Marc K. Stengel, Tue, 29 Jul 2008 08:00:00 PDT
In an automotive marketplace shaken to its very roots during 2008, the variety of responses by automakers has ranged from whistling-past- the-graveyard insouciance to ambitious graspings at opportunity. But, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, "let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." So are their cars, as it turns out; and no mere global financial meltdown will ever come between a top- hat swell and his drophead coup.
Gems by nature are small and brilliant, which describes the cachet of the smart fortwo microcar right from the start. Intended simply as a maneuverable and fuel-efficient urban commuter, the fortwo will startle occupants and onlookers alike with its cabochon-like daintiness.
Available as either a coupe or a cabriolet, the fortwo ranges in price from a mere $11,590 to $16,590. A three-cylinder engine displacing 1.0-liter produces just 71 horsepower while delivering fuel economy on the order of 33 mpg/city, 41 mpg/highway (should a driver be bold enough to venture onto a highway, that is). An innovative "automanual" transmission requires gear-shifts, albeit without a clutch; and its acceptance amongst automotive traditionalists isn't universal. A fully automatic gearbox provides an alternative, yet it penalizes already scanty performance.
For the smart set with their weekday pieds-a-terre apartments in the city center and their weekend villas in the countryside, the innovative smart fortwo commuter coupe could hardly be more aptly aimed and named.
2009 smart fortwo