Fiat’s newest offering has taken its sweet time coming to the U.S. market, but don’t expect it to stand still for long. The turbocharged 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, which serves as a halo model for Fiat’s range of Cinquecentos, debuted earlier today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
Like its normally aspirated 500 and 500C siblings, the 500 Abarth has been on sale for some time in Europe before making its American debut. But the time spent is evidently worth the wait, because the U.S.-market Abarth has an extra trick up its sleeve.
That trick is in the form of the car's engine. It's the same 1.4-liter MultiAir inline-four-cylinder engine as the basic 500 models, but gains a turbocharger and a pair of intercoolers. But what we receive isn't just an Abarth: it's essentially the even-hotter Abarth esseesse model. In Europe, 500 Abarth models produce 135 hp, but the U.S.-spec car -- much like the esseesse -- cranks out a stout 160 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. Considering the car weighs about 2500 pounds, this has the potential to be one spicy meatball.
With 59 more horsepower and 72 more pound-feet of torque than the normally aspirated MultiAir, the 500 should be noticeably faster, but Fiat also aimed for driveability: it fit the Abarth with an uprated five-speed manual gearbox, equal-length half-shafts to mitigate torque steer, and an electronic Limited Slip Differential. To keep the enlivened hatchback planted in the corners, the car gets larger 17-inch wheels and a sport suspension. The package is topped off with flared wheel arches and a larger, more aggressive front fascia.
Put the package together, and you get what Fiat Brand Head Olivier Francois says is a car that "can arouse the driver without a prescription." Whether or not that's a factual statement remains to be seen, but the more-aggressive 500 should at least be a hoot to drive when it reaches American Fiat Studios next year.
For more on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth, check out our First Look here. For more on the 2011 Los Angeles Show, including videos, the latest photos, and more information, click here to visit our L.A. Show homepage.