The Wheel Deal


Apr 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Smart Car

Smart Car

Revolutions have a way of mixing things up, as the auto world surely knows. Veggie oil is the new diesel. Green is the new black. What's a driver to believe? Well, here's one turn signal you can trust: In 2004, sales of hybrid vehicles, featuring gas-and-electric engines, shot up 80 percent over 2003, to more than 85,000. And hefty haulers like the 2004 Ford Escape—the world's first hybrid SUV—are selling faster than dealers can say "great gas mileage." But small is also the new green, especially when it comes to a hyperefficient gas-only import that's so puny it'll fit in an SUV. Here's what's under the hood in 2005:

Smart Car
This two-seat Euro buggy (pictured above) looks like a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe—and gets a whopping 60 mpg. While DaimlerChrysler, Smart's corporate parent, weighs whether to make the metallic pod in the U.S. or not, Zap (—a California-based electric-car-and-scooter manufacturer—has been buying Smart Cars in Europe, floating them across the pond, reengineering them to meet U.S. standards, and selling them for a base price of $19,800. "They're four feet shorter in length than the Mini Cooper," says Zap CEO Steve Schneider, "and just as fun."

Mercury Mariner
To help meet demand, Ford plans to launch this hybrid SUV in late 2005—a year early. A cousin to the Ford Escape, the Mariner will offer up to 33 mpg in a new body surrounding Ford's 155-horsepower drivetrain, with luxury trim and a smoother ride.

Toyota Highlander
Due to debut in June, the Highlander will be the first seven-passenger, four-wheel-drive hybrid. Its V6 gas engine and 50-watt electric motors (one in front, one in back) create 270 hp and zero-to-60 acceleration in less than eight seconds—while getting 28 mpg.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web

Not Now

Open a World of Adventure

Our Dispatch email delivers the stories you can’t afford to miss.

Thank you!