• ‘17 FIAT 124 SPIDER: CLASSICAL GAS!

    It’s what happens when you take a Mazda Miata and add a little Italian brio, blogs Road Test Editor, Howard Walker.

    Ready for a little Italian conversation class? Start by repeating after me: Bella piccolo macchina. Now say it with feeling, and maybe with an Italian-style shrug of the shoulders and upturned palms. The literal translation is ‘beautiful little machine’. And it’s also exactly how you’d describe Fiat’s new magnifico 124 Spider two-seater. Bella indeed.

    You might have heard about this new 124. It was developed hand-in-hand with Mazda – yep, I scratched my head too when I first read that piece of news. Fiat borrowed the underbody structure of Mazda’s much-loved Miata MX-5 and wrapped it with its own bodyshell – every panel is unique to the 124 – and squeezed in its own piccolo engine. Just don’t call it a Fiata!

    Makes sense. These days, small, affordable, old-school sports cars – even with $25-grand starting stickers – sell about as well as electric typewriters and Filofax planners. So it was tough for Fiat to justify going it alone to build a new 124. Split the costs with Mazda, send the two cars down the same production line in Japan, and it becomes a lot more financially sound.

    As much as I love the little MX-5, I have more amore for this little Fiat. It has oodles of styling cues from Fiat’s classic 1970s 124 Spider – the twin power bulges on the hood, the distinctive front grille, rear fenders that look like Joan Collins’ shoulder-pads in Dynasty. It’s also around five inches longer than the Mazda, which somehow makes it feel less dainty, more substantial.

    And while it would have been so much easier for Fiat to stick with the MX-5’s trusty 2-0-liter SkyActive four-banger, full credit to them for wanting to use their own 1.4-liter Multiair turbo from the plucky Fiat 500 Abarth. Not that there’s much difference in power; 160-horsepower for the Fiat, 155 for the Mazda, though the 124 gets a 36 pound-foot hike in torque which kinda counters the Fiat’s extra 100 pounds in weight.

    Thankfully they stuck with the MX-5’s brilliant folding canvas top. To me, it’s still the benchmark for a manual roof. Flip a lever, flop the top back to stow on the rear deck, 10 seconds max. And you do it with one hand. While in the car.

    So what’s it like to drive? Bellissimo. The whole point of a two-seater like this is for it to be fun, and to put a big smile on your face. And the little Fiat delivers. The fizzy turbo engine provides a ton of thrust to get you off the line fast, to zip you past slower traffic, and to punch you out of a tight bend.

    Interestingly our tester came with a six-speed automatic rather than the knife-through-butter-precise six-speed stick. My initial reaction was ‘no way’. But for our arrow-straight, traffic-congested Florida roads, it makes perfect sense. The shifts are smooth, it’s eager to kickdown and there’s manual shifting if you feel the need.

    Fiat offers three 124 Spiders to choose from. The base Classica kicks off at $24,995. Then there’s the leather-trimmed Lusso I’ve been driving with the bigger 17-inch alloys and silver windshield surround. For performance fans, there’s the feistier 124 Abarth with tighter suspension that starts at $28,195.

    Why would anyone buy a 124 Spider? It’s a fun, affordable ‘toy’ that’s a blast to drive, especially top-down on a blue-sky Florida winter day. And if you remember with affection the old 124 Spider, this car will rekindle those nostalgic memories.

     

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  • ’17 MERCEDES-BENZ SL65: SUNSHINE SUPERCAR!

    “Dial ‘SL65’ if you want a classic aluminum-bodied two-seat roadster with an abundance of luxo-tech and V12 power,” blogs Dan Scanlan.

    Inside the ‘17 Mercedes-Benz SL65 Roadster’s sleek-but-familiar frame resides a supercar’s worth of power – a handcrafted twin-turbocharged 6-liter V-12 with, delivering 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque at a low 2,300 to 4,300 rpm. And, builder Antonio Donadai’s signature on its carbon fiber engine cover!

    This SL is the seventh in a series of arguably the best known Benzes, born in 1954 as the 300 SL Gullwing coupe. Tests of uber-SLs are rarities, the last one we had an SL550 three years ago with 429 horsepower. It hit 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and 100-mph in 9.7 seconds, averaging 20 mpg on premium fuel with auto engine shutoff engaged. Now we had the latest SL65 with five different driving programs – Comfort, Sport, Sport +, RACE and Individual.

    Each successive selection makes engine and transmission response a bit quicker and tightens the suspension and via software. SPORT+ mode really firms up the suspension, snaps off firm upshifts and throttle-blipping downshifts with some serious snarl. INDIVIDUAL mode lets the driver mix how they want the steering, drive system and suspension. Then RACE mode slams shifts at full throttle and backs off stability control as it sets suspension on full firm. RACE also likes you to paddle shift, guided by a handy upshift light.

    Set it in Sport+ and we sprinted to 60-mph in 4 seconds flat with wheelspin in the second and third gear shifts, reaching 100 mph in 8.2 seconds. Passing power was abundant, the engine snarling, the wide rear rubber giving just a wiggle of traction squirm. We averaged 10 mpg on premium. Sport, Sport + and RACE also allowed the exhaust to really roar, with an explosive “pop-pop-SNAP!” from the pipes when you backed off.

