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Monday, May 23, 2016

Driving the Fiat 500 Abarth Automatic

Fiat 500 Abarth Giallo Moderna Perla

What is it like to be an automotive journalist? The video below gives a glimpse. Sometimes you are given a car, a route to drive and told to have fun! The car was a 2016 Fiat 500 Abarth equipped with an automatic transmission, and the route was a scenic mountain road in the Hudson Valley. I own a 500 Abarth with a manual transmission and wanted to see how the automatic stacked up. I gave the auto trans a workout and came away impressed.

While traditionalists may question a performance car with an automatic transmission, the auto box in the Abarth is not your grandfather's slushbox. Shifts were lightening fast (upshifts take 150-200 milliseconds at full-throttle!). When sport mode is selected, more aggressive transmission settings are activated, and you get throttle-blipping, rev-matching downshifts along with gears being held longer when accelerating out of corners and when getting off the gas. The transmission also downshifts when getting hard on the brakes to assist stopping performance and to ensure the car is in an appropriate gear to accelerate again. What's more is these fast upshifts are accompanied by a fuel-cut that makes for a nice pop through the dual tailpipes. All great fun!

2016 Fiat 500 Abarth Dashboard

The heavy-duty 6-speed automatic transmission used in the 500 Abarth is manufactured by Aisin, the world's number 1 manufacturer of automatic transmissions. The transmission has been thoroughly beefed up for high-performance use with more clutch plates and a more robust heat treatment to allow for higher torque capacity. To make sure the performance of the 500 Abarth wouldn't suffer, Abarth engineers bumped the torque output of the 1.4L MultiAir Turbo to 183 lbs.ft, up from 170 lbs.ft for the manual transmission cars. Horsepower is down slightly to 157 from 160 in the manual trans cars, but remember the old quote "torque wins races, horsepower sells cars". Zero-sixty mph performance in the low 7-second range means the 500 Abarth equipped with the auto trans is within .2 seconds of the manual car.

Fiat 500 Abarth in Modern Pearl Yellow

For the fuel misers out there, fuel economy for the 500 Abarth Automatic is EPA rated at 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway for a combined average of 27 mpg. This is just slightly less than the manual transmission's 28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 31 mpg figures.

Fiat 500 Abarth

Changes for the 2016 model year bring an upgraded infotainment system, new colors, and some additional alloy wheel options. The Uconnect 5.0 system with 5-inch touchscreen radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and integrated voice command is a nice upgrade over previous year's systems. Abarth enthusiasts will also look forward to four new, additional exterior paint colors: Grigio Cenre (light gray), Rhino (dark gray), Celeste Blue (light blue) and Giallo Moderna Perla (Modern Pearl Yellow). These are available along with last year's Nero Puro (Straight Black), Bianco Perla (Pearl White Tri-Coat), and Rosso (Red).

Summed up the Fiat 500 Abarth automatic is easy, fast and fun to drive. Road test one for yourself and see.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fiat 124 Spider Arriving Soon!

Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

Update 6/3: The boat has been delayed, so the cars are expected towards the end of June.

The Fiat 124 Spider is about to hit the port of Baltimore June 1st! Cars will then begin arriving at dealers starting about two to three weeks later. What does that mean? Get your order in now! The Fiat 124 Spider brings Italian good looks to the affordable roadster segment.

Fiat 124 Spider Lusso Interior

And affordable it is. The base Fiat 124 Spider model is called the Classica edition and comes with plenty of standard equipment, plus is quieter and more powerful than its chief competitor, the Mazda MX5. The up-market Lusso model offers sophisticated European elegance and is a substantial $2,395 less than the MX5 Grand Touring. Even the 124 Spider Abarth, which offers 36 ft.lbs of torque more than the Miata, is actually $230 less.

Fiat 124 Spider

These initial orders will be Spider Classica and Lusso models. The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth will be arriving later, towards the end of summer.

Dealers will be getting notified of what cars are coming to them and are gearing up on 124 Spider info. Note, as this is breaking news, they may need some time to catch up with all this news. Contact your local Fiat Studio for more info or check out these top Studios:

Palmen FIAT of Kenosha, Wisconsin - 1-888-379-0295
FIAT of Larchmont, New York - 1-888-405-2249
Benson FIAT, South Carolina - 1-888-380-1716

Images: Author

Fiat 500 Clutch Recall

Fiat 500

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US will recall certain 2012-2016 Fiat 500 models to upgrade their clutch release system. An FCA investigation discovered that a small number of cars equipped with manual transmissions have reported clutch pedal travel that exceeded design parameters and overtime had caused component damage capable of restricting gear shifts and propulsion.

