byRay Alexander in November 2013 (4.5)
At this year’s Silver State Classic Challenge, we had the worst crop of Mopars ever; I was required to count a Fiat Abarth to get three (with a Viper and SRT8 Charger). I chatted with the Abarth driver, who had run the car at Willow Springs the day before. He liked it.
When the cars took the track the Fiat was behind a C5 Corvette; the Fiat was nagging the Corvette’s rear bumper. When the Corvette hit a straightaway, it accelerated away, but two turns later guess who was back. This whetted my appetite to drive one.
At the recent Airpark Jeep Jamboree in Scottsdale, I mentioned my desire to drive an Abarth 500 to general manager Coye Pointer. He introduced me to David Ragonese, the Fiat manager; I was allowed to take the car alone, and David said, “Stay gone as long as you want.”
The Fiat ads made for the US market have used a healthy dose of sex. To deny the correlation of the automobile and sex is somewhat akin to being an ostrich. I am the birth sign of Scorpio and I especially like the pesky Scorpion stealing the girls top in the ad for Abarth (the girl didn't appear to mind it either).
When I first got into the car I had trouble with hitting the accelerator while my foot was on the brake; the positions were good for heel/toe downshifting but not for initiating movement. My mind and body adjusted to the pedal placement before I was out of the parking lot. It took a little longer to adjust to the extreme ease of actuating these functions. One could even call them touchy, but once again when you knew what the reaction would be you no longer sent your face into the windshield.
I was smiling before I got onto the main boulevard. The car has a guttural growl that starts low in the intestines. My thoughts were, “Oh yeah, there is a big dog around here somewhere.”
I have never driven to enhance gas mileage and I am too old to start now. I assume in an effort to increase gas mileage, the car kept flashing a light telling me to up-shift. I didn't want to up-shift, I wanted to continue feeling this car grab the pavement.
I noticed a light on the dash that advised “average speed for this trip 11 mph.” I can’t take this car back showing that, so I stayed out until I got that number to 12. (The truth was, I couldn't find my way back across the airport.)
I have heard Ralph Gilles say, “Torque removes the perception of weight.” Therefore removing weight must be perceived as torque. The little car seems to have ample torque even at a low rpm. The handling was very crisp; the car went exactly where I intended it to go.
This car is nothing like the base model. It is a blast to drive. Ya gotta love the Scorpion.
Fiat 500 Abarth main page
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