Alfa Spider 2.4 JTDM vs Audi TT Roadster 2.0T FSI

Posted in Alfa Romeo, Audi

Is diesel the best choice for a roadster? We find out as the new Alfa Spider JTDM meets the petrol-powered Audi TT 2.0

The mere sight of a spider is enough to strike fear into many of us. Even though it’s irrational, it’s a phobia plenty of people share. And until recently, roadster fans would have felt a similar aversion to the idea of diesel power.

After all, while derv engines are good for executive saloons and family hatches, surely they would never be desirable in a soft-top? Now, however, you can get a Spider powered by diesel. Not the arachnid kind, of course, but the new two-seater from Alfa Romeo.

Buyers have had a choice of only two petrol engines up to now: a 2.2-litre JTS and a 3.2-litre V6. But the Italian brand has just taken the brave step of launching a 2.4-litre JTDM version.

Four-seat convertibles such as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series are already available with oil-burning powerplants. Yet by fitting the 200bhp unit into its Spider, Alfa has become the first car maker to launch a diesel roadster in the UK – surprising for a firm with such a strong sporting heritage.

The unit is already offered in other Alfa models, and has strong credentials, as it delivers 400Nm of torque and promises 40mpg economy. But how much sense does it make in the soft-top?

We find out by testing the latest Alfa against a more conventional, petrol-powered roadster: the entry-level Audi TT Roadster 2.0T FSI. This is currently our class favourite, so the Spider faces a tough test. Can it scare off the competition?

In theory, a diesel roadster makes plenty of sense. You get all the style and posing ability of a soft-top, but with oil-burning economy. Yet cars such as the Spider and TT are bought with the heart, so running costs are not always necessarily top of the priority list.
Indeed, such is the romance surrounding the Alfa brand, it’s a surprise to see it lead the way by being the first to bring a diesel roadster to the market.

The Spider JTDM is a smooth and refined performer. And while its harsh engine note means you are always aware that it’s powered by a diesel, this isn’t quite the drawback you might imagine.

When compared to the petrol Audi convertible, however, the Spider in this form doesn’t quite add up. The Alfa costs £2,000 extra to buy and didn’t prove as economical as we had hoped – averaging only 1.9mpg more than the TT. The Audi has better dynamics, too – it’s more fun and has a superior ride, even without our car’s suspension upgrade.

So the TT takes the victory here. But don’t discount the Spider out of hand – the character and charm exuded by the Italian roadster are still endearing.

BMW to bring back ‘Isetta’ to compete with Smart and Fiat

Posted in BMW, Fiat

If there’s one car maker that knows ow to resurrect a motoring legend, it’s BMW.

And the firm that brought us the MINI has delved into the design archive once again – to produce a 21st-century Isetta microcar! With its tiny dimensions and simple cabin, the Fifties origi­nal was hard to beat in town, even if it had no reverse gear.

The car was only 2.4 metres long, with space for two adults inside – and even some luggage. And now it looks as if the Fiat 500 and Smart ForTwo could have a new rival. Bringing the concept up to date, the modern Isetta’s dimensions are bigger. That’s to help it accommodate a fourth wheel, as the post-war version had only three.

A distinctive feature of the ‘bubble car’ was its unique front access. Safety regulations don’t allow that today, but the cute shape will remain. And while the classic delivered only 12bhp, the newcomer will easily keep pace with urban traffic, thanks to the efforts of BMW’s powertrain development team.

The rear-mounted en­gine layout will be retained. This gives the car similar packaging advantages to Volks­wagen’s up! concepts, as seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. And, due to its tiny size and light weight, the new Isetta will have the lowest CO2 output of any car in BMW’s range.

That will help it to cut the line-up’s average emissions to meet future targets. A zero-emissions electric variant would also provide a similar benefit. BMW has given no official confirmation of the new Isetta’s existence, but company bosses are said to be considering design proposals.

One issue to address is brand image. Could such a car live up to the firm’s “ultimate driving ma­-chine” slogan? If so, expect more about the new Isetta in 2010.

TRC-Marangoni Fiat 5-0-0 Super

Posted in Fiat

One of the tuners at this year’s Essen Motor Show is Italy’s TRC-Marangoni, which has modified Fiat’s stylish 500 minicar and changed its name to the ‘5-0-0 Super’. The car has been given a striking red paint finish and a contrasting black hood to mimic Fiat’s 124 classic rally cars, and also gets a full bodykit.

Designers then added 17in chrome wheels shod with 205mm rubber and painted the Italian flag on each of the side mirrors. Performance upgrades consist of a custom supercharging kit, a high-flow stainless-steel exhaust, KW adjustable suspension, and upgraded brake discs measuring 320mm in diameter.

