After a dozen years of making a daily commute from Jackson to downtown Detroit, I moved to Arizona at the end of 1999. But I still get back to Michigan at some point every year and try to get down to the hub of the Motor City at least a couple of times.
If you’ve been downtown in the last year or so, you have had to contend with road reconstruction and endless detours, and even then, once you get close to your desired destination, the search for a place to park your car.
While I’ve never been a fan of the tiny Swatch-conceived, Mercedes-Benz-produced Smart car, I do have to admit that these vehicles are wonderful devices when it comes time to park. They are short enough that a pair of them can park nose-to-the-curb in the same space you’d need to park a single sedan or crossover.
Last fall at the annual SEMA Show of automotive aftermarket products, a gaudily attired Smart caught my eye. The steel-gray colored car sat on huge, oversized pale blue wheels, had a gigantic rear spoiler that looks like it might tip the car backward, and a front splitter that stuck out like a cow catcher — or at least like one of the Duck Dynasty star’s beards.
But I also noticed one small detail: It was a Brabus badge posted just ahead of the exterior rearview mirrors. Really? I wondered. Brabus is doing a Smart?
At this point you need to know that Brabus dates to 1977 when Klaus Brackman and Bodo Buschmann launched their car-tuning company in Germany. Now, only AMG tweaks more Mercedes products than does Brabus.
And now a Brabus-tweaked Smart — the Smart Fortwo coupe or convertible — is available in the U.S. through Mercedes-Benz dealers, or will be as soon as the 2017 models are in their showrooms.
The Brabus Sport Package adds only $1,900 to the cars’ price, which seems something of a bargain since it includes:
■Sport suspension that lowers the car by nearly half an inch while also swapping out for stiffer anti-roll bar and shocks.
■16-inch front and 17-inch rear Monoblock IX wheels in matte-gray finish wrapped with grippy Yokohama summer tires, with 185/50 aspect up front and 205/40 at the rear.
■Also available are Brabus-supplied options including wheel-center caps, rear diffuser, front spoiler, rear apron, three-spoke steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever, stainless-steel pedals with rubber studs and even stainless paddle shifters for cars with the Twinamic transmission.
Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.