I knew I couldn't resist the call of the aftermarket for long.
Today I took a trip down to Smart Madness to get my Xtatik Mass 17" (Carbon Fiber finish) wheels installed, with Yokohama S-Drive tires (195/40-17 front and 215/35-17 rear). As some of you know I had qualms about changing from stock, but I thought I'd take the plunge after reading positive reviews from others here on the board.
I spent a couple hours there to give the guys time to make sure the install went smoothly and I didn't need to rush off anywhere. The wheel bolts needed to be ground down a bit and they graciously offered to paint my rear drums black, which was an awesome added-value! I cringe to think of stock color drum brakes peeking out from behind these nice wheels. So, we spent some time literally watching paint dry, and it was fun!
As some of you recall, I had trepidation about getting heavier, larger wheels on the Smart. Although this is based on sound theory with regard to unsprung mass, the bigger wheels felt great in practice. Sure, the Xtatik 17" Carbon Fiber Mass wheels are a good bit heavier than stock, but they don't feel heavy when accelerating or driving on the highway. In fact, highway driving felt a lot smoother with less wigglyness, and hard braking felt a bit more solid with more rubber on the ground.
The wheels fit the car well, and hey I got them at a discount since Smart are blowing out their Xtatik inventory to make room for new stuff but more importantly, I love the look of these wheels. The styling of some of the other wheels I've seen just doesn't do it for me. The carbon fiber look is amazing...Xtatik did a spectacular job on these and they look even better in person.
While the wheels were being installed, Boris took me for a spin in Rachel's awesome orange/black turbo-fied Smart. I totally love orange vehicles as it is....and OMG the turbo was insane. It felt like it was revving to the moon with some seriously strong pull.....same engine, but it seemed to cover a lot more distance in a hurry. It's different to actually drive it, but just riding shotgun I could tell the turbo really changed the Smart. The thing turned like it was on rails too. The stock Smart already turns pretty well, but with the Smart Madness custom progressive-rate springs, larger wheels and sticky rubber it was like a go-kart...something I already love about the Smart yet totally magnified with the turbo/exhaust and go-fast suspension bits.
We also went for a quick spin in a yellow smart, outfitted with cold-air intake, sprint booster, bigger wheels, exhaust and some other add-ons. Suhweet...hard to tell without driving it but definitely felt faster than normal.
After the wheels were done Tim threw in a Sprint Booster Stage II so I could test it out. I know there's been some controversy here and I've read most of the threads about this item, so it was good to know I could finally check the seat-dyno and know what the fuss was about.
I'm a pretty skeptical guy, REALLY skeptical of quack-remedies and trendy woo-woo, so I was trying to figure out why someone would pay around 350 for something which could be replicated by 'pushing your pedal harder or faster'. Soon into my test ride though, I was convinced.
There's a real effect here I noticed with the Sprint Booster where you get more of your car's power with what amounts to less effort, and with noticeably less delay. It's not more HP, just less delay and less effort. There's instantly-recognizable value here, in my humble opinion. The gas pedal is used A LOT, so any kind of efficiency gained from human motor to Smart motor can really add up.
The closest analogy I can muster for this is a short-throw shifter. Why do people value short-throw shifting in sports-cars? Less effort, less distance=easier, more efficient gear changes. The Miata's short-throw shifter, for example, is wonderful compared to a car with a long-throw shifter....all those shifts add up. One might also consider that a slow car CAN be driven faster if you simply flog it harder, but that's not as fun (or as human-energy-efficient) as a car which goes faster with less effort.
The Sprint Booster basically moves the delay in the acceleration to your foot in a very predictable manner. I tested this after I had bought the thing and was making a left turn out of the area where Smart Madness is, onto a busy multi-lane road with no light, where you need right-now acceleration to merge into traffic in small windows of opportunity.
The thing practically paid for itself right there, and power delivery was immediate as I merged aggressively to beat oncoming traffic. Normally, I'd have to mash the pedal or mash it quickly to get that power. But, we all know with the design of the gas pedal on the smart, that the design isn't condusive to big movements mashing the pedal down. The angle just doesn't suit long-travel foot-mashing. I've heard others complain about the angle of the gas-pedal too. Also, at 5'3", I am not long of limb, so the reduced-pedal travel is much appreciated.
Another thing I noticed at highway speeds, is that the Sprint Booster helped me better load up the pedal near my power band, hit the gas when a spot opened up and make an efficient, no-wait and no-drama lane-change...especially considering the tail-gating minivan driver behind me seemed more interested in his phone than my bumper.
Perhaps I am not adept at the pedal-speed ECU tactics of the stock Smart, but the Sprint Booster accomplishes the same thing in what to me is far more intuitive as a driver. So, even if the Sprint isn't adding HP, it's reducing pedal travel and delay, and that has a lot of value. I do not like to throw money away, but I can guarantee anyone considering this simple plug-in that it is NOT placebo effect, it's like a short-throw shifter for your right foot.
The fine people at Smart Madness are some of the nicest I've dealt with: Boris, Rachel, Tim (who did the install) and the rest of the crew were friendly, knowledgeable and hospitable. I enjoyed my stay, and I feel like I just got back from Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory...so many Smart goodies to ogle. You can bet I'll be back.