Mercedes-Benz is improving its lineup of dedicated city cars by developing a three-seat Smart rumored to be named the "Forthree." It is believed that Mercedes-Benz is fast-tracking the preparation in reaction to competition from Toyota's iQ as well as urban-based offerings from Audi and BMW.
Said to borrow heavily from McLaren's mould-breaking F1 supercar, the car is designed with 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 the Smart Fortwo. The layout itself isn't new. It was intended as 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.
Insiders are supposedly claiming that the car will arrive at showrooms by 2014. Mercedes incorporated several design innovations to resolve layout problems, such as the long stretch upon entering and exiting the cabin.
These changes include a swiveling seat base as well as a transverse runner within the floor that allows the driver's seat to be adjusted out towards the door. Autocar has obtained patent application sketches that reveal a complex seatbelt arrangement for the driver.
The three-seat interior is housed similar to Smart's existing Tridion steel safety cell, with sturdy longitudinal and transverse members aimed at providing controlled deformation and added crash protection.
No announcements have been made with regards to the car's mechanical package but it is well-known that Mercedes-Benz is already well advanced on a new line-up of modular three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines ranging in capacity from 800cc through to 1.4 liters.
Also being developed is a new seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Both are planned to make an appearance in the third-generation A-class, due out in 2011, before making their way into other Mercedes-Benz models, including those from Smart.