2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive: America's Smallest EV Gets a Makeover

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2017 smart fortwo electric drive americas smallest ev gets a makeover

Smart, the plucky and perplexing subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, has the unique distinction of offering an EV variant of its sole U.S. model that’s generally accepted as being an improvement over the gas-powered model.

Certainly, a vastly reduced range doesn’t boost the tiny package’s appeal, but the two-seat city car really isn’t meant for those long-legged highway trips. That’s what the Ford F-150 and Fiat 500 are for. No, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive has two aces up its sleeve — instant thrust, and a transmission that mercifully stays in the same gear.

For 2017, Smart has sized up its Electric Drive, accepted its limitations (no, we can’t add a backseat ... ), and made it a bit better in any way it can.

The biggest change for the 2017 Fortwo ED is the vehicle itself. Daimler stuffed the powertrain from the old electric variant into the newer (and arguably brawnier) bodystyle of the gas-powered Smart, which sports a squared-off profile and something resembling a hood.

Power figures are up, albeit modestly. The 2017 model makes 80 horsepower and 118 lb-ft of torque, up from the previous generation’s 74 hp and 96 lb-ft. In a tiny car, that’s a fair bit of grunt. Maximum speed, which is limited to preserve range, sees an incremental nudge up to 81 miles per hour.

The automaker hasn’t released U.S. range figures, though the model achieves 99 miles (160 kilometers) on the much different European driving cycle. Convertible versions see three fewer miles of range. When U.S. numbers are announced, expect an incremental boost in range from the previous generation’s combined figure of 68 miles. Battery size remains the same, at 17.6 kWh.

Smart claims a 2.5-hour recharging time with a 240-volt outlet and the vehicle’s high-performance charger, less than half the previous charging time. Given the model’s low range, the ability to re-juice the battery in a hurry should please those select buyers who view the Smart ED as “enough car.”

Coupe versions of the 2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive should land on U.S. shores next spring, with open-top models arriving in summer.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz USA]

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  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Sep 24, 2016

    I rented Geo Metro once and had a feeling that I was, like Japanese Imperial Navy pilot, on suicide mission. It had fun factor to it though too, like riding bike. But Metro was IMO better vehicle that anything Smart can come with. I would rather choose any of JDM Kei cars over Smart any time. They also look very cute. Smart is just plain ugly and useless.

  • Syke Syke on Sep 25, 2016

    From what I'm reading, this sounds like what the Smart should have been in the first place. Looks like an excellent commuter car.

  • SCE to AUX The solid state battery is vaporware.As for software-limited pack capacity: Batteries are obviously the most expensive component of an EV, so on the rare occasion that pack capacity is dramatically limited (as in your 6-year-old example), it's because economies of scale briefly made sense at the time.Mfrs are not in the habit of overbuilding pack capacity just for fun, and then charging the customer less.Since then, pack capacities have been slightly increased via software because the mfr decides they can sacrifice a little bit of the normal safety/wear margin in the interest of range. We're talking single-digit percentages, not the 60/75 kWh jump in your example.Every pack has maybe 10% margin built into it, so eating into that today (via range increases) means it's not available to make up for battery degradation tomorrow. My 4-year-old EV still has its original range(s) and 100% SOH, but that's surely because it is slowly consuming the margin built into the pack.@Matt Posky: Not everything is a conspiracy to get your credit card account, and the lengthy editorial about this has nothing to do with solid state batteries.
  • JLGOLDEN In order for this total newcomer to grab and hold attention in the US market, the products MUST be an exceptional value. Not many people will pay name-brand money for the pretty mystery. I can appreciate the ambition of selling $50K+ crossovers, but I think they will go farther with their $30K-$40K offerings.
  • Dukeisduke They're where Tesla was when it started - a complete unknown. I haven't heard anything about a dealer network. How are they going to sell these? Direct like Tesla? Franchises picked up by existing new car dealers?
  • Master Baiter As I approach retirement, and watch my IRA and 401K account balances dwindle, I have less and less interest in $150K vehicles.
  • Azfelix With a name that sounds like a bad Google translation, problems appear to permeate every aspect of the company. I suggest a more aggressive advertising campaign during The Super Terrific Happy Hour show to turn things around.
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