Daimler And Renault Get Smart
Autocar reports that the next-generation of Smart city car is being co-developed by Daimler and Renault. The rear-engined platform is being described as “modular,” with variable wheelbase and track, and will underpin the next Smart ForTwo and ForFour as well as several Renaults. Initially Mercedes will provide three-pot engines with six-speed manual and seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions. Eventually, the two firms will develop a series of 1.8 liter engines to power the ForFour, as well as the new Mercedes A and B classes and future Renault Twingo, Clio, Modus, Mégane and Scenic models. Both firms plan EV and hybrid versions as well, although the firms have not decided which will lead development of these drivetrains… which can’t be a good sign for Tesla which has a Smart electrification contract with Daimler. Equally undecided is whether Nissan will get a version to match up with Toyota’s iQ. In any case, it’s become clear that what began as a unique-platformed, niche brand was going to have to change. By sharing costs, developing a viable four-seater on the same platform and offering advanced drivetrains, Daimler may just be able to pull Smart’s fat from the fire.
My feelings about driving a current Smart (Canadian edition, diesel) mirrored how I felt standing at the top of the ski jump hill in Calgary. Scared. Then I made it move and learned that 100 years of Mercedes magic had produced a car with a transmission about as capable as that in the average riding lawn mower. The all thumbs greenie demographic, not really having a clue about cars, and bursting with pride to show off their 70mpg marvel, don't even think about how poorly this vehicle actually operates. Having run out of these customers, who careen along at 120 klicks on the highway without a care in the world, Mercedes ran into normal drivers test-driving the Smart. These potential customers immediately departed for greener pastures. Putting in a DSG tranny may help in the redesigned models, but it probably won't bring in real world customers. The word is out. Time to bag the Smart.
They don't necessarily have to make a rear engined Renault Nouvelle Dauphine. The engine, gearbox and suspension parts could just as easily have a steering assembly added and put on the front of the car instead of the back. They did this with the Fiat X1/9. I believe the Smart Fortwo is the few cars on the road that uses a De Dion tube rear suspension, I can see this being replaced with struts or wishbones for future models. Rear engines are cheaper to convert between left and right-hand drive markets.
I've always liked rear-engined cars, even though most of them were cheap and lousy. It's nice to see they're making a comeback. Also, transverse rear engine layout has the potential for better MPG than FWD. With our new CO2 emission based taxation, even small improvements can mean saving thousands of euros.
Dual-clutch? Wouldn't a belt/cone CVT be lighter and cheaper?