Well, he is.
I took a booth near the window, so I could watch for my friend Sandy. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years.
As I sat sipping my iced tea and watching the traffic go by, I naturally began to wonder what Sandy is driving these days. A couple of Hondas and a Ford Fusion turned into the lot, and I had to wait for a view of the driver to be sure they were not my friend. I would have bet that Sandy would be driving a car (as opposed to what most people are driving) and that it would be efficient and well-designed, probably with a flash of style.
I knew this because I know Sandy. When the rally red smart cabriolet appeared, I didn’t have to see the driver to know that was Sandy.
Of course, after we had caught up with family and work, the conversation turned to Sandy's smart. He is something of an evangelist for the tiny, Mercedes-designed cars which have proven extremely popular in Europe, and are still a surprising, but no longer a shocking sight on American roads.
Facts you might not know about smart cars:
- They are available for purchase at most smart dealers. For quite a while, there was a backlog of orders, but now you can get one off the lot.
- smart cars are relatively safe. I say relatively because no one cheats the laws of physics. The design is basically an ultra-stiff cube that you ride inside of and that thing can take a blow that you might not believe. Look at this video. The problem is that because the cell doesn’t crush, and the smart has almost no "crumple zones", the rapid deceleration can be fatal if you are going fast enough. (You can die from internal injuries.) But, the smart meets or exceeds all federal government crash test standards. Tip: Avoid ramming immovable objects at high rates of speed.
- Gas mileage from the three cylinder engine, according Sandy’s real world experience, is in the low-to-mid-40 MPG. The European diesel versions get much more, but the U.S. version sacrifices some efficiency for better performance. This is certainly very good, but some ultra-efficient cars which are larger can match these numbers. (Sandy's other car is a Prius. He claims to have nothing against his local gas station owners.)
- smart cars have plenty of room for two people and are very comfortable and well-appointed. Driving one is a kick.
- The name - smart - is not capitalized. (Those marketing guys.)
- This is my favorite. The body panels on the smart can be changed in about two hours. In fact, legally, Sandy’s car is black because the black panel covering the rear roll hoop is the only body panel on the car that is permanent. Technically, the cars only come in black and silver, the colors of the “tridion safety cell”.
All images and words copyright 2009 Jeffery Blackwell