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"2008 Smart Fortwo: Smart Car...Stupid Transmission

39 posts in this topic

Yeah, the comments are even worse. It seems that if they don't love it, they love to hate it. Who are these people that comment on articles for a car they seem to loathe?I noticed this phenomenon when I bought a Denon receive. Owners of Marantz receivers would post negative comments about Denon on articles. I thought it was funny later when Denon later merged with Marantz.

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Yeah, the comments are even worse. It seems that if they don't love it, they love to hate it. Who are these people that comment on articles for a car they seem to loathe?I noticed this phenomenon when I bought a Denon receive. Owners of Marantz receivers would post negative comments about Denon on articles. I thought it was funny later when Denon later merged with Marantz.

So...THAT'S where Marantz went... :puppy: Proof is in the driving...Put that baby in MANUAL mode!Wind it out a little before shifting. THAT'S when you feel the difference.The AUTO mode likes to shift early, at low RPM, to keep fuel mileage at it's best. That's when it feels jerky.Once in manual, at about half throttle, it will automatically shift at a higher RPM, (LONG before redline I might add) with a much quicker and smoother shift. I found this out pretty quickly on my test drive. These other fools just don't know how to drive it yet....

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Harsh write-up on Edmunds at http://blogs.edmunds.com/?14@799.rwITb9s22WA@/karl/670 .really rips the transmission.

Wow, that's quite a rip alright. In fact, I think it drew blood.But if you're a "non" Smart person who doesn't know anything about the car. For a first time Smart person, the transmission (especially in the U.S.), could be a major issue. Especially after reading reviews like this from Karl Brauer.The bitter disappointment I have with Karl and Edmunds is if a person is going to "rip" any car to this extent, they should at least call the manufacture and give them a chance to defend themselves before going to print. There might be a reason why Smart decided on this transmission and Karl didn't know. A good reporter should always get both sides before passing judgement.So, rather than Flaming the guy on "Char Broil", I'd be interested why Smart/Mercedes decided on building the 450/451 with this kind of transmission. I would like to hear Smart defend it. I know I (and all the forum members), can live with the current transmission, but if Smart could have offered either a true manual transmission or a true automatic/CVT transmission instead, why didn't they?Was weight the issue? Fuel mileage?Has anyone read anything officially from Smart or Mercedes why they decided on this transmission?Just curious.-Tom L.PS: I've heard comments from other people who've had a chance to test drive a Smart with a North American transmission to say they thought it smoother than the European transmission. I wonder which one Karl drove? (...Karl (d)Rove... now why does that name sound familiar...?)

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Wow...yeah, he DOES really rip it! But I have to commend you, Dan, on YOUR comment! It was logical & fair. Something your average comment-leaver knows nothing about!I agree Gortok...I figured out almost instantly in my first test drive that manual was the ONLY way to go! I think if one has experience with manual transmissions, it's just a natural inclination to drive it that way. Especially when it's in auto & it goes, "MMMMM....pause...MMMMM...pause...MMMM..." (Ok...really...you have to just BE here to HEAR my sound effects! LOL!!) Anita

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I have got used to the auto mode in my 450 and I quite like it in urban areas. It's relaxing to use.The Bubbas will always rail against anything that's different. So what.....

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The Bubbas will always rail against anything that's different. So what.....

Mike, I agree.

My only concern is this being Smart's official entry to the U.S. and first impressions. I hope there isn't anymore reviews that center around its unique transmission and flame it. That's why I think Smart or Mercedes should do a press release with a positive spin on why they believed this to be the BEST transmission selected for this car. Otherwise, too much ugly reviews might hurt sales and give it a bad reputation. I think the PR people need to nip this before there's a chance it could snowball.

-Tom L.

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I think that people either get the car or they don't....those that don't, don't matter much, because the cars will be sold out for two or three years, regardless of bad publicity or being slammed in reviews. Some people (like me) actually revel in driving cars that some people hate. It makes me feel good!Issuing a defensive press release now would be playing into the hands of the flamers.

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I agree. They will leave it and let the car speak for itself. Its no different than the Canadian release of the 450. You love it or hate it and if you love it you grow to enjoy the quirks that are part of this unique car. Changing anything to try to make the haters "like" the car won't work...they still wouldnt go out and buy one. Like Mike said they will be sold out for the next few years I am sure and that in itself will speak volumes. This isn't "every other car" so why try to force it to conform?Cheers!

