water-diverting channels were incorporated in each of the seat squabs at the level of the rear transverse seam. The driver airbag was protected by a hood made of water-repellent fabric. The entire interior could be protected against rain and solar radiation when required. For this purpose, each smart crossblade was equipped with a tarpaulin as standard. The black nylon tarpaulin could easily be stretched over the interior and fastened to the bodywork by means of elastic bands.
The smart crossblade was an expression of personal freedom and independence, and addressed an exclusive circle of customers. The open two-seater stood for the innovative strength of the smart brand. In terms of standard safety equipment, the special model reached the same comparatively high level as the smart cabrio and city coupe: it was equipped with the same restraint systems, including belt tensioners, belt force limiters and full-size airbags for driver and passenger.
The crossblade was powered by the turbocharged engine from the city coupe and cabriolet, its power electronically boosted to 70 hp (52 kW). The car’s top speed was 135 km/h, its maximum torque 108 Newton meters.
2003: smart roadster and roadster-coupe
A particularly intensive driving experience was provided by the sports car models smart roadster und smart roadster-coupe which came onto the market in April 2003. Studies and show cars of this type had already been displayed at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in 1999 and at the Paris Motor Show in 2000. The production versions were presented in 2002. With these two cars, smart referred back to the tradition of compact and purist roadsters which had had a heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. The two smart sports cars differed in their rear-end bodywork design: while the roadster had a notchback with a fixed rear screen, the roadster-coupe featured a fastback with a tailgate section consisting almost completely of glass.
The displacement of the rear-mounted engine had been enlarged to 698 cubic centimeters for use in the roadster. The larger engine was also offered in the other smart models. In the roadster, the three-cylinder engine developed either 61 hp (45 kW) or 82 hp (60 kW). The roadster-coupe was available with the larger engine only. The top speeds of the roadster versions, which were just under 3.5 meters long and 1.2 meters flat and weighed in at 790 kilograms, were 160 and 175 km/h, respectively. The only slightly heavier roadster-coupe reached a top speed of 180 km/h.
The dynamic and agile two-seaters from smart provided a unique driving experience – true to the motto that the journey is the reward. Direct handling, outstanding cornering and astonishing comfort levels combined into an intensive experience of dynamic driving, unrivalled by any other sub-compact car in this category. The smart roadster and smart roadster-coupe were fitted with the ESP® dynamic handling control system as standard. In engineering terms, both sports cars were based on the classic smart whose coupe and cabriolet versions were designated fortwo to distinguish them from the new models. The market launch of the smart roadster and smart roadster-coupe thus marked the first decisive step in expanding the smart model range and thus the brand itself.
With a soft-top and a hard-top that could be used jointly or alternatively, the roadster and roadster-coupe gave their owners outstanding motoring pleasure under the clear blue skies. In addition to a removable two-part plastic roof, which was stowed and carried in the trunk, the smart roadster and the smart roadster-coupe were available with an electrically operated folding roof. The latter could be opened and closed even at top speed – a function unmatched by any competitor.
The BRABUS versions of the smart sports cars were not long in the making: the cars developed by smart-BRABUS GmbH celebrated their world premiere at the Geneva Motor Show in 2004. The two versions were upgraded in terms of performance and equipment. Their output was boosted to 101 hp (74 kW) and top speed to 190 km/h (roadster) and 195 km/h (roadster-coupe). This ensured enhanced motoring pleasure. The standard equipment of the dashy two-seaters included sports suspension, 17-inch light-alloy wheels, SOFTOUCH automatic gearshift, black-leather sports seats with seat heating and a three-spoke leather-covered sports steering wheel with steering-wheel gearshift paddles.
BRABUS even presented a design study of a smart roadster-coupe which boasted a V6 biturbo in the rear instead of the standard three-cylinder engine. This maxi-smart engine developed 170 hp (125 kW) from a displacement of 1,396 cubic centimeters and accelerated the car from standstill to 100 km/h in less than six seconds.
Production of the smart roadster and roadster-coupe was discontinued in late 2005. As many as 43,000 units had been built of the two sports car versions on the platform of the smart fortwo over a period of two years – testifying impressively to the dynamism of this vehicle concept.
