Brabus Once Made A Twin-Turbo V6 Smart That Hit 60 MPH In Under Six Seconds, But You Can’t Buy It

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When most people think of Smart, they probably think of slow and tiny city cars that don’t quite get the fuel economy that they should. But in 2003, German tuning house Brabus made ten Smarts that are so quick that they had the same power-to-weight ratio as a Porsche 911. The Smart Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo is one of the fastest Smarts ever, but you’ll probably never be able to buy one.

For a short few years between 2003 and 2006, residents of a handful of lucky regions could buy one of the coolest cars to be bestowed with a Smart badge. The Roadster was a modern and quirky take on the old-school British roadster. It was a car that felt so responsive and so alive that it impressed journalists and owners around the world. Even Top Gear enjoyed the ride. But, a common complaint with the low-slung Smart was that it wasn’t all that fast. That’s where famed German tuning house Brabus comes into play. Later in 2003, German tuner Brabus, known for its fast and even more luxurious versions of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, created a Roadster design study.

Biturbo
Smart

Whereas a normal Roadster at the time had at best 82 HP from its 698cc Mercedes-Benz M160 Suprex turbocharged three, the Brabus design doubled up on the power. And Brabus did it in the best way possible: by taking two Roadster engines and combining them together to make a V6 with a common crankcase. The result? The new 1396cc V6 powerplant sports two turbos and makes 170 HP, which Smart says allows the Roadster to hit 60 mph in under six seconds before going on to a top speed of 137 mph. The Smart Roadster Brabus B6 Biturbo was born.

Brabengine
Smart

Brabus created ten of these cars and allowed the media to play around with them. Motor Trend got to review one, as did Top Gear. The outlets that got to test these seemed to fall in love with Brabus’ hot rod Smart.

Then Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond noted that Smart’s engineers hadn’t figured out how to make traction control work with the extra power, so the car didn’t have it. Thus, the car was happy to get very sideways.

Top Gear was already a fan of the original Roadster for how alive it is. Hammond concluded that doubling the engine, doubling the power, and halving the acceleration time only made it better. And because the Brabus V6 Biturbo has so much of its power down low, Hammond said that the car felt like the engine was so much bigger than it really is. “It’s like a bottle of sports car concentrate,” Hammond remarks.

The Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo is based on a Roadster Coupe; that’s the one with the extra trunk space by way of a glass hatch. And amazingly, the double-sized engine still fits in the back, sort of. In creating this car, Brabus eliminated the storage tray that would normally be on top of the engine. That means there is no storage space in back anymore. But as an upshot, you get to look at the engine through awesome louvered glass.

If you know Roadsters, you might be thinking that it’s fine because the car has a frunk. Normally, you’d be right. However, because the engine is so big, Brabus had to fill the frunk with the vehicle’s Formula 1-style foam-rubber fuel cell.

Other changes happened under the skin, MOTOR magazine writes. Normally, a Smart features a De Dion tube in the rear. In this setup, the springs and shocks are separate (see my Smart below), and mounted onto a U-shaped tube that goes around the engine:

Mercedes Streeter

In the Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo, the De Dion tube stays, but the separate springs and shocks are replaced with struts.

Inside, the cabin is filled with aluminum, quilted leather, alcantara, and red accents that match the outside of the car. The transmission here is still Smart’s single clutch automated-manual gearbox. Normally, people dislike these things, but it seemed that reviewers liked the car so much they were able to forgive it. Curiously missing from this interior is an air-conditioner and a radio. Reviewers noted that the car made a fantastic soundtrack–especially with the top off–so perhaps you only need the tunes of that engine.

Brabinterior
Smart

There’s more good stuff, too, like the car’s 50:50 weight distribution and a power-to-weight ratio of 10.8 pounds per horsepower. Motor Trend notes that a period Porsche Carrera 4S has a 10.3 pound per horsepower ratio.

