Now Obama’s decided to ban cars outright.
Not in so many words, perhaps – but the end result of his just-announced “proposal” that new cars be required by law to average 56.2 miles per gallon by 2025 will be pretty much exactly that.
Not one car sold in the United States currently gets 56 MPG – not even on the highway, let alone averages 56 MPG. Not even hybrids like the Toyota Prius, the best of the lot – which maxes out at 51 on the highway and 48 in city driving. The maximum highway mileage achieved by a current non-hybrid car (the 2012 Honda Civic HF) is 41 MPG. Its average mileage is 33 MPG.
To achieve an average of 56 MPG, one or more of the following would be necessary:
* Massive reduction in vehicle weight –
It is easier – more efficient – to move a lighter car than a heavier car. A 2,000 lb. car will use less gas, all else being equal, than a 2,800 lb. car because a smaller, more fuel efficient engine can do the equivalent work in terms of accelerating the vehicle and maintaining speed, etc.
The problem is the engineering/economic conflict between weight and safety.
For decades, the federal government has been passing one safety-minded mandate after another, each of which has had the effect of making newer cars heavier than their equivalents of the past. A current-year subcompact like the 2012 Fiat 500 weighs 2,363 lbs. – a porker in comparison to an equivalent subcompact from the ’70s such as an original model VW Super Beetle, which weighed about 1,900 lbs. That 400-plus pound weight difference is main reason why, despite the Fiat’s 40 year advantage in technology – including computer-controlled fuel injection and overdrive transmissions – its gas mileage (30 city, 38 highway – 33 average) is only slightly better than the Beetle’s high 20s, low 30s.
Of course, the old Super Beetle was less “safe” – that is, less crashworthy (if you crashed it). The government decided that gas mileage mattered less than how well a car performs in an accident. But now it wants cars to do both. They must comply with all current and soon-to-promulgated “safey” standards while also doubling or even tripling their gas mileage.
Which brings up the next problem.
* Lowering weight while maintaining crashworthiness will not be cheap or easy –
There are ultra-lightweight race cars that are extremely crashworthy. You can hit a wall in one at 150 MPH and walk away with nothing more than a few bruises. Of course they also cost hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of dollars each. High-strength, lightweight materials such as carbon fiber and titanium cost a lot more than steel or aluminum, the materials used to make ordinary passenger cars.
The Obama Car could be made of carbon fiber and average 56 MPG while also being very safe in a crash … only few will ever have to worry about crashing one because no one except perhaps tax-feeding millionaires such as Obama himself will be able to buy one.
* Nix size –
Of course, you could always just eliminate all cars larger than say the SmartForTwo car (which incidentally only gets 41 highway and seats – you guessed it – only two people). Maybe with a diesel engine such a car could manage to get close to 56 MPGs, average. There are micro-compacts in other markets, such as Europe, that approach 70 MPG on the highway. But anything larger than a micro-compact is going to be hugely problematic. A current year mid-sized family sedan like the Toyota Camry averages 26 MPG. That’s with the four cylinder engine. Toyota would need to more than double the average MPGs of the Camry (and drop the optional V-6 from the roster) to qualify as an Obama Car, while also somehow retaining the ability to carry 4-5 passengers.
Which brings up the next option:
* Nix capability –
Absent some deux ex machina technological miracle, there is no way – period – any vehicle you could describe as a truck or SUV will ever average 56 MPG. If cost is no object and you don’t mind driving something very, very small the Obama Car is at least theoretically possible. But – unless Obama really is in touch with aliens and has acquired their Advanced Technology – 56 MPG and the ability to pull 10,000 pounds (or even 5,000 pounds) and do the other things people expect and yes, need their trucks to be able to do simply ain’t gonna happen. Because you need at least a very big V-6 to do these things and no big V-6 (let alone a big V-8) will ever average 56 MPG or even come close to 56 MPG on the highway – unless it’s being rolled downhill with the engine off.