2003: Model refinement for the smart fortwo
A new larger three-cylinder engine boosted the power output of the gasoline-engined versions of the smart fortwo (previously the city coupe and cabriolet). After the 2003 model refinement, the entry-level model developed 50 hp (37 kW); the more powerful smart produced 61 hp (45 kW) from a displacement enlarged to 698 cubic centimeters. The new generation of gasoline engines complied with the EURO IV emission norm. The proven cdi diesel engine with 41 hp (30 kW) remained unchanged.
With new features, the cars became even more comfortable, safer and more dynamic. The smart brand offered its customers technologies as standard, which were normally found only in larger cars. The previous trust plus dynamic handling system was replaced by the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) as standard, extended by the addition of selective brake intervention for stabilizing the car. Over and beyond this, the ESP® incorporated additional functions for even greater comfort and safety, among them start-off and brake assistants and acceleration skid control. The anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake power distribution was also integrated in the ESP®. In addition, the ESP® permitted, among other things, a softer suspension tuning and a longer spring travel than before. This equipment was unmatched by any other car in the micro-compact segment.
To further enhance comfort and active safety in the automatic mode (SOFTOUCH), a kick-down function was developed to production standard, permitting spontaneous downshifts by one or two gears via the accelerator pedal. To match the engine’s dynamic response, the shift processes and transmission ratios were optimized. As a result, the top speeds in the individual gears were higher, and power developed perceptibly more smoothly.
Customers will be able to enjoy a completely new driving experience with the second-generation smart city coupe and smart cabrio,” said Philipp Schiemer, responsible for Marketing and Sales at smart GmbH, commenting on the model refinement in 2003: “We concentrated on the cars’ inner values, and we succeeded in improving an out-of-the-ordinary product still further.
2003: smart fortwo BRABUS
Together with the second-generation smart, the BRABUS versions developed by the joint venture smart-BRABUS GmbH were introduced. As early as 2002, smart and BRABUS, a car tuning company based in Bottrop, Germany, had founded a joint company. In 2004, smart-BRABUS GmbH inaugurated its new headquarters in Bottrop – an ultra-modern technology and competence center built at an investment of 16 million euros.
The smart city coupe BRABUS and smart cabrio BRABUS launched in 2003 and soon afterwards renamed smart fortwo BRABUS rounded off the model lineup at the upper end. They met the highest customer demands on exclusiveness, individuality, innovation and dynamism. Both top-of-the-line models were supplied with a 75 hp (55 kW) engine which permitted a top speed of 150 km/h while the production smarts reached top speeds of up to 135 km/h.
2004: smart forfour
smart deviated from the principles of two-seater layout and rear-mounted engine for the first time in 2004 when the 3.75-meter long and 1.7-meter wide forfour was launched into the market. The sporty five-door car had dimensions which were unusual for the brand, and it gave access to a new, highly competitive market segment. The newcomer in the small-car market was initially offered with three different gasoline engines. Three-cylinder units as in the fortwo powered the models with 1,124-cubic-centimeter displacement and output of 75 hp (55 kW) as well as with 1,332-cubic-centimeter displacement and output of 95 hp (70 kW). The forfour 1.5l derived its output of 109 hp (80 kW) from a four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1,499 cubic centimeters. The engine range was complemented by a 122 hp (90 kW) gasoline unit for the smart forfour edition sportstyle 1.5l. Two three-cylinder diesel engines, each with a displacement of 1,493 cubic centimeters, developed 68 hp (50 kW) and 95 hp (70 kW), respectively. They became available in August 2004.
The smart forfour was larger than all previous models of the brand. However, with a weight of less than 1,000 kilograms, it still incorporated the virtues of the smart concept. Its power-to-weight ratio was 12.2 kilograms per kilowatt (9.0 kg per hp) and thus corresponded to the attractive levels of the smart roadster and roadster-coupe. Dynamic and at the same time safe handling was ensured by the taut tuning of the active drive suspension and a balanced weight distribution with an extremely short rear overhang.
Inside the smart forfour, the newly created lounge concept provided the opportunity of variable space design: by folding the backrests of the two front seats away, a large horizontal seating surface was created, almost at the same level as the rear seats. In addition, the rear seat bench was adjustable for length through 150 millimeters. A revolving armrest, additional cushions and supports transformed the interior into living space.
