"Where are you?" I asked my good buddy Warren Brown from the Washington Post. I was calling from the Detroit Auto show on my cellphone. "I'm at the Cobo Arena, I'm waiting for my Smart and then I'm going back to the hotel, want a ride back?" says my even better buddy. Brilliant I say, oops, I mean smart.
I'm a semi-claustrophobe; I sleep with a foot shooting from underneath my covers at night, I get the aisle seat in the airplane and being stuck in an elevator - forget it. The Mercedes-Benz toy car that hasn't hit the states yet was something I hadn't driven in. It's much shorter than the mini, more golf-cartish and toyish looking.
We head out to the snow-bound streets of Detroit, throw our bags of press releases in the back and step inside. For a car that is small on the outside, it is not lacking on the inside. It's bigger interior room than a sports coupe, lots of headroom for us under 5 feet 10 inchers.
We head down Washington Avenue and I notice it's not an automatic, nor a manual. There is no clutch and there is no H-shifting. It's a straight up or back, a simple nod to the front on the shifter to up it a gear or back to decrease. Think tiptronic.
According to Mercedes-Benz they should start selling by 2006 for somewhere around $14,000. It's a little high, but the diesel powered car gets 50-60 miles to the gallon and are expected to be popular in urban areas.
That would be smart.