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I agree. They will leave it and let the car speak for itself. Its no different than the Canadian release of the 450. You love it or hate it and if you love it you grow to enjoy the quirks that are part of this unique car. Changing anything to try to make the haters "like" the car won't work...they still wouldnt go out and buy one. Like Mike said they will be sold out for the next few years I am sure and that in itself will speak volumes. This isn't "every other car" so why try to force it to conform?Cheers!

I hear you guys loud and clear (hey, I like the car). But it's not the 'haters' that concern me, it's the "neutral" people that warm up to it, read information like Karl's report and think, (hmm... this person really hates the transmission...), drives the car with a negative already implanted in mind and now thinks the transmission stinks. This may or may not happen. But I've seen it in the workplace where nasty rumors are spread about a person, and before anyone even meets that person, a negative opinion is already developed even though it may not be true.I'm 48 and have never driven a car with a transmission like the Smart fortwo. I'm glad you guys in the forum talked about it. It gave me insight before I had a chance to drive it when it was on tour. I knew what to expect. Had I not known this information in advance, I would probably have had a negative response. This is what concerns me with other people who are going to drive this for the first time. Yes, it probably sold out for the next 2 years, but like the Corvair, a bad book, and word of mouth could change all that (at least they can't kill it for safety reasons).I hope everything goes well with the fortwo and that I'm wrong and people warm up to it (even after they drive it). Maybe the new North American tranny is much better and Karl drove the European one.Time will tell.I don't think if Smart had their PR explain the reason behind selecting the current transmission would play to the "flamers". It's informing the public why they selected it. I would look forward to reading it. Otherwise, silence might be interpreted that the tranny does have problems.We'll see what happens...-Tom L.

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I will say that I'm a smart fan and well the transmission on the 451 drives me crazy, its easily the thing that will upset people the most. I've never driven the old 450 so I can't compare but driving the 451 around town is made less enjoyable thanks to the transmission delay and shift points.

Here's a good example of the problem, if you are taking a left turn at lights from a dead stop half way through your turn the car will basically die/shift delay as the gear ratio, combined with a normal left turn and the shift delay isn't very optimized.

I've been talking with some guys in Germany and we are going to seeing what can be done to change the shift points/shift system at least for 1st gear, as the other gears while have some delay aren't as noticeable or as annoying as the 1st to 2nd shift.

Its hard to say people won't fault the smart on this issue as no other car I've ever driven (unless manual and I'm being an idiot) has this problem. It will bother people and like in this example some of those people will have a voice to the buying public, it can't be all roses for the smart, but we do have a Lot of great people saying some great things about the smart, here is my recent favorite review:

http://jaylenosgarage.com/video/index.shtml?vidID=183034

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Once you have driven a smart for 50,000 or 100,000 km, you will discover that none of that is an issue.

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Mike T not be be taken negatively towards you but I can tap you in the head 50,000 times and you'll get used to it, I will get used to my 451 and am sure most of the owners will also, but it doesn't mean its right or that its not something I and others will work to change.

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I dare you to tap me in the head!There is nothing that can be done to make the gearbox "more normal" so either you should accept it as it is, or move into Honda-land.Edit: Hee hee, Handa = Honda

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Agreed 100%, the transmission is awesome in these cars, yeah it's quirky but it shifts just as fast as if you were driving a MT. You are just driving them around for a few minutes at a time, after doing a long road trip or seven you'll realize there is nothing wrong with it at all. As for corners, you just have to learn when to downshift when aproaching the corner so when you're at the apex you can power through it.Also I wish people would give up on trying to justify chaninging it to regular MT or Automatic - it is what it is, they had their reasons for making it that way, leave it alone!-Iain

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Ha, don't worry I'm not going to tap anyone on the head, just used it as an example.As for nothing that can be done... well it would be interesting to see how the 2 babus editions that they are selling in Europe handle the shifting, there might be a computer upgrade or some transmission swap possible.

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A computer upgrade can't make the shift gearmotor go any faster, though... That is fixed in the hardware, unless they put a larger motor with a shorter gear reduction on the cam drum, or "cut corners" by letting the clutch open earlier (bad idea, in my mind), the shift lag will always be there.-Iain

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Has anyone read anything officially from Smart or Mercedes why they decided on this transmission?Just curious.