Not even today’s pint-sized car-based “crossovers” approach the Obama Car standard. For instance, the 2011 Honda CR-V – which has a small 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine – only manages 21 city and 28 highway, an average of 24 MPG. Honda would have to more than double the CR-V’s mileage to make the cut. And the CRV is a lightweight, both in terms of its curb weight and its capabilities. It can barely tow 1,500 lbs.
All current model pick-ups, trucks and crossovers with V-6 engines would have to nearly triple their current average MPGs. Anything with a V-8 would need to do even better. Do you believe in miracles? Apparently, Obama does. More likely, he knows exactly what he is doing.
Wave bye-bye to every make/model pick-up, SUV and crossover on the market. Mid-sized cars might make it – maybe – if they’re hybridized and downsized. And they’ll be priced so high that by 2025, a car like the Camry will become the equivalent of a Daimler Maybach today. A car for the uber-rich elite only.
The rest of us will be driving tuna can-sized Obama Cars.
If we’re allowed to drive anything at all.
Throw it in the Woods?
While I do agree with most of the comments here, I don’t think that Hybrid in its present form will do the job. Sure electric motors will improve, as will battery technology. However, one sourse of power, or fuel system that has not been discused here are Hydrogen Fuel Cells. I do believe that this will be the main fuel of the future that will provide fuel for the internal combution engine, or power the electric motors set at each wheel. I have been retired from the automotive field since 1999, and this was banging around in the tech labs back then. Just to bring up some facts of vehicles from cars of the past. I have a couple of Popular Mechanics from the late fifties, (September 1959), that list the top ten Foreign Vehicles MPG’s of that era. The best of the bunch was an Austin A40 2dr sedan at 32, The Volkswagen 2dr sedan at 28, a DKW 2dr hardtop at 26, a Morris Minor 1000 2dr sedan at 26, and a Volvo 2dr sedan at 20. These were based on 50 mile road test, combining city and country driving. So even back when people were concerned about milage, your Foriegn jobs were not that great. I did have a 1959 Austin A-55 MKII Cambrian untill I sold it in 1999. It had a 52HC Horse Power engine, that did get 34 mpg’s. It would cruize at 60-65 with no problem.
Hydrogen is intriguing (I’ve driven a couple of demo cars, including a BMW 7 converted to operate on it). But it is also – like the rest of these alternative fuel technologies – very expensive relative to gasoline. “Refining” the hydrogen is no easy (or inexpensive) thing. And then you have the infrastructure issue… same problems.
Gas really is hard to beat – even at $8 a gallon (as in Europe).
You’re right, 56 mpg is ridiculous. But you are assuming some type of internal combustion engine is doing all the work. By 2025 we’ll very likely see some significant advances in battery and electric motor technology so the gas or diesel engines will work less and the batteries and electric motors will do more of the work. By 2025 the majority of most cars sold won’t rely on a gas/diesel engine for primary propulsion.
Electric motors and batteries can already deliver stunning performance (consider the Tesla) with existing technology. Fast forward 14 years and it will doubtlessly be better. Remember, 14 years ago a hybrid such as the Prius, plug-ins such as the Leaf or Tesla, or a car such as the Volt seemed impossible fantasies.
As for the goal, better to set the bar high than not set one at all.
The problem is that non-IC technology (hybrid electric and so on) is expensive; at least, a lot more expensive than IC technology. Yes, gas may double or triple in cost, which would equalize things somewhat. But in that case, whether we’re paying 2-3 times more for fuel or 40 percent more for the car itself, the end result is essentially the same: The cost to drive becomes increasingly prohibitive.
On electrics: I don’t mean to come off as an Eyore but having covered this stuff for more than 20 years I am very skeptical of assertions made about “just around the corner” technological improvements. They’ve been working on electric cars for literally 100 years and they’re still not competitive on cost, capability or economy. The Tesla? What’s so hot about a $106k exotic that’s only slightly quicker than the $50k IC car it’s based on but which can’t be driven even 25 percent as far? I could modify an IC Lotus Elise to outperform the Tesla and still have about $30,000 left over vs. buying th Tesla. How does the Tesla make any kind of sense, except as a toy for a rich person?
I don’t mind the idea of shooting for higher mileage – I do object to the government issuing Fatwas requiring the effort be made, cost-no-object.
The cost to drive IS going to go up. Always has. Some of it is market economics, some is federal mandates, some is opportunistic car makers. This ain’t gonna change.
But we will see a lot more electric cars in 14 years. Mass production has a way of changing the economics. And if gas in the US is $9/gallon like it is now in Europe, the demand for the cars will be there.
As for fed mandates, the 56 mpg thing is like the old CAFE standards: an overall average. Get a lot of small hybrid/electric commuting-size cars out there getting high mileage and family cars will manage quite nicely in the 35-45 range. Last summer I drove the hell out of a 2 liter Vauxhall Insignia (Buick Regal here) in Wales and averaged 36 mpg. Highway-only was 42 mpg at about 80 mph. All very doable with a turbo diesel engine.
FWIW, auto makers don’t want to make electric cars because there is so little maintenance required. They lose service and repair business. Another part of the mix.
Why should it? You’ve accepted as given that we’ll pay more – either for gas or because of government mandates. Neither is inevitable, especially the latter. If, for example, the car companies could offer lighter cars (as a result of not having to comply with federal “safety” Fatwas that have bulked up the typical car by more than 500 pounds over the past 25 years) we could have 50 MPG without the expense that will be necessary in order to achieve that and comply with current/future “safety” Fatwas.
Coal-powered (electric) cars have their own problems in addition to expense – including ranges that aren’t sufficient for most American driving (and driving conditions, including winter), long recharge times and – don’t forget – the problem of powering the hypothetical/prospective millions of them that would be needed to achieve a 56.2 MPG average. The utility grid is already at or near capacity in many areas of the US. Adding significantly to to the draw without increasing the capacity will likely result in either an upsurge in the cost of electricity and/or brownouts/restricted usage.
Creatures such as Obama (and the rest of them) have neither the expertise nor the right to issue Fatwas about what types of car designs are acceptable. The business of the government, properly defined, is to keep the borders safe and to maintain the rule of law. It has no business interceding int he private transactions of citizens, such as the building and selling – and buying – of motor vehicles. The big-eared shyster should go back to being a “community organizer.” The Chimp should go back to living off his sleazy family’s money. Throw ’em all in the Woods!
People like Obama think they can dictate/create reality. That’s why there is so much that is so screwed up. I believe there has to be more behind it, but the clear and ultimate goal beyond the egotistic idiots who hold office is to impoverish americans until we can’t drive. To restrict resources to the wealthy. The question is why and for who?
The more that happens, the more that is proposed, the theory that fits is one of social darwinism. Of domination, of control. Where a few have everything and the rest have nothing. Survival of the most ruthless. It’s an ultimate expression of the fixed pie mentality that is at the heart of statism.
Yes. There are also some for whom life must be a zero-sum game. They can’t “win” unless someone else “loses.” It tweaks their egos that average people can afford (well, could afford) not only a car, but cars – and not just that but a car with style and power, etc. More deeply, though, the impoverishment of the broad populace necessarily cripples the ability of the smarter ones to become educated and use their smarts; to notice what’s going on, understand it – and potentially, do something about it.
Poverty equals ignorance and ignorance equals power for the elite.
Great post, Brent – as usual! Keep ’em coming…
The problem is that Obama is a Progressive. Recall that despite the left’s constant crapaganda that they’re looking out for the interests of the “little guy”, the Progressive movement was founded on the principles of eugenics, the idea that certain segments of society have inherently lower intelligence levels than the liberally educated elite, and as such, required the “protection” of those that are more educated. The whole idea of the current liberal agenda is little more than neo-colonialism – guys like Obama take all of our money, then make all of our decisions for us because we, the unwashed masses, don’t have the mental capacity to make the “proper” decisions by ourselves. Look at any agenda pursued by Progressives, whether it be global warming, fuel economy standards, Obamacare, whatever. The idea is to transfer our wealth to a handful of technocrats and bureaucrats, where we will forever live under the thumbs of our masters.
This is exactly what makes Progressives so dangerous. It is 1984 in living color. We might as well repeat “We are the dead” like Winston Smith while waiting for our turn at the reeducation camp…
Yes, but I think the real problem is that we have a duopoly that manufactures the illusion of consent, which stymies any effort to make real change. There is no freedom option when you vote. It’s right-wing (corporatist-fascist) Republican statism – or left-wing (socialist-progressive) Democratic statism. The system is ingenious because it gives the sheeple the impression that “democracy” is happening; that they have a “voice.” But there’s no more real choice than there was in Soviet Russia. But in Russia, it was all-too-obvious that a small elite controlled everything. The same is true here – but it’s obfuscated by the evil genius of the duopoly.
I think I’ve see this film before…
HG Wells, “Things to Come”
It seems that Obama’s real goal is a war on gasoline in not so many words. The only cars I know of currently on the market (sort of) that get 56.2mpg or better are the Nissan Leaf, the Tesla Roadster, and the first 30-50 miles driven in a fully charged Chevrolet Volt (after which it’s only 37mpg).
Notice a trend here?
I don’t have a problem, in theory, with electric cars. My problem is with MANDATING their existence before it’s technologically and financially practical. He could just as well mandate we all travel via flying carpets powered by unicorn crap, but that doesn’t mean it’s realistic, practical, or even desirable.
There’s another obvious problem with this model. Where are we going to get the electricity from? Fairy dust? Current electrical production relies primarily on coal and oil. If you add hydroelectric, solar, and wind power together you’d still get only a tiny fraction of what is produced currently, and they are more expensive to build and maintain than the electricity they generate will pay back in a realistic time period. Oh, and there seems to be a bit of concern lately over the only other practical, cost-effective source of electricity lately, nuclear power.
It seems that Obama is as ignorant as he sounds. First he says that the reason so many people are unemployed is technological advancements like the ATM putting tellers out of a job. Now he’s making further efforts to make the automobile illegal/impractical. I strongly suspect he is going to start advocating for the covered wagon industry next.
He’s ignorant – and he’s arrogant. This is what defines a modern politician.
Here we have a shyster lawyer – a typical “talker” vs. the “doers” that once characterized America. This ninny probably wouldn’t know how to check the oil level in his car, let alone change it – yet he’s got no problem dictating technical parameters and end-goals to engineers, without so much as consulting them as to the feasibility (functionally and economically) of his proposals.
Also notice the glib, cavalier wave-of-the-hand attitude: No worry about the costs imposed on people. Poof! I wave my hand and voila – the 56.2 MPG car. It shows I “care” about the environment and gas mileage….
It’s of a piece with the casual violence deployed by this cretin (and the rest of them). We want “democracy” in (put name of country here). So we’re sending “the troops” to kill whomever stands in our way. God Bless Ahhhhhhmerrrrrrrica.
While you are mostly correct in you assumptions, there are some points to consider. Back in the days when only muscle cars accelerated well and polluted like crazy, MPGs were low. Gas was cheap, so who cared?
Then gas prices went way up, and the EPA rules meant that cars were gutless, and burned even more gas. Eventually computer controlled EFI produced far less emissions for a given amount of fuel.
So a car maker had some choices. They could make small cars, with acceptable acceleration and great gas mileage. Countries with high gas taxes went this route. The other choice, at its extreme, was to produce cars that are larger, and have more power than the muscle cars ever did. The United States market went in that direction. Gas was, and is, still cheaper than what is paid in European countries.
You have stated prevoiusly that there are good cars with great MPGs that we are not allowed to import, or drive.
I recall circa 1980 Dodge Colts getting 50mpg, and Honda civics getting 60mpg. Granted, they were slugs. With todays technology, such a car could have more power, or could get still better mileage. Granted cars weigh more due to safety standards. But also due to heavy luxuries like A/C, and power everything.
An Obummer-mobile might resemble a present day European diesel car. Sure they are not muscle cars, but are they really that bad?
There are a few cars available in Europe that get 50 MPG (or more). But not average (a key point) as Obama’s CAFE demands. Even cars that get 40-plus on the highway typically average in the 30s. Most cars average much less. So what Obama is demanding is a doubling of current fuel efficiency in the space of about 12 years. Less, actually, because of the lead time involved in designing/testing new engines and entire cars. The “work” would have to begin immediately – and probably two-thirds of the models currently in production – some of them brand-new designs, at the beginning of their product life cycle whose initial costs have not been amortized, would be given a death sentence. Can you imagine what this will do to the car industry? Think 2008 was a bad year?
The other relevant point is those high-mileage Euro cars are essentially “city cars” unsuitable for use on – dangerous to use on – highways. Something along the lines of a SmartCar. Even if such a vehicle can technically meet current/future federal safety requirements, operating one on a highway with traffic averaging 70 and often running a lot closer to 80 or 90 is going to be verrrry hairy.
The more fundamental question is: What gives the government the right to force people into such cars? Note that Obama (and Al Gore) and the rest of the ruling Politburo aren’t going to be driving SmartCar-sized cars…
In his planet-saver movie, you can see Al Gore holding forth about the envirooooooonment while at the wheel of his Cadillac Escalade.
I would like an answer Eric. If millions of cars are being added to the highways across the world each year, where is the fuel to run those vehicles going to come from? Do you think they can increase the fuel production by 50% or 70% to fuel all the cars in the world?
What it comes down to is that there will be nobody traveling at 80 mph or 90 mph when you need that kind of efficiency. I look for the maximium speeds to be 65 mph or maybe lower. You can increase the fuel effiency a bunch if you do not have to drive over 65 mph. If you drive 55 mph you get far better efficiency than at 65 mph. If I keep it at 55 mph or less in the summer I can average 40 mpg. That is with an engine twice the size I would need to drive those speeds. You may not like it but if they do not find another alternative to propel our cars then the size and speed of those cars will have to drop to meet the efficiency needed for the fuel supplies.
Clover, as always, you start from a faulty (and typically statist) premise.
You assume – and accept – that world oil supplies will not rise to meet capacity. And also that market mechanisms (if allowed to operate) will not establish a proper – natural – balance between supply and demand as well as price and usage patterns.
The problem with Obama, et al, issuing Fatwas to the car companies is their arrogant presumption that they (politicians, shyster lawyers and bureaucrats) somehow know more about cars than engineers, the marketplace and consumers. It is the same sort of arrogance combined with ignorance – backed by force and its threat – that is the heart of Cloverism.
Obama – and people such as yourself – are not content merely to argue in favor of “x” and accept it when others reject it. No, you have to impose your arrogant ideas on others by force and violence. From seatbelt laws and mandatory insurance to the Obama Car.
And that is what makes you a Clover.
PS: Did you watch the video on the right side of the main page? The hero cop who was driving drunk and expecting “professional courtesy” from the other cop who pulled him over? How many “breaks” do you suppose the fat, drunk cop gave Mere Ordinaries?
I am a mechanical engineer employed by one of the 2 of the “Big 3” that went begging for “loans” and recieved them.
First off – thanks to all for your involuntary “support” for a company that SHOULD have been sold off to competent management and went through a proper bankruptcy. Although employed by them – and driving “their” cars for my entire life, I recently purchased a used 2008 Honda Civic EX Coupe and now have to park in the “far” lot as punishment.
To all who give me crap about it (especially the UAW members), it weighs 500 lbs less than our “economy” car, and looks and handles better to boot. I tell them I refuse to voluntarily support fascism if I ever get the rare opportunity to opt out. By driving a Honda, I am just saying no.
I am constantly shocked that our sales are doing “great” wondering who on earth is buying these 30-60K cars when I make “decent” money and was hard pressed shelling out 14k for a used Civic?
The safety Nazis and the Green Nazis (who are generally the same people) don’t realize that the poor people they supposedly protect with these costly and weighty mandates don’t drive new cars – they generally drive mid eighties Monte Carlos with NO airbags and BAD fuel economy. I don’t knock them – I like the Mid eighties G bodies. By increasing the new car cost – they will now only be able to afford even older, rustier cars whose numerous airbags, TPMS, Child seat tethers, roll stability systems et al gave up their reliability a decade ago.
Keep up the good work. Spot on.
You’re absolutely right. And you can see hard proof in the “aging” of the fleet (average car is now more than eight years old, according to DOT/AAA) and also the unprecedented rise in used car prices. Just yesterday, my wife and I were driving home and noticed a ’98 model Nissan Frontier at the local used car lot that appeared to be very much like our own ’98 Frontier “Farm Use” truck that I bought nearly eight years ago with 69k (at the time) for $7,100. This truck was identical to our truck except that it had 179,000 miles (today). It is also about eight years older than ours was when we bought it. Guess the asking price of the 179k ’98 Frontier?
I bought the same truck eight years ago with almost 100,000 less miles for only $1,700 more (less, actually, if you factor in inflation). Put another way, I could almost certainly sell my ’98 Frontier – which has only about 125k on it – for about as much (adjusted for inflation) as I paid for it, even after using it for eight years and putting about 50,000 miles on it!
Part of the reason for the disconnect is that politicians such as Obama (and Bush) are multi-millionaire tax feeders with no concept of everyday economic realities. They are a privileged elite who live in a bubble where Magick Happens, at the stroke of (their) pen. I call it the Caligula Complex: Just wish it and it shall be so. (With the ugly realities imposed born by the peons.)
PS: I agree with you on the bankruptcy. Both GM and Chrysler had some value/good things that would have been salvaged by a buyer, without the need of “help” from the federal government. There would have been “pain,” of course – but pain is a necessary corrective sometimes. Now Chrysler is a foreign-owned entity and GM is Government Motors. Both still have some very serious underlying problems that may very well recreate the same situation they just escaped, which I’m sure you know more about than I do.
Getting in bed with Uncle Sam is like accepting help from Don Corleone….
If oil production cannot keep up oil prices would go up… in a free market. A free market system would quickly adapt to more people around the world driving. It is the existing corporatist system that cannot. Corporatist governments the world over prevent the innovations and expansions needed for a healthy economic environment. One regulation/interference requires more such regulations and interferences just to keep the whole system from collapsing.
Forget it, Brent – you are dealing with a Clover. Any logical counterpoint you make will be met with some irrelevant segue, non-sequitur or incoherent emoting.
It’s what they do. It’s all they do!
As I posted some time ago… oil reserves are at their highest they have ever been both measured in years at present consumption and volume of oil since the oil started running out in the 19th century.
If we had a free market there would be nothing to worry about. But we have a corporatist market, and that’s why there needs to be concern. A corporatist market restricts competition and choice and that restriction will drive up prices and cause shortages and economic strife.
“I bought the same truck eight years ago with almost 100,000 less miles for only $1,700 more (less, actually, if you factor in inflation).”
Maybe you should recheck your calculation. If you paid $7100 eight years ago, and inflation since that time (let us assume) was 15%, that price would be equivalent to $8165 today. So you paid $2765 (not $1700) more than the price of the $5400 car today.
I know pretty much nothing about cars, don’t own one, but I do try to understand economics. For what it’s worth, BLS says that since December 2003 (earliest date I have easy access to), the price of new vehicles went up just 3%, used vehicles 13%
None of which contradicts your main point.
What inflation is and what the government says it is are two very different things.
