Smart fortwo Brabus unveil

Smart has revealed a new variant of its fortwo at the 2008 LA Auto Show, but how good is a high-performance version of an uber-thrifty car?
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus nose

When the cloth pulled back, we found ourselves face to face with the fortwo Brabus. For those not familiar, Brabus is a German tuning house that is most commonly known for its high performance versions of Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus front air dam

A lowered suspension improves the fortwo's handling and a front lip spoiler reduces high speed lift. Though you won't have to worry too much about high-speed hijinx, because the fortwo Brabus is still equipped with the stock 1-liter, 3-cylinder engine.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus front

Side skirts and a range of Brabus accessories and badging create an aesthetic that's still cute as a button, but now with an edge.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus interior

I'm not a fan of the fortwo's dash layout, which pulls the tachometer and the fuel gauge out of the instrument cluster (where you'd expect them to be), placing them up and away on the dashboard.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus dashboard

Cabin tech is also unimpressive, with a six-disc CD player being the top audio system. Navigation is not available.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus transmission

After a short drive in a Smart fortwo Cabriolet, I'm convinced that the fortwo's Achilles' Heel is the automated manual transmission. The gearbox is essentially a five-speed manual transmission with electronically controlled shifts. The computer shifts slowly and, at low speeds, feels like it's about stall the vehicle at every stop.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:

Smart fortwo Brabus side

The fortwo Brabus features wider wheels and tires with a staggered fitment. 15-inch wheels are on the front axle with 17-inchers out back. It's supposed to evoke a sporty nature, but in practice, it just looks sort of weird.
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Photo by: Corinne Schulze/CBS Interactive / Caption by:
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