smart roadster Brabus (2005)
Our Rating

4/5

smart roadster Brabus (2005)

Final appearance of a car more popular in the UK than elsewhere.

It seems strange to be writing about the roadster several months after its death knell was sounded as part of DaimlerChrysler's €1.2 billion revitalisation programme of the smart brand, but the explanation is simple. The roadster has sold reasonably well in these parts, and smart's UK arm has ordered a new batch to keep it on the market for one final year.About 15% of the 2006 roadsters will be of the Brabus persuasion, as tested here. My opinions of the original roadster Brabus - not all of which, I have to admit, were well received by people who had actually bought the thing - were explained in a previous test. Much the same applies to the 2006 model-year version, since the few changes involved are almost entirely cosmetic.Those wise in the ways of smart roadsters will recognise the final cars from the outside through the fact that the front and rear grilles are painted in the same colour as the rest of the body (rather than black or grey as before). They will also spot that it has daytime running lights, as previously found on the fortwo Brabus.They could also look at the number plates, of course, but any fool could do that.The interior alterations are similarly subtle, and consist of a newly black, leather, Brabus-branded starter button and leather trim on the foldable centre armrest.These are the changes that smart talks about freely. Less forcefully publicised is the fact that the automatic transmission has had its electronics revamped to provide quicker gearchanges. I have never liked the smart gearbox, or any system remotely resembling it, and will go to the stake before uttering a charitable word about the wretched thing, but this is its least bad application yet.The dead period when the clutch is being operated and one ratio swapped for another is shorter than before, and the lurching from power-on to power-off to power-on-again correspondingly less uncomfortable. Equally, playing with the throttle pedal to smooth the changes is less of an art than it used to be, but on the whole I reckon this is the best effort yet with a system which should never have made it to production in the first place.Still, it's all there is, and it's the best in the range. That also applies to other aspects of the Brabus. Its power output - considerably higher than that of other smart roadsters at 101bhp - means that straightline performance is entertaining, but it's what Brabus did to the suspension that really distinguishes this car (and its roadster-coupé sibling) from the others. The alarming body lean of the lesser versions is almost entirely absent here, and makes the Brabus cars by far the most fun to drive.This was always the best roadster, and with the quicker gearchanges it's slightly better again. The few people who buy a 2006 version of this car will be the only ones who come closest to experiencing the 21st-century Austin-Healey Sprite feeling that smart once assured us would be the hallmark of the entire roadster range. Engine 698cc, 3 cylinders Power 101bhp Fuel/CO2 53.3mpg / 126g/km Acceleration 0-62mph: 9.8 seconds Top speed 122mph Price £16,995 Details correct at publication date

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