The fix involves limiting clutch pedal travel to within design specs. The number of cars affected accounts for .01% of Fiat 500s sold, but to be thorough, the company is voluntarily recalling an estimated 39,217 vehicles in the U.S, 7,834 in Canada and 26,268 outside the NAFTA region.

Fiat 500 Shifter

FCA reports it is unaware of any related injuries or accidents. Cars equipped with turbocharged engines are not part of this recall. This is breaking news, and we'll have more information as it comes in from sources. Owners will be contacted by mail if they are affected. However, owners can communicate with the FCA US Customer Care Center at 1-800-853-1403 if they have questions.

Here is a handy link to check for recalls on your Fiat. Note, you may have to give the system some time to catch up for the most accurate results.

Keep in mind if you call your dealer there may be some delays in getting detailed information as everyone gets up to speed on this recall. Make sure you visit the Fiat 500 Forum to find out the latest news.

Update 5/20 3:00 PM: updated story with more details on the issue and solution.

Source: FCA US LLC
Top image: FCA Brazil
Shifter image: author

Friday, May 13, 2016

Refreshed 2017 Abarth 595 Unveiled!

2017 Abarth 595 Competizione

Abarth has introduced a new refreshed 2017 Abarth 595 range. The Abarth 595 slots in between the Abarth 500 Custom and high-end Abarth 695 series. The Abarth 595 comes as a hatchback or convertible and is offered in three trim levels - 595, 595 Turismo and 595 Competizione. The 2017 Abarth 595 series features redesigned fascias front and rear plus numerous trim and performance enhancements.

The three trim levels correspond to three levels of engine power and tuning. The horsepower rating of the 1.4L T-jet engine has been bumped up 5 HP over last year and now comes in at 145 HP for the base 595 and 165 HP for the 595 Turismo. Competizione models remain at the same 180 HP rating as last year. The Competizione utilizes the same upgraded Garret turbo North American 1.4 l MultiAir Turbos use and not the standard IHI turbo used in base and Turismo models.

2017 Abarth 595 Competizione Rear

Limited-slip Differential
A significant development is the availability of a mechanical limited-slip differential. Called the Abarth D.A.M., the limited-slip differential is part of a new Performance Pack and available on the new Abarth 595 Competizione with manual transmissions. The Performance Pack includes 17" Supersport rims, carbon shell Sabelt leather/Alcantara seats, carved aluminum 595 badge and red, white or gloss black exterior stripe package. With luck, this limited-slip will make it to North America. Fingers crossed!

2017 Abarth 595

Suspension and Brakes
Koni FSD shock technology is used in the 595 series. An interesting detail is the base and 595 Turismo uses Koni FSD in just the rear while the US Fiat 500 Abarth uses Koni FSD in just the front Struts. Competizione models use Koni FSD all the way around as well as Brembo four-piston aluminum monoblock fixed front calipers with 305 mm drilled and vented discs. The Brembo calipers come in red or optional grey, black or yellow. Standard calipers on Turismo models are black, with red or yellow listed as options.

2017 Abarth 595 Front Grille

Exterior Changes
The most important change as it relates to North American consumers is the revised front and rear sections of the car, which we may eventually see on our cars. Performance tuners will welcome a new front end with oversized air intakes that improves heat management in the engine compartment and increases cooling capacity by 18%. The rear of the Abarth 595 sports a new and more pronounced rear diffuser.

2017 Abarth 595 Competizione Diffuser

Each trim level has specific bumper insert trim - matte black for the 595, matching body color for the 595 Turismo and something called tar cold gray on the 595 Competizione.

2017 Abarth 595 Competizione Headlight

The new car inherits from the redesigned Fiat 500 its polyelliptical headlights and LED daylight running lights as standard equipment. Xenon headlights are optional.

A new 17-inch alloy wheel design also debuts. The Granturismo rims are 7% lighter and have over 50% more ventilating surface for better heat dissipation which benefits braking performance. These wheels are standard on 595 Turismo models.

