What is it like to drive?
Forgive us for starting with the Brabus, but it’s worth doing because the 422bhp 4WD car is not only much faster, but has better traction and body control because all four wheels are splitting the load. It’s not much stiffer or sportier than the lesser versions, but drives with more confidence. Especially in the wet.
And yes, it’ll sit down on its rear suspension and fling you towards the horizon at a faintly shocking rate, but does have brakes that are able to overcome the 1,900kg kerbweight (100kg more than the regular #1). Yes, the rear motor is more powerful and if you stamp on the throttle mid corner the tail will kick out slightly before the traction control gets involved, but it all seems to be pulling in the right direction. It’s actually more alarming when you lose traction in the regular, rear-drive car.
I’M JUST GOING TO BE SHUTTLING THE KIDS AROUND.
Then know the Brabus has a 248-mile range, while the Premium manages 273 miles. That car, with 264bhp, a 0-62mph time of 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 112mph, is more than rapid enough.
DOES IT GO AROUND CORNERS?
Better than we anticipated actually. The suspension is fairly soft, but the damping is good, so roll builds consistently and the #1 manages to hide its 1,800kg quite well. It helps that the wheels are pushed out to the corners, which keeps as much weight as possible within the wheelbase.
There’s no steering feel to speak of, but it’s quiet and composed on the move. There’s little noise from tyres or suspension (often a key source of road noise and general background buzz), and on the whole it’s obedient and well mannered at higher speeds.
WHAT ABOUT AT LOW SPEEDS?
Our key bugbear is the regen braking, which works smoothly at high speeds, but is patchy and grabby at low speeds, making it hard to drive smoothly. And don’t even think of engaging the radar cruise/driving assistant. That’s jerky and clueless.
The turning circle is reasonable, and because of the low scuttle you can actually see the bonnet which makes it easier to position when you are manoeuvering, and forward visibility is pretty good.
WHAT ABOUT MODES? THERE’S BOUND TO BE MODES.
You’ve got Eco, Comfort and Sport drive modes with a further option of Light, Medium or Heavy steering, with the latter providing the greatest weight and response to your inputs. There’s a choice of either Standard or Strong regenerative braking too, although the difference between the two isn’t much and the feel of the actual brake pedal leaves a lot to be desired. An e-Pedal mode supposedly offers one-pedal driving, but we found it didn’t generate enough regen to stop the car quickly when lifting off the accelerator.
IS IT COMFORTABLE?
It is, partly because of the low background noise levels mentioned above, and partly because of the well cushioned suspension. There are no adaptive dampers, but it’s set up on the soft side and there’s a good amount of tyre sidewall to absorb bumps.
IS IT EFFICIENT?
Smart claims 3.7 mi/kWh for the rangiest Premium trim, which is pretty average as efficiency goes. We got around 3.2 mi/kWh in mixed driving, with the Brabus on recording about 2.8 mi/kWh. As we said earlier, although it looks like it should be clean through the air, it’s actually not particularly aerodynamic. Not least because it wears wide 235-width tyres.