According to Dave Schembri:

A conventional manual with driver-activated clutch wouldn't have fit, he says, and a fully automatic gearbox would have cost 3 or 4 miles per gallon.

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The current transmission is completely self-contained, modular, and was easy to outsource to a third party. It offers benefits of high mileage as in an MT with simulated AT functionality, in a compact package.smart did investigate using an IVT in the fortwo NG but it was abandoned early on, for reasons of space. The Getrag AMT we ended up with is mechanically a thing of beauty, as I've gushed on and on about many times in various threads on our forum. :)-Iain

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I personally like it. It reminds me a bit of the transmission in my VUE. You can rush through the gears if you need to, but it drops revs so slowly thanks to the emissions controls, I shift it about like the smart.I don't mind it being direct and abrupt. This is why CVTs irritate me... when I want to go, I want to go, and I could care less if it is smooth. When a semi is bearing down on you - NVH should be the last thing on your mind, IMO.

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...but it shifts just as fast as if you were driving a MT. -Iain

...well not quite.When you can speed-shift, you don't even need a clutch (the beauty of synchromesh) :drive:

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Once you have had a chance to drive the car for an extended period, it really is fast and easy to shift. I don't have the soft-touch option - the paddle shifters and floor shift are very entertaining and my first five minutes of demo soft touch were soon forgotten when I started to use the paddles. When you can't use the paddles due to a turn, you reach down and shift the floor lever. I learned to drive on a 4 speed Corvair and one of my first jobs was driving milk trucks with split shift manuals. With practise, smooth shifting and good defensive driving techniques made running through the gears a satisfying experience. It required skill to keep the load intact. Drivers who drove the multi-speed trucks like cars ended up in ditches.The smart is not a Buick/Toyota/Honda. The choice of transmission does not need to be defended - it is appropriate for the type and mission of this vehicle. The whole car is clearly different. I'm pretty sure those who adapt quickly to the car will continue to drive one. Those who hate it will not. Ever. Their loss. On a purely anecdotal note, the low mileage passions that seem to show up in Toronto used car lots all seem to the soft-touch cars without the paddle shift option. Most of the joy I get out of a smart is using the paddle shifters - a low mileage, non-paddle shift car would not interest me.I love my smart car,Ian

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I think this transmission is the best thing out there. I like a manual transmission but I don't like an annoying clutch pedal. With this transmission, you have the durability of a real set of gears, cheap and easy maintenance, better fuel economy than an automatic, you can shift at any RPM you like, you can't miss a gear, you can't select the wrong gear, you can't grind the gears, you can't forget to go back to first gear after you stop and it is near impossible to stall it and the best anti theft technology if you park it in reverse. What's not to like? You also have a quality, German made Getrag transmission (not sure about the 451). The transmission definitely gets much smoother as you put the miles on but unfortunately, it is tight, new cars that are being tested by automotive reviewers who don't know how to drive them. I also think it is a mistake how the new North American model is being marketed. Anyone who looks inside the new car is going to think the car has an automatic transmission when it does not. They are then going to be disappointed when it doesn't shift like one. Learn what this transmission really is and then learn how to master it.

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...but it shifts just as fast as if you were driving a MT. -Iain

...well not quite.When you can speed-shift, you don't even need a clutch (the beauty of synchromesh) :drive:
Yes, you can shift a manual trans faster than the smart. The question is when you are stuck in traffic trying to wake up on the way to work or trying to stay awake on the way home after a long day, do you speed shift on every shift? Sure it's fun to play but that is not the way most people drive on a day to day basis.As it has been said before, it's a great little trans that does exactly what it is supposed to do, transmit power from the engine to the drive wheels. Another good thing, if you look back through this forum, you will be hard pressed to find many if any transmission failures. A couple of clutch adjustments, a maintenance item, and one guy caught a rock that punched a hole in the trans case. For the total miles/kilometers driven buy the members of this forum, I am impressed by this little transmission.

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...but it shifts just as fast as if you were driving a MT. -Iain

...well not quite.When you can speed-shift, you don't even need a clutch (the beauty of synchromesh) :drive:
Oh I'm sorry, my mistake - you've had your smart for how long?-Iain

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