Of course, a car this good has a catch. While Brabus built ten of them, none of them are road legal. And with each costing 330,000 pounds to build, they’re certainly the most expensive Smart out there. Speaking with MOTOR, Heinz Gottwick, then senior PR of Micro Compact Car (Smart’s former name) said that the cars weren’t built for production or for competition. Instead, Brabus just built ten functional show cars.

Brabside
Smart

In 2004, Smart fans would get a Brabus model, but it would make a much tamer 101 HP with intact storage and a lower price. Of the ten Brabus V6 Biturbo cars that were built, it’s reported that only three survive. One remains with Brabus while Mercedes-Benz has two. The others were apparently dismantled.

To date, these Roadsters are the fastest cars that Smart ever built. And perhaps no amount of money in the world could get one of them in your hands. That said, if you live in Europe or China, Smart’s new #1 electric SUV sounds really quick. Acceleration times haven’t been released yet, but you’re looking at 268 HP. Like most cars that I write about, I’d love to have some time with a Roadster Brabus V6 Biturbo. This car sounds like all kinds of absurd and stupid, just as a Smart should be.

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25 Responses

    1. I’m working on one as we speak, rear mounted 2.0 from a Focus ST, 252 hp in 1500lbs all done is what I’m planning – just under 6 lbs per hp. should be mad. Not as crazy as the one Tyler Gildred builds with 500 hp in the back, but crazy enough!

      1. As a Focus ST owner (and a Mini owner someday) I need to know more. Do you have a build log anywhere?

        ….hopefully this reply shows up under MiniDave, my original comment was meant as a reply to rootwyrm but now it just looks like I’m trying to talk about unrelated cars and engine swaps

  1. They should have made a turbodiesel version with a similar amount of power. Imagine a 1.2L CDTI from an Opel tuned to 170 horsepower. It might just fit. The fuel economy would have been incredible and so would the performance.

  2. Holy cow! I can finally comment!

    Mercedes, this is exactly what I like reading about. I thought king and hard about buying a smart roadster when I lived in the UK, but simply didn’t have enough disposable income to be able to have a toy and the family car. Such a neat car!

  3. I forgot how bad the editing was back in the days of old TG. That music selection was horrible, and mixed way too loud.
    However, I do wish I could get a Smart Roadster here in the US and do a motorcycle engine swap.

    1. I’m not sure if that’s even the original mix. Old new TG had different versions of the same episodes for different regions. I discovered it when I watched TG’s review of the McLaren MP4-12C when it came out in the UK, then watched it again when it appeared on BBC America.

      TG episodes for the UK often used tracks from movies/TV, while other regions got those same episodes with substitute tracks. It was really bad when they would do those cheap car modification montages. In the UK, they used the A-Team theme. But elsewhere (and in reruns) some substitute track would be mixed in that usually didn’t fit well. You’ll also notice it in the Vietnam special where the Springsteen motorcycle doesn’t actually play a Springsteen song. lol

      1. The music had to do with rights; simply, the BBC has an annual license to pretty much the whole music catalog, but only in the UK. In the US, they have to get a synchronization license/clearance for every piece of music in a show and if it is too expensive, in comes the stock tracks.

        That’s why I always used my “special BBC antenna,” the one with the Jolly Roger flag on it, to see the UK versions of the shows back when the three knuckleheads were on. 🙂

  4. “Yes, it is necessary. Very.”

    Yes, Richard, it is. It sure is a shame we don’t know anybody with a hoard of Smart cars to do horrible things to. Or anybody who would gladly stuff something completely unreasonable in it, like a 200HP 3 cylinder from a Fiesta ST.
    Wait a second…

    Oh Mercedes~!

      1. Too large dimensionally and by weight. By far and away. The Smart’s largest engine by dimensions is the 1.0L 3B20T (T is for Turbo.) AKA the Mercedes M132. It’s very light at ~67kg due to being all aluminum. (And was even designed for what became the i-MiEV, the MR platform.) But it’s TINY.

        How tiny? Well. The cylinder block is just 286 millimeters long and 191 millimeters high. That’s it.

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