2012 Fiat 500 Abarth debuts at Los Angeles Auto Show

Olivier Francois, Head of FIAT Brand Worldwide and Chief Marketing Officer, Chrysler Group LLC, unveils the all-new 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Fiat spilled the beans—or perhaps the pasta—on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the raw numbers and equipment look good. OK, we’re a little disappointed that the power rating doesn’t at least match the European version’s 170 horsepower output, but there’s no doubt that a sixty percent increase in power over the standard Western Hemisphere Fiat 500 will turn a spritely little car into an elbows out street fighter. So herein the details on the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

Fiat took the 101 horsepower 1.4-liter MultiAir four-cylinder engine and turbocharged it, boosting its output to 160 horsepower. The basic structure of the engine begins with a cast-iron block and an aluminum bedplate. The cylinder head is aluminum. The crankshaft is forged-steel crankshaft with lightened counterweights to reduce overall mass for high engine rpm operation. The engine’s maximum revs is a fairly ordinary 6500 rpm, though no doubt the 500 Abarth driver will keep the needle up among the bigger numbers on the tachometer.

The lightweight counterweights are made possible by the lightweight forged-steel connecting rods which Fiat says have a unique cross-section for strength, and by lightweight forged-aluminum pistons. For added strength, full-floating piston pins are used. At the bottom of each cylinder, the 1.4 MultiAir has cooling jets that squirt oil at the bottom of the pistons. This helps cool the tops of the pistons and reduces the possibility of hotspots along the cylinder walls that could cause detonation.

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth engine

The scorpion on the red cam cover idenfies this engine in the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth.

The 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine uses the MultiAir electro-hydraulic system that controls intake air, cylinder by cylinder and stroke by stroke depending on the demands from the standard electronic throttle control system. Fiat credits most of the bump in horsepower to turbocharging, of course. The single turbo system includes two intercoolers positioned behind the driver- and passenger-side air inlets of the special Abarth front fascia.

Additional changes to power generation include Abarth-designed fresh-air intake system with high-flow air filter; an Abarth-designed concentric “double tip” dual-exhaust system; an Abarth-tuned powertrain control module integrating all of the MultiAir Turbo’s engine control functions; and an upgraded electrical system that includes a high-output 140-amp alternator and 500 amp cold-cranking maintenance-free battery for increased vehicle system charging.

The 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth will be available only with a manual transmission. The six-speed automatic offered on the standard Fiat 500 will not be offered and even the standard five-speed manual in the base model Fiat 500 is replaced by the heavy-duty C510 five-speed manual transmission developed by Fiat Powertrain Technologies for high-output applications. The C510 comes from the European 500 Abarth models, and has a 3.35 final-drive ratio touted by Fiat “for quick acceleration and faster top speed, while maintaining fuel efficiency.”

(A quick check of the specs for the standard Fiat 500 with the manual gearbox shows a final drive ratio of 3.733:1, which all other things being equal would provide quicker acceleration, but not necessarily a higher top speed and it’s definitely not good for fuel economy. Fiat spokesman Jiyan Cadiz pointed out that the final drive ratio numbers are deceiving because it’s a different gearbox and plus a number of different gearsets were evaluated. He assured us that the ratios used for second through fourth are ideal for the track. For the performance enthusiast—the person who should be buying the Fiat 500 Abarth—that’s very good news from several perspectives. Not only will the 500 Abarth perform on the track, it was developed with that in mind).