Trim changes include satin chrome trim on the 595 and Turismo, new mirror caps (satin chrome on 595 Turismo, matching body color on 595 and tar cold gray on 595 Competizione) and now wider and longer side stripes (standard on 595 Competizione).

The Abarth 595 series comes in 15 body colors, including five two-tone paint schemes. Three exterior customization packages are offered that feature the Abarth side stripes, mirror caps and front and rear bumper inserts in either white, black or red.

2017 Abarth 595C

Interior Changes
The Abarth 595 interior also gets a makeover. A new flat bottom steering wheel features a center indicator is standard, and the Competizione version is trimmed in carbon fiber and Alcantara. The dashboard is body color on 595, matte gray on 595 Turismo and tar cold gray on 595 Competizione. A carbon fiber dash is optional on the Competizione models.

New seat upholstery is used throughout the renewed 595 series. Base 595 models get cloth seats, while Turismo models get black, tan or red leather as standard. Competizione models get the coveted Corsa by Sabelt seats with new graphics in either fabric or optional leather and Alcantara in black or tan.

A brand new sports instrument panel uses white lighting for better visibility.

The carbon dashboard fascia derived from the 695 Biposto is now available as optional equipment and may be ordered to complement the passenger compartment of the 595 Competizione even further.

2017 Abarth 595 New 17-inch Wheel

All 595 models get the UconnectTM 5" Radio with touchscreen and Uconnect Live services as standard equipment. A hi-definition UconnectTM 7" HD system is optional and available for the first time. An interesting feature of the Uconnect 7" HD is it comes preloaded with points of interests to Abarth fans (Officine Abarth and other significant places for the brand). It is a sort of "poker run" where owners can visit and collect "badges" and then share results on social media. Another neat feature is Abarth Telemetry, which has racetracks preloaded into the nav system and allows owners to record their driving performance on the track. Results can then be archived, and performance can be compared and improvements made.

A seven-speaker BeatsAudio system makes its appearance in the 595 series. The 480-watt audio system features a digital eight-channel amplifier, with two dome tweeters installed in the front pillars, two 165 mm mid woofers in the front doors, two full-range 165 mm speakers in the rear side panels and one 200 mm subwoofer in the trunk.

The refreshed 2017 Abarth 595 series will go on sale in Europe and associated markets starting in June.

Source and images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Register Now for the 2016 Fiat FreakOut!

2016 Fiat FreakOut Logo

Mark your calendars for the biggest Fiat event of the year! July 27-31, 2016. Those are the days the Fiat Club America will be holding the Fiat FreakOut and this year it's going to be fantastic. The Fiat Club America's national convention is going to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan! The Fiat FreakOut is a fun, friendly, family-oriented event held over five days and is now celebrating its 33rd anniversary.

Fiat Spiders at the Fiat FreakOut
This year's Fiat Freakout coincides with the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Fiat 124 Spider. The classic 124 Spider is always well represented.

The Fiat Freakout is always a great event, but this year it will truly be something extra-special. Activities include go-cart racing, a poker run, autocross and more. One of the highlights will be the Friday night reception at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum located at the FCA US headquarters. There will be an all FCA product and owners gathering outside the museum. Groups attending will include the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and the Detroit Area Modern Mopar Club. Expect to see a lot of exciting cars both inside and out, plus new Alfa Romeo and Fiat models.

The Fiat FreakOut is the must attend event of the year. Don't miss it!

Registration is now open to current club members, and the deadline is July 5 but some events may fill up early, so don't wait.

2015 Fiat FreakOut Panoramic View

Fiat FreakOut Details and Important Links

The Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac is headquarters for the event and the club has secured a special rate that ends July 7, 2016. The rooms are filling up fast, so you really need to jump on this fast. Also, getting your registration in now will help the club organizers ensure a smooth event.

Some of the best Fiats around are at the show

2016 Fiat FreakOut Convention Schedule

July 26 Tuesday
-Early arrivals

July 27 Wednesday

–Kart2Kart racing-Kart 2 Kart provides true racing excitement on an indoor track, safe, clean and authentic racing environment. The fastest go-karts in Michigan are in Macomb County Michigan! Proper training, first class safety equipment, and a track designed for large groups all combine together offer our customers the best indoor racing experience available.

