Mercedes-Benz is developing a highly flexible three-seat Smart.
The plans, revealed in a series of patent drawings over several weeks and seen by Autocar, underline Mercedes' determination to build on its limited line-up of dedicated city cars.
Mercedes is reacting to increased competition from Toyota in the form of the iQ and the impending arrival of similar urban-based offerings from premium rivals Audi and BMW.
The new interior draws heavily on that used by McLaren in its mould-breaking F1 supercar, sitting the driver’s seat centrally up front with a pair of passenger seats set further back on either side of the cabin – an arrangement made possible by the retention of the rear-engined platform design used by today’s Smart Fortwo.
Early plans call for the unusual layout to be used in a replacement for the coupe and roadster pairing axed from Smart’s line-up back in 2005, after a run of 43,091 cars.
The low-slung three-seater has been conceived as a sportier alternative to Smart’s upright second-generation Fortwo, with accommodation for up to three, along with limited boot space at the rear.
Nothing’s official at this stage, but Mercedes-Benz insiders contacted by Autocar suggest the new car could take the name 'Forthree' into showrooms by 2014 as part of plans to extend the Smart line-up into a complete range of models by the middle of the next decade.
The three-seat cabin incorporates a number of innovations aimed at solving the inherent problems in such a layout, including the long stretch upon entering and exiting the cabin.