|NEWcars: 2000 smart Roadster, 25 September 1999|
MCC smart GmbH is exhibiting a Roadster concept car based on the smart car platform at the 58th International Motor Show in Frankfurt this week. The sporty two-seater, which tips the scales at just over 700kg, shows a way of resolving fundamental conflicts of aims arising from a specification that includes extremely compact dimensions, maximum spaciousness and very demanding crash safety requirements, all wrapped up is a stylish, sporty shell.
Special technical features such as the car's modular construction are clearly brought out in the design. As in the smart City-Coupé, the 'Tridion' safety cell remains partially visible, while body panels made of high-quality plastic form the outer skin.
The Roadster concept car's 'Suprex' three-cylinder turbo and sequential six-speed transmission are identical to the power unit of the City-Coupé. On the other hand, the smart Roadster's maximum speed is not restricted and is therefore well above that of the City-Coupé.
The Roadster concept car owes its overall length of only 3223mm to the extremely short body overhangs. The sporty two-seater is therefore amongst the shortest available, whereas its width of 1600mm and wheelbase of 2270mm are comparable to those of other small roadsters. A height of only 1170mm and the logical layout of the running gear and power plant mean that the concept car's center of gravity is only about 455mm above the road, presumably aiding the nimble handling.
The Roadster concept car's waistline rises slightly towards the tail, giving it a powerful rear end. The side air intakes in front of the rear wheels feed air to cool the engine compartment and to the charge-air cooler and engine. Kinship with the smart City-Coupé is emphasized by the triangular door handles and the striking tail lights, but also and in particular by the radiator grille and the ellipsoid headlamps located above the air intakes. Other identifying features of the Roadster are the 17-inch alloy wheels and the indicators integrated in the door mirrors.
The Roadster concept car embraces the smart marque's high passenger-safety standards. Like the smart City-Coupé, the Roadster has a clever crash-management system with comparably high safety standards. The Tridion safety cell, which is reinforced with high-tensile sheet steel, remains partially visible in the areas of the door sills, B-pillar and the tough roll-over bar. A transparent plastic roof can be fitted between the raked windshield and the roll-over bar to connect with the frameless windows at the sides. This roof can be stowed between the backlight and engine for open-top driving.
The Roadster concept car, which has been designed to deliver cheap driving pleasure, has a feel of extreme functionality inside. Thus the only instrument in the cockpit apart from the speedometer is a rev counter. The two dials also house all the warning lights, together with the digital gear selector indicator.
The Roadster concept car's dashboard has a twin-wing design and, like the City-Coupé, is upholstered in high-quality fabric. The functional design of the center console, too, is reminiscent of the smart City-Coupé. The centre tunnel accommodates the handbrake and the ignition lock unit plus the gearshift for the sequential six-speed transmission.
Two passengers will find ample space between the solid sills which form part of the safety cell. The longitudinally adjustable integral safety seats familiar from the smart City-Coupé offer excellent comfort. MCC smart's designers have opted for a metal structure for the concept car's seat backs. The solid beams fitted in the doors to protect against intrusion in a side impact are very distinct despite the textile covering in the area of the armrests. They perform practical secondary functions, for example the door handles and storage nets are mounted on them.
The Roadster concept car uses the 600cc Suprex turbo of the City-Coupé. Apart from the City-Coupé engine, the smart Roadster also uses the same customer-friendly maintenance and service concept for its power plant. The sequential six-speed transmission and the electronically actuated clutch are also borrowed from the City-Coupé. Gently pushing the gearshift forwards is enough to change up, while pulling the lever backwards shifts the transmission down a gear, without the driver having to take his foot off the accelerator or operate the clutch pedal. The Roadster, whose rear-mounted engine and drive shaft form a compact module, therefore combines driving pleasure with economy and environmental compatibility.
The running gear of the Roadster differs from that of the City-Coupé in the different design of the front axle: coil springs are used instead of transversely mounted plastic leaf springs. The double wishbones underneath are connected to a MacPherson strut in the Roadster. As in the City-Coupé, a U-shaped De Dion suspension tube with a movable central mount forms the rear axle. The lateral location of the axle is handled by wishbones. The axle and drive components are mounted on a common frame-type integral support and are therefore attached to the chassis such that they are isolated from vibrations.
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