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2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

Fiat’s 124 a Miata remake long on style, better ride2017 Fiat 124 Spider

It has been a long, long time since an affordable convertible with Italian styling was available in the United States, but now we have Fiat’s 124 Spider.

Actually, we had it all along, or at least since 1989, in the form of a Mazda Miata. The new Fiat is mostly Miata, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Ah, but there are differences.

For stylistas who prefer a long hood reflecting the styling of previous Fiat Spiders and other Italian sports cars, Fiat’s restyling of Miata’s body will be alluring. And it is. The Spider looks longer and leaner than the cute, but edgy Miata.

Yet there’s amore; I mean more.2017 Fiat 124 Spider

The 124’s headlights are round and taillights are rectangles, similar to the 1960s Spider, the ride is a tad smoother and well, plus there’s a bit more oomph under that long hood. Fiat uses one of its Multi-Air turbocharged 1.4-liter I4 engines to propel the roadster.

That’s not a huge upgrade in the pony department, moving from Mazda’s 155 horses generated by its 2.0-liter I4 to 160 in the Fiat. But the torque, the oomph if you will, is more substantial at 184 lb.-ft. with the turbo.

Dimensionally Fiat’s Spider is about 5 inches longer (most of it hood we suspect) and 100 pounds heavier. But what’s that among friends.

From a driving perspective the feel is nearly the same in a 124 Spider as in a Miata – simple fun. Handling is quick and light, the car feels you totally control it and can put it anywhere you want on the road. The roadster corners well on twisty roads and thanks to the turbo, it leaves a stoplight with a touch more zip than the Miata. Continue reading 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Classica

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2015 Audi S3 2.0T quattro S tronic

Audi’s S3 sportier than A3, but much costlier and turbo still lags audiS3a

I drove and enjoyed the Audi A3 with a turbo diesel a few weeks back and told myself I’d be ecstatic with the sportier looking and driving S3 this week. I wasn’t wrong, I still liked the S3, but I was less enthusiastic than I’d imagined. Here’s why.

First, the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine has the same major turbo lag as the diesel. I thought it would be much smoother, but no, it still takes 2-3 seconds from pressing the accelerator hard until the turbo spools up enough to give the small Audi a kick in the tail end. When it does, the S3 is a little driver-guided missile. Torque is a massive 280 ft.-lbs., and horsepower is an equally impressive 292.

You’d think that would kick your fuel mileage in the gas, but I got a very reasonable 27.6 mpg in about 60% city driving and 40% highway. Sadly the S3 drinks premium fuel, but the car is rated 23 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.

audiS3 front Ride was on the stiff side in the A3, but this Premium Plus model with the Prestige package ($5,900) and 19-inch performance tire package ($1,500) was no better and weighed 275 lbs. more than the A3. Ride was sporty, but could be pretty abrupt over crumbling area cement street surfaces. It was calm and fine on the highways. Continue reading 2015 Audi S3 2.0T quattro S tronic

2015 Subaru WRX Limited

Subaru’s WRX still wicked fast, and somewhat practicalIMG_0004

WRX is Subaru’s abbreviation for wicked fast!

Has been for 23 years too, and yet, this flipped-out head case of a car is still a rush, a thrill, a beast. But it’s way more affordable than most speed-oriented machines, and as practical in most ways as any sedan, plus not all that tough on gas, considering.

Let’s start with a few numbers. The WRX, which is a Subaru Impreza on steroids, starts at $27,090 (including delivery), comes standard with all-wheel-drive to make it stick to the street, boasts 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque and is rated 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway in its 6-speed manual configuration. Weight is just 3,267 lbs.

Continue reading 2015 Subaru WRX Limited