The Tridion safety cell, a typical feature of the brand and made of hot-dip galvanized steel, protected the occupants in an impact like a high-strength capsule. The smart forfour also featured the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) as standard for safe dynamic handling under all conditions and in all critical situations, plus full-size airbags for the driver and front passenger and side airbags. The smart forfour also had three-point seat belts and head restraints on all seats. For children, special seat and restraint systems were available. The smart forfour was launched in two different design and equipment lines, the sporty pulse line and the more comfortable passion line.
Production of the four-seater smart ended in the summer of 2006 after some 100,000 units had been manufactured. Among the last forfour cars, the versions of an individually designed special model – the smart forfour for me – deserve special mention: they displayed the name selected by the buyer as a signature on the B pillar.
2005: smart crosstown
The smart crosstown show car presented at the 2005 Frankfurt International Motor Show combined a gasoline engine and an electric motor into a trailblazing hybrid drive. The smart crosstown was also displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2006. It demonstrated the potential of the unique vehicle concept of the smart fortwo, and it aroused people’s curiosity for its reinterpretation in the form of the new smart fortwo which was launched into the market in April 2007. However, the open-top car with steeply angled windshield is not planned to go into large-scale production.
Within the framework of a Technology Forum in 2005, smart introduced additional studies with alternative drive systems: alongside a prototype of the electrically operated smart fortwo ev (electric vehicle), a smart fortwo with natural-gas drive, a mild hybrid and a cdi hybrid were on display.
2006: smart formore
The smart formore model, whose market launch was scheduled for 2006, did not go into production, either. With this model, smart presented an offroader concept. This four-wheel-drive smart named smart utility vehicle (suv) was to complement the brand’s lineup by a compact offroader and convey the brand’s key values: innovation, practicality and joie de vivre.
2006: smart with electric drive
The gasoline-engined version of the environment-friendly smart with an output of 61 hp (45 kW) received the Automotive Environment Certificate by the Öko-Trend environmental research institute in 2006. With this distinction, the researchers honored the holistic approach of smart to ecologically responsible automotive production.
This approach also encompassed a large-scale test with the electrically powered smart fortwo in the United Kingdom, where 100 units of the smart fortwo ev were offered as leasing cars to selected British customers. The smart fortwo ev celebrated its world premiere at the British International Motor Show in London in the summer of 2006.
The model is powered by an electric motor with an output of 41 hp (30 kW). The operating costs per kilometer are clearly lower than those of the smart fortwo with gasoline engine, which is already a highly economical car: while the latter already records top figures in a European comparison with fuel costs of about 0.06 euros per kilometer, the smart fortwo with electric drive incurs energy costs of merely 0.02 euros per kilometer. A particularly interesting aspect for customers in London is the fact that the smart fortwo ev is classified as a zero-emission vehicle and therefore exempted from the congestion charges in the capital of the UK.
The smart fortwo ev boasts attractive performance: acceleration from standstill to 60 km/h roughly corresponds to that of a gasoline-engined model, and the top speed is around 120 km/h. Consumption is modest: 12 kilowatt hours per 100 kilometers give the car a range of 110 kilometers. The figures indicate that the smart fortwo ev is an ideal car for short-radius operation in city centers.
Charging the batteries from 30 to 80 percent capacity takes only three-and-a-half hours, and a completely discharged battery is recharged in no more than eight hours, that is for instance over night. The connection for the electric cable is located behind the tank flap where you would otherwise find the filler neck for diesel fuel or gasoline.
An electric drive system can be installed without extensive modifications: the motor is installed in the rear, exactly where the internal-combustion engine is mounted in other models. This is also the location of the transmission which is locked in second gear. The smart fortwo ev therefore does not have the gearshift familiar from the smart fortwo – it makes ends meet with one forward gear and reverse.
The battery charge indicator is fitted where you would normally find the rev counter: together with an analogue clock it is centrally arranged in the dashboard. Otherwise, nothing has changed. Interior compartment and trunk retain their previous sizes. Even the storage unit – a ZEBRA or sodium-nickel-chloride battery in the smart fortwo ev – weighs in at just 60 kilograms and is installed in a central underfloor position.
2007: smart fortwo II
Ten years after the first pre-production smarts came off the assembly line, the new smart fortwo was launched into the market. The engineers built on the strengths of this visionary classic and sharpened the brand’s profile of virtues still further. The new smart fortwo inspires customers in the brand’ s previous markets – in West Europe, for instance, dealers received some 45,000 orders at the time of the market launch in early April 2007. The second edition will also take the smart idea across the Atlantic into the US market for the first time.