2008 Smart Fortwo Passion: (Re)Learning to Drive
May 12, 2008
The 2008 Smart Fortwo Passion Coupe is, well, it's cute. That's what everyone told me this weekend. A few people asked if it was electric, one guy even called it sporty. I didn't have the heart to tell them that there's nothing I like about it. Except it's easy to park. Yeah, yeah.
The most utterly confounding part of this car is its godawful transmission. If you have anything resembling a weak stomach, stay away, because this car evokes the first-time driver learning how to shift. And not getting the hang of it. The shifts are really that awful. It jerks and stutters like a punch-drunk boxer if left to its own devices, so the real answer is to self-shift, using the handy-dandy shift paddles (as seen above).
But this takes a certain amount of skill, because you don't just shift. You have to pretend you're driving a standard-shift car without a clutch. Rev it up, then remove your foot from the gas pedal, then shift, then put your foot back on the gas. It takes some practice, as you don't want to shift too early and you want to be in the sweet spot of the revs. 1st to 2nd is the trick. Once you're in 3rd, it's smooth sailing.
For me, it's the anti-Ferrari. (I know; no-brainer) I love the Ferrari, although it certainly has its own learning curve and certain quirks of its personality.
But with this car, you teach yourself the shift method just to get through driving it, to make it barely tolerable. It's not so much a reward as an avoidance of punishment. But you can actually get better at it. It takes practice. And a willingness to endure people telling you how damn cute it is.
Doug Lloyd, Senior Copy Editor @ 4,852 miles