The interior has supposedly been fitted with Swarovski crystals, racing pedals and carbon-fiber trim.

Fiat Abarth at the 32nd Italian Motor Show in Bologna

Posted in Abarth, Fiat

For the first time at the Bologna Motor Show, the reborn Fiat Abarth marque makes a comeback with its own dedicated stand of powerful visual impact which, in line with its relaunch philosophy, was designed to highlight innovation using a fresh, up-to-date language, with leading-edge technology and refinement in the smallest details. The galvanized steel floor and the ‘naked’ technology of the monitors provide an effective contrast to the luxurious shiny white environment, the mirrorlike effect of the large illuminated sign and the special chromed guardrails, evocative technical details delimiting the area of the boutique and the boundary of the stand.

The new traits of Abarth communication are there in all their powerful clarity: the “original” logo, extrapolated from the Abarth shield of the same size and identical top curve in large polished aluminium stands proud on the rear wall. A linear decoration picks up the white and red chequered motif, forever the finish line symbol in endurance competitions where Abarth has achieved outstanding success.

Abarth values and tradition are recaptured with discretion and a touch of hi-tech: the luxurious materials and coatings such as aluminium, carbon fibre, enamels and laquers enhance the exhibition area adding to the value of the exhibits: the Grande Punto Abarth S2000 and in world preview the Grande Punto Abarth with Kit “essesse”, which is the real novelty of the stand, placed on an inlaid pedestal reproducing a great polished stainless steel scorpion emphasizing power, technology and full pedigree.
With the official presentation of Kit “esseesse” on the Grande Punto Abarth – to be marketed with the formula of the historic ‘conversion box’ – the marque forcefully recalls the concept with which it achieved success back in ‘50s and ‘60s: creating small exclusive sports cars.

At the stand, elements of clear historic connotation intermingle endlessly with modern traits, thus inducing visual and perceptive stimuli of a technical and stylistic nature. Thanks to a unique photo-quality multimedia configurator, visitors are able to appreciate and almost touch the defining characteristics of the world of Abarth engineering. Moreover, 23 small LCD monitors show a number of short “viral videos” illustrating the distinctive features of the Scorpion in fresh, straightforward language.
In line with one of the leading concepts of the marque, namely authentic excitement and hands-on experience, the external test track of the Bologna Motor Show will host the Team Abarth with the Grande Punto S2000, winner of the Italian Rally Championship 2007. In the on-line competition also appearing in the official Abarth blog, 24 lucky winners will be selected to experience what it is like to be the \”navigator\” sitting beside the official drivers of the Abarth Competition Team. One of these will be superchampion Giandomenico Basso who, together with Mitia Dotta, has recently won the ItalianRally Championship 2007 – on the heels of the triumphant 2006 season in which he won both the European Championship and the Intercontinental Rally Challenge – again driving the Grande Punto Abarth S2000.

This event emphasizes the aim of the marque to be close to the fans all over the world who continually follow the Team Abarth competitions, and to make public opinion and the younger generations in particular, aware of the strategic importance of driving safety, accident prevention and road education in every developed society. Because sport driving pleasure always includes a “tankful” of safety in terms of vehicle control and knowledge of one’s own limits.

Without forgetting that standard production Abarth cars incorporate all active and passive safety electronic devices currently available, including the ESP (Electronic Stability Program) system which cuts in limit driving conditions when vehicle stability is at risk, helping the driver to maintain control of the vehicle. Besides, on Abarth cars it is not disconnectable: a further example of the extra care of the marque where safety is concerned.

Source: Fiat

Another award for FIAT 500!

Posted in Fiat

After already having won awards for ‘Car of the Year 2008’, ‘EuroCarBody 2007’ and ‘World’s Most Beautiful Car’, the Fiat 500 has done it again by receiving the ‘AutoEuropa Award’ for 2008. The award, judged by the Italian Union of Automotive Journalists (Uiga), is given to a car both built and sold in Europe which combines a winning amount of price, technology and style. The 500 is the tenth Fiat to have been awarded the prize since its induction in 1987. The Kia Ceèd came home second with the Peugeot 308 taking the bronze.

It seems Fiat has really found a winning formula in the 500 with words of praise increasing day by day. Fortunately for Fiat its other cars are also getting in the limelight with the Grande Punto having won ‘Auto Interamericana 2008’ and the Fiat Scudo winning ‘International Van of the Year 2008’. Hopefully Fiat can channel its success through to its other brands such as Alfa Romeo and Lancia, which seem to lag far behind in terms of positive publicity of late.