I had never been nervous about receiving a vehicle to test drive. Until now.
For one, would I fit? And would it be safe? Two questions that weighed on me when I took on the task of reviewing a Brabus Smart ForTwo CDI.
I was shocked at how small the Smart appeared. However, after pulling it up next to another car, you realize it's not that tiny. In fact, the Smart ForTwo is taller than most automobiles and its width isn't much narrower than the average car. The explanation for the car's petit appearance is its length -- the severe drop-off behind the passenger compartment -- and golf-cart tires.
Surprisingly, I managed to fit inside quite well, even better than my current daily driver. This finding was echoed by several people I picked up throughout testing. But don't plan on going cross-country in this bugger unless you pack light.
Now, more importantly, let's get into the drive train and diesel technology. After reviewing some of Audi's latest clean diesel technology, I was expecting more of the same: a smooth engine, quick pickup and no fumes. I was sorely mistaken. The Brabus CDI was more of a traditional diesel: chattery, slow and the interior had a bit of a diesel-esque odor. Actually, the scent made me quite nostalgic of my grandfather's farm equipment in the Catskills.When accelerating, there was no putrid, black smoke, but between the turbo whistle and engine note, the ForTwo CDI will make anyone believe there is a tyrannical 18-wheeler closely following. Picture a Chihuahua barking like a pit-bull -- it is peculiar.
What the Smart CDI lacks is power. It is equipped with an inline 3-cylinder producing 40 horsepower and 74 pound-feet of torque. Although the car was set up by Brabus, known for tuning your average Mercedes-Benz into a 600-horsepower monster, the ForTwo hit 0 to 60 miles per hour in 19.8 seconds. Merging on to the New York and New Jersey highways made for an entertaining 20 seconds. Break out your sundials and a prayer sheet.