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  • 25 Memorable Jeremy Clarkson Car Quotes

    If you’re bored, like looking at cool cars and have a spare 5 minutes then check out these 25 car quotes with pics from Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. He certainly has a way with words. Enjoy!

    1. “I’d like to consider Ferrari as a scaled down version of God.”

    2. [On the Porsche Boxster] “It couldn’t pull a greased stick out of a pig’s bottom.”

    3. [When driving the Mercedes SLR McLaren through a tunnel]

    “When they debate as to what the sound of the SLR engine was akin to, the British engineers from McLaren said it sounded like a Spitfire. But the German engineers from Mercedes said ‘Nein! Nein! Sounds like a Messerschmitt!’ They were both wrong. It sounds like the God of Thunder, gargling with nails.”

    4. “I’m sorry, but having an Aston Martin DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. If you’ve got even half a scrotum it’s not going to happen.”

    5. “Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary… that’s what gets you.”

    6. “Koenigsegg are saying that the CCX is more comfortable. More comfortable than what… being stabbed?”

    7. [On Detroit] “God may have created the world in six days, but while he was resting on the seventh, Beelzebub popped up and did this place.”

    8. “Owning a TVR in the past was like owning a bear. I mean it was great, until it pulled your head off, which it would.”

    9. [On the Renault Clio V6] “I think the problem is that it’s French. It’s a surrendermonkey.”

    10. [On the Enzo Ferrari] “I rang up Jay Kay, who’s got one, and said: “Can we borrow yours?” and he said, “Yeah, if I can borrow your daughter, because it amounts to the same thing.”

    11. [On the Porsche Cayenne] “I’ve seen gangrenous wounds better looking than this!”

    12. “The air conditioning in Lamborghinis used to be an asthmatic sitting in the dashboard blowing at you through a straw.”

    13. “Whenever I’m suffering from insomnia, I just look at a picture of a Toyota Camry and I’m straight off.”

    14. “If you were to buy a BMW 6-series, I recommend you select reverse when leaving friends’ houses so they don’t see its backside.”

    15. “That [Pagani] Zonda, really! It’s like a lion in orange dungarees. Kind of fierce, but ridiculous all at the same time.”

    16. [On a Chevrolet Corvette]

    “The Americans lecture the world on democracy and then won’t let me turn the traction control off!”

    17. [On the Alfa Romeo Brera]

    “Think of it as Angelina Jolie. You’ve heard she’s mad and eats nothing but wallpaper paste. But you would, wouldn’t you?”

    18. “A turbo: exhaust gasses go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster.”

    19. “This is a Renault Espace, probably the best of the people carriers. Not that that’s much to shout about. That’s like saying ‘Oh good, I’ve got syphilis, the best of the sexually transmitted diseases!’”

    20. “In the olden days I always got the impression that TVR built a car, put it on sale, and then found out how it handled – usually when one of their customers wrote to the factory complaining about how dead he was.”

    21. [On the Mercedes CLS55 AMG]

    “It sounds like Barry White eating wasps.”

    22. “I’d rather go to work on my hands and knees than drive there in a Ford Galaxy. Whoever designed the Ford Galaxy upholstery had a cauliflower fixation. I would rather have a vasectomy than buy a Ford Galaxy.”

    23. “Usually, a Range Rover would be beaten away from the lights by a diesel powered wheelbarrow.”

    24. “Racing cars which have been converted for road use never really work. It’s like making a hardcore adult film, and then editing it so that it can be shown in British hotels. You’d just end up with a sort of half hour close up of some bloke’s sweaty face.”

    25. “I don’t understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?”

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  • Looking For A Cool Fuel Efficient City Car? Fiat 500 Ticks All The Boxes

    One of the things that is most important to car buyers nowadays, especially as many of us are still suffering from the damages the recession did to the economy, is the fuel efficiency. Although the style, design and interior are all factored into your decision, it is likely if you’re looking for a new car that you are concerned with how many miles you will get to the gallon with each time you fill it up. If that is the case, then the Fiat 500 could be the car you are looking for.

    Available at dealerships across the UK such as Richard Hardie, the Fiat 500 has been getting a lot of attention and rightly so. Let’s take a closer look at one of the safest cars on the market, and one that’s also a lot of fun to drive too! Some pictures of the Fiat 500 to start us off as as you can see, it’s such a cool looking small city car.

    Incredible Fuel Efficiency

    As it is a car designed to be driven around the city and towns, you would expect the Fiat 500 to be fuel efficient. However, we were surprised at just how efficient it actually is. Take the revolutionary TwinAir engine model that gives you a staggering 69 miles to the gallon. Even if you opt for one of the smaller, 1.2 or 1.4 litre models you still can benefit from either 59 or 49 miles to the gallon.

    Five Star NCAP Rated Car

    As the saying goes, safety comes first and the Fiat 500 will not let you down in this regard. The car was awarded a full five stars from the European NCAP ratings and looking at the array of safety features built-in to the car, it is not hard to see why. Along with a total of six airbags, the car also comes with ESC or Electronic Stability Control. This means that regardless of the conditions of the road are, the car will give you as good a grip as any city car.

    It also uses ABS along with EBD and AS/MSR anti