The VW Super Beetle had a 25 hp engine. Do you wonder why it was so light? Take the engine out of a modern car and replace it with a 25 hp engine and a far lighter transmission because you do not need much for a 25 hp engine and you drop a lot of weight. You do not compare the weight of cars that are capable of over 120 mph with one that takes a loooong time getting up to 65 mph if it can make it that fast.
Sigh. Once again (again!) you’re utterly bereft of de Troof and de Facts.
First, you’re not even in the ballpark on the Super Beetle (or standard Beetle’s) power output. By the late ’60s/early ’70s the 1500-1600 cc engine was making 54 hp or more.
Second, a 1600 cc VW Beetle engine weighs about 225 pounds fully dressed. (I’ve owned several – full disclosure. How many have you owned?)
This is only about 100 pounds more than a current-year 1.6-1.8 liter four. The big difference in weight is due to water-cooling and accessories such as AC.
The reason why an old Beetle weighs so much less than a current-year subcompact is because the entire car is much lighter. And it is much lighter because it did not have to comply with federal bumper-impact standards (which, along with federal emissions laws, is what eventually forced VW to withdraw the old Beetle from the U.S. market).
VW continued to sell the old Beetle in foreign markets, such as Central and South America, until circa 2002. By which time the engine had been updated with fuel injection. If you were to equip a fuel-injected old Beetle with an overdrive transmission or CVT, its gas mileage would probably be 40-plus average and close to 50 (or more) on the highway. With a diesel engine, a 1,900 pound old Beetle would be a 60-plus MPG car.
And it could be built and sold for a profit at around $8,000-$10,000 retail.
But thanks to Cloverism, the American driver has been denied such efficient, economical transportation. Instead, they are to be indentured to six-year payments plans on $40,000 Obama Cars.
The 2011 smart fortwo car has a curb weight of 1808 lbs with an engine of 70 hp and it has front and side airbags and other safety devices. It goes to show that a small car with a small engine even with safety devices is lighter than your VW. Yes if you add a little more length and a couple of more seats the weight would go up to your VW.
The Smart is also a two-seater. The Old Beetle could seat four people. The Smart is literally not capable of sustained highway driving. The Beetle is.
Try again, oh Cloveroni.
Turning the not-so-Smart car into a four seater would entail re-engineering the whole thing, incidentally. And it’d end up weighing well over 2,000 lbs. by then.
PS: The Smart’s gas mileage as a next-to-useless two seater is still only slightly better than a Beetle’s, despite the not-so-Smart car having the technological advantages of computer-controlled EFI, etc.
And: It starts at almost $13k. One could buy two nice Old Beetles for that and still have a nice pile of cash left over for gas.
I looked into the “Smart” I mean “Stupid” car last year. Once I saw the price and the shitty warranty it was easy to never think about it again.
I drove one.
Now, I will preface this by saying that, over the course of more than 20 years as a car writer (plus a lifetime as a car enthusiast) I have driven literally almost every make/model of car on the road. Everything from an early 1900s Baker Electric to a Jaguar XJ220 and in between. And I can say, without clause or caveat, that the “Smart” car is the most unsuited for modern driving car I have been in since a BMW Isetta. It is not merely that it’s underpowered, overpriced and practically useless. The short wheelbase and tall profile make it – and I am not one to toss this word around lightly – dangerous. The slipstream of passing semis (and you will be passed by everything) can push the car over into the next lane, or off the road. It is not stable at highway speeds, or in corners. I have owned several old Beetles and while the Beetle was slow and also subject to being buffeted by wind, it had a lower center of gravity and was much more controllable and predictable. It also handled better – and we’re talking about a car designed in the 1930s.
As a sort of overpriced golf cart for puttering around the warrens of densely packed European cities, the Smart may be ok. (Though why anyone would pay $13k for such a limited vehicle when the same money can buy a perfectly serviceable subcompact escapes me.)
I wish I had Top Gear money, so I could buy a Smart Car just to throw it in the Woods.