As one of the most recognizable vehicles currently available in North America, the smart fortwo has gained quite a following for its impressive fuel economy, unique design and small stature. Unfortunately, an overwhelming number of smart owners were complaining about the lackadaisical shifting exhibited from the car's automated manual transmission. Not that people should expect the car to handled like a sports car, but the delays between gears was obviously too much to bear. To alleviate the situation, smart announced that it would be providing transmission upgrades on all 2008 fortwos at no cost to the consumers.
Essentially a voluntary recall, smart will upgrade the transmission software free of charge to offer improved shifting dynamics matching the performance of the 2009 fortwo. Last year, there were 24,622 smart fortwos sold in the United States, but the 2008 model vehicles received different transmission software than the 2009 models. Shifting duties are relegated solely to a five-speed automated manual transmission that uses a single-plate dry clutch that offers both an automatic and manual shifting modes. In 2008 model fortwos, the transmission control software was designed with shift points that aimed to maximize fuel economy, but produced slow, labored shifts that made the car feel jerky.
The smart fortwo available in the U.S. is unique to this market and smart was able to change the software on 2009 models. The new software will not only tighten up the shift points, but it will also allow the shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel to be used outside of the manual mode for more controlled and precise shifts. Currently, the paddle shifters are only operational when the car is in the manual mode. In automatic mode, the software upgrade will improve the quality of the shifts, and allow for driver-selected shifts. Hoping to improve customer satisfaction, smart says that the upgraded system reduces shift times which should cut down on the jerking and lurching that many are complaining about in the current model. With the amount of visibility and popularity the microcars have received in just a year in North America, it was a good investment for smart to perform this repair in such a manner.
The only changes for the 2009 fortwo models is the transmission software, so all the cars are still powered by a 1.0-liter inline-3 producing 70 horsepower. With an overall length of 106.1 inches, the smart fortwo is about as long as the wheelbase of some cars and has the ability to park 'nose-in'? in standard parallel parking spots. Of course, the whole purpose of the fortwo is to be as frugal on gas as possible. The 2,315-pound 2009 Smart fortwo is rated at 33 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, but it isn't clear if the new transmission software will have any affect on the car's fuel economy.