Famously unhinged German tuner adds second motor to #1 EV for extra 154bhp

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It’s entirely appropriate for any Brabus product to have a surfeit of power, and that tradition is proudly being upheld by the range-topping Smart #1.

You will be unsurprised to hear that a four-wheel-drive electric small SUV with 422bhp is seriously quick, especially given its instant torque. But potential buyers definitely shouldn’t come here looking for huge amounts of dynamic finesse – or even relatively modest amounts of dynamic finesse.

Eu brabus atomgreymatt radiantred ext 001 3 4 front urban

This isn’t meant as a critical kicking. I had huge fun driving the Smart #1 Brabus, and it’s hard not to warm to a car that looks so cute yet also threatens to spin all four wheels on dry roads. But it’s fair to say that the balance between power and control is definitely not centred on the scale.

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Changes over the rear-driven #1 are slight. In addition to the lesser car’s 268bhp rear motor, the Brabus gains a smaller, 154bhp motor on the front axle, but that’s most of the story mechanically. Despite having all that additional power, the Brabus sits on the same Continental EcoContact 6 tyres as the RWD car. According to Smart engineers, the suspension settings have also been revised only to take account of the extra mass up front – the base set-up is still as soft and pliant.

Eu brabus atomgreymatt radiantred ext 002 3 4 rear urban

The eco-grade rubber struggles to combine cornering loads with longitudinal acceleration. Turn-in is mushy and prone to low-speed understeer, but getting on the power then dramatically reverses the chassis balance as the rearward torque bias takes over and the back gains the unmistakable sense of lightness that indicates impending oversteer. At this point – probably fortunately – the stability control system intervenes hard and more effort is directed forwards to try to pull the car straight, leading to more understeer. It’s certainly quick, but it’s not very elegant.

Other Brabus-specific details are a different alloy wheel design and badging, and a Brabus driving mode above the usual Sport one. It’s not as if earlier Smart Brabus models were dynamic paragons, but nor did any ever have so much power to call on. This one is fun, but I came away from my first experience wondering how much better it would be on stickier rubber and stiffer springs.

Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at autocar.co.uk. Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.