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First Look: Smart ForSpeed

Two-seater emphasizes green performance.

by on Feb.25, 2011

Who says you can't have fun driving a battery car? Smart ForSpeed puts a premium on performance.

Daimler’s Smart brand is clearly plugging into battery power.  The maker’s new ED – short for Electric Drive – has just gone on sale here in the U.S.  And at the Geneva Motor Show, next week, Smart will offer a hint of where it might plan to take the technology going forward.

The intriguing news is that the Smart ForSpeed puts as much of a premium on performance as it does on energy efficiency.  The lithium-ion-powered two-seater reportedly can launch from 0 to 60 (kilometers an hour, that is) in just 5.5 seconds.  Getting to 60 mph takes just under 9 seconds.

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The concept relies on a compact 41-horsepower electric motor.  That might not seem like much but it helps to realize that electric propulsion generates maximum torque the moment the motor starts spinning.  But there’s also a “boost” switch on the center console that unleashes an extra 7 horsepower when you’re really hoping to burn rubber.

Smart anticipates a top speed of 75 mph for the ForSpeed and, if you’re a bit less aggressive with the throttle, range of about 85 miles.  A quick charger, it claims, can yield an 80% recharge in as little as 45 minutes.

The ultra-thin seats come with four-point belts to keep you firmly in place when you’re challenging that old-style muscle car in the next lane, by the way.

The Smart ForSpeed normally makes 41 hp, but a Boost button pumps in an extra 7 hp.

The interior is an otherwise minimalist design, but for the leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob and door pulls.  There are no exterior door handles, by the way, on this open-top concept, which suggests Smart doesn’t actually plan production anytime soon.  But considering the need to speed up sales – Daimler seems to be looking at ways to add a little excitement to the otherwise utilitarian Smart brand, which means some of the ForSpeed’s features could migrate to more mainstream models.

The maker is planning a significant update of its line-up in 2014, and has partnered with Renault for help.  More broadly, Daimler has decided to more closely integrate the Smart brand with its flagship Mercedes-Benz marque.  Among other things, that has resulted in the decision to pull U.S. distribution away from Roger Penske’s Penske Auto Group and turn it over to Mercedes-Benz USA.  (Click Here for more on that story.)

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