Driving smart

Oct 2nd, 2008 | By | Category: Campus News, October 2, 2008

DeVries savors small-car option

Clark deVries is all about driving Smart.

Clark deVries and his Smart Car
CAR FORTWO – Clark deVries, director of utility services for Facilities Management and Planning, stands next to his 2008 Smart Fortwo Passion coupe. DeVries was the second Nebraskan to own one of the small, fuel-efficient vehicles made by Mercedes-Benz.

In February, deVries, director of utility services for Facilities Management and Planning, became the second Nebraskan to purchase a Smart Car ForTwo. Made by Mercedes-Benz, a division of DaimlerChrysler, the Smart Car ForTwo is the smallest production car available. The vehicle measures 8.8 feet from bumper to bumper, 5.1 feet wide and 5.1 feet tall.

And, while his Smart Car – a Smart Passion model – earns 34 miles per gallon in the city and 40 MPG on highways, deVries said the purchase was all about size.

“I’ve always liked the concept of a very small production car,” said deVries. “I guess, to me, it’s a little bit of a status symbol. How small of a mode of a vehicle can you purchase that is still useful and functional?”

When he entered the market for a diminutive auto, deVries initially considered a Mini Cooper. However, the British-built auto measures 39 inches longer than the Smart Car, which only became available for purchase in the United States this year.

The Smart Car concept started in the 1990s as a partnership between Mercedes-Benz and the Swiss watch manufacturer Swatch (Smart actually stands for Swatch/Mercedes-Benz art). The partners planned to build a small city car for the 21st century. When the relationship fell apart, Mercedes-Benz continued the project, launching the first Smart Car in Europe in 1988.

DeVries said he started to consider a Smart Car purchase when it was first released in Europe. However, due to safety and emissions standards, the Department of Transportation did not allow the Smart Car to be licensed in the United States.

“If I brought one over in 1998 or 1999, it would have been nothing more than a golf cart in the eyes of the DOT,” said deVries. “Mercedes improved the safety and emissions standards and it began gaining acceptance.”

In 2004, Smart Car announced that the auto would be coming to the United States. When a dealership opened in Omaha in February 2007, deVries was second in line.

“One lady got hers just ahead of mine,” said deVries. “I guess I just wasn’t up there early enough.”

The unique car also has a special purchase plan. Buyers put down a payment of $99 for the vehicles, which range in price from $11,000 to $14,000. The order is sent to a factory in France and the Smart Car is delivered about a year later.

“Each one is built based on an individual order,” said deVries. “It really is worth the wait.”

DeVries never test drove a Smart Car. His first time behind the wheel came when he brought it home.

“The car was so unique that I didn’t see a reason not to get it,” deVries said. “If it wouldn’t have been a good fit for me, I planned to flip it on eBay right away.”

Smart Cars rank among the safest small autos in crash tests – and actually Smarts have the best insurance crash rating in their vehicle class.

“It’s small, light and very maneuverable,” deVries said. “It even handles pretty good in snow – as long as there is less than six inches on the ground.”

DeVries opted for a red version of the Passion model Smart Car. He also purchased and extra set of white body panels (which can be changed out in a few hours). Currently, deVries is cruising with the white body panels in place.

Smart Car provided deVries with a “stack” of information sheets to be given to anyone interested in the car.

“I gave all those out in the first two weeks,” deVries said. “I’m always getting stopped at gas stations, people asking me about mileage and who makes the Smart Car.

“My wife doesn’t really like driving it because she feels like everyone is looking at her.”

For deVries, that’s one of the main reasons he opted for the Smart Car.

“I just like the concept of not having to carry a lot of stuff with me,” said deVries. “If you don’t like having a lot of car and you don’t want to get on a motorcycle, this is the next best thing.

“And, with trends in gas prices, this has been a very smart purchase.”

Story and photos by Troy Fedderson/University Communications

The Smart Car Fortwo

Smart CarGeneral Information
Weight: 1,808 lbs.
Engine type: In-Line 3 cylinder
Horsepower: 70 HP at 5,800 RPM
Turn diameter: 28.7 feet
Transmission: 5-speed automated manual
Rear-wheel drive

EPA mileages
City: 34 miles per gallon
Highway: 40 miles per gallon
Fuel tank: 10 gallon
(8.7 with 1.3 gal.reserve)

Exterior Measurements
Wheel base: 6.1 feet
Length: 8.8 feet
Width: 5.1 feet
Height: 5.1 feet

Interior of Smart CarInterior Measurements
Headroom: 39.7 inches
Legroom: 41.2 inches
Shoulder room: 48 inches
Cargo volume: 12 cubic feet
Passenger volume: 45.4 cubic feet
Seating capacity: 2

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