July 28 Thursday

–Poker Run (driving around the best roads in Metro Detroit) Poker run/rally 10:30am-4pm with Fiat marked cards. A Metro Detroit scenic route including traveling through some of the most beautiful suburbs in Detroit, cruising Woodward Ave and to Meadowbrook Hall, a Tudor-style mansion dating back to the roaring 20s in Detroit by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of auto pioneer John Dodge. Includes a group tour of the mansion.

–Welcome Night Barbecue On Outdoor Patio At The Marriott (7-9PM)

Images from the 2015 Fiat FreakOut Car Show

July 29 Friday

–Autocross, Schoolcraft College Driving Pad, a 10-acre outdoor driving pad used, amongst others, by the Michigan sport car club and the Michigan Corvette club lease for their functions. Leave hotel at 9 AM.

–Detroit Bus Tour (10AM-4PM) The city of Detroit is the largest city in the state of Michigan, during the 19th century Detroit grew into a thriving hub of commerce and industry. Detroit was referred to by some as the Paris of the West for its architecture.

Welcome Reception Sponsored by (!) (6-9PM) The Walter P. Chrysler Museum stands in honor of one man’s journey to become an auto industry giant. Their spectacular collection, which spans more than a century, showcases the achievements of the company he founded and the importance of these vehicles in creating today’s society. Located on FCA’s impressive Auburn Hills, Mich., complex, the 55,000-square-foot Walter P. Chrysler Museum is a one-of-a-kind venue featuring just the right blend of ambiance, distinction and service to make any affair truly memorable. Some New Fiat 124 Spiders will be on static display outside the museum along with other Alfa Romeo and MOPAR models.

July 30 Saturday

–Concorso display at ITALIAN HAPPENING at The Inn at St. John. A relaxed day looking at our favorite cars and casting our votes for the best.

–Awards banquet show with guest speaker. The highlight of the weekend.

July 31 Sunday

–breakfast and raffle prize drawings

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Fiat 500 Sales for April 2016

Fiat 500C in New York

Fiat brand sales total 3,045 cars in April, down 19% compared to the same month last year. This brings the year-to-date total of Fiats sold in the US to 12,054, off 19% percent compared to last year's total of 14,794 for the same period.

Fiat 500 hatchback sales totaled 1,488 last month or about even with the previous month.  Fiat 500L sales totaled 463 units in April, which is just above the 422 car average so far this year.  The Fiat 500X crossover sales took a surprising dip last month to 1,094, down from 1,399 in March.

The Fiat 500X may be running into an identity crises as the public may be confusing the much larger and roomier 500X for its smaller 500 hatch sibling. The Fiat commercial above called "Room with a View" highlights the roominess of the 500X and tells viewers in no uncertain terms "the Fiat 500X is a lot bigger than than you think."

Fiat 124 Spider Euro version

April Fiat News
Fiat announced pricing of the new Fiat 124 Spider, which is about to hit Fiat Studios this summer. The Fiat 124 Spider brings Italian style and excitement back to the roadster segment where it belongs. Fiat has given the 124 Spider high style, the best power rating in its class and a super price.

Price comparison between the Fiat 124 Spider and the Mazda MX5 Miata. Destination charges added in:

Mazda MX5 Miata
Sport: $25,735
Grand Touring: $30,885

Fiat 124 Spider
Classica: $25,990
Lusso: $28,490

The more powerful and quieter Spider Classica is just $165 more than the MX5 Sport, while the Euro-elegant Lusso is a substantial $2,395 less than the Grand Touring.

Abarth 124 design sketch

Fiat turned up the heat on the recently introduced 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth and has made it into a full blown Abarth. Listening to its fans who wanted nothing less than the Abarth 124 that Europe gets, Fiat USA switched gears quickly and granted their wish.

Ditching the tongue twisting Elaborazione moniker and now called the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, the new model has more horsepower and sports Abarth badges on the hood and trunk. Besides besting the MX5 Miata by 10 horsepower and a substantial 36 ft.lbs of torque, the Spider Abarth has a lower base price. The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth promises to become of the most sought after sportscars of the year.

Read more:

Fiat Brand Sales in the United States, January - April 2016
Fiat 500Current MonthLast Year 2015Vol ChangeCurrent YTD TotalLast Year YTD TotalChange  %

























Figures and sources: FCA US LLC,
Images: FCA US LLC and author