Track Day with Fiat Abarth
Abarth has essentially been Fiat’s racing department since 1971, but the brand has been around since 1949. So while Fiat and Abarth are both relatively new in the United States market, there is a long established history in Italy. Currently Abarth is the racing inspired trim available on both the Fiat 500 and Fiat 124 Spider, and it’s more than just a sexy scorpion logo and appearance package. Recently we were invited to New Jersey Motorsports Park to take part in a Fiat Abarth Track Experience with Skip Barber Racing School.
Now we’ve been to the track with FCA before, normally in their Dodge products, which draw a stark contrast to their Italian cousins in terms of horsepower and weight. It was an unexpected thrilling experience to jump behind the wheel of the Abarth models, with their throaty exhaust, tight handling, and surprising performance in a small package. While you’d surely never seriously take it to the drag strip, we can easily see one of the Abarth vehicles dominating your local autocross meet-up. Driving the new 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth at the track, with its 164 horsepower, 184 lb-ft of torque and Record Monza Exhaust, looks and sounds like this :
While we prefer the styling on the convertible 124 Spider, the spaciousness of the Fiat 500 is hard to deny. It was also a kick to throw around on the tight autocross course and Fiat had both automatic and manual versions on hand for the media to test. The 500 Abarth packs 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque in its compact package. Both handled really well during a morning on the wet skid pad and autocross courses, but after several laps with each it was time for some welcomed additional instruction from the Skip Barber School. No matter how much driving and racing experience you have, one can always benefit from additional instruction.
The afternoon program was filled with lead-follow laps in both the 124 Spider Abarth and the 500 Abarth on New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Thunderbolt Track. Thunderbolt is 2.25 miles long and contains 14 turns, so there was plenty of track to explore and learn. While max speeds were kept below 100, everyone had plenty of fun behind the wheel, and lead-follow helped drivers to pick the right lines. We’re still leaning towards the 124 Spider Abarth as our choice, but could see making a case for either depending on your needs.
The day ended with hot laps in Fiat’s 124 Spider Abarth Rally Car. This purpose built vehicle was upgraded to 400 horsepower with an anti-lag turbocharger but also had its overall weight reduced substantially. Just the thing you like to hear when the rain starts coming down as a professional driver offers to take you around the track at full speed. Buckle up.
Check out some additional footage of the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth (available this Fall) below: