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Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Fiat 500 Abarth To Get Automatic Trans
Jason Stoicevich, Head of Fiat Brand North America has confirmed the Fiat 500 Abarth will receive an automatic transmission option for the 2015 model year. The transmission used will be a conventional automatic manufactured by Aisin. Adding the new automatic transmission option will broaden the appeal of the high performance 500 Abarth. Last year there were an estimated 5,000 Fiat 500 Abarth hatchbacks and cabrios sold. Stoicevich figures adding the automatic transmission option could boost sales of the 500 Abarth up to 50 percent.
European Abarth 500 equipped with paddle shifted Abarth Competizione gearbox also known as the C510 MTA.
The Abarth 500 as it is known in Europe, is available with an automatic transmission of sorts. Technically it is a robotized manual gearbox that can shift automatically. This transmission is called the C510 MTA (Manual Transmission Automated) and combines a conventional clutch and gearbox with an electro-hydraulic controller that automates the clutch and shifting controls. The C510MTA is capable of changing gears as fast as 190 ns and is optional on Abarth 500 models and standard on most Abarth 695 series cars. Note this transmission is not coming to America as its driving characteristics are at odds with American expectations. The mechanical shifting feel of the C510MTA could be considered a bit clunky to those used to the comparatively silky smooth shift of a traditional automatic transmission.
In America, shifting feel is important and there has always been a debate among enthusiasts who prefer a firmer, direct shift and more mainstream buyers who just want to put the car into drive and go. Witness the latest discussions on the current crop of Dual Dry Clutch transmissions. Dual Dry Clutch transmissions are extremely efficient compared to traditional automatics and are growing in popularity in Europe where driver involvement and control are highly valued. In America, smoothness is paramount and transmission calibration engineers throughout Detroit spend many sleepless nights trying to strike the right balance between smoothness and efficient, crisp shifts. There are ways to achieve this balance in a modern DDCT, however, the current MTA gearbox used in the Abarth 500 is a generation or so behind and cannot match these results.
As there is no DDC transmission currently available that will fit the 500 until the long delayed C625 DDCT makes its debut, the only option available to Fiat USA is to use the Aisin conventional automatic similar to the one used in NAFTA Fiat 500 models.
The automatic transmission used in the 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth is manufactured by Aisin AW, the world's number one manufacturer of automatic transmissions. The AW6F25 is an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission with a lock-up torque converter. For the Fiat 500 Abarth application, the transmission has been enhanced to deal with high performance use. Additional clutch plates have been added and a more robust heat treatment up the maximum torque capacity, which may lead the way for higher performance versions.
European Abarth 500 use paddle shifters when operating in manual mode. This was looked into for the US Fiat 500 Abarth but would have required the steering wheel cruise control system to be deleted.
When sport mode is selected, more aggressive transmission settings are activated such as throttle-blipping, rev-matching downshifts along with gears being held longer when accelerating out of corners and when getting off the gas. Transmission upshifts take 150-200 milliseconds at full-throttle! Fuel-cut upshifts smooth out drivetrain shock and the transmission downshifts when getting hard on the brakes to assist stopping performance and to ensure the car is in an appropriate gear to accelerate again. The only thing missing are the paddle shifters from the European Abarth, but that would have necessitated the deletion of the cruise control.
The 2015 Fiat 500 Turbo will also share the new AW6F25 transmission. Look for the new 2015 Fiat 500 models arriving at Fiat Studios this July.
We'll have more on the new Automatic Fiat 500 Abarth next week at its debut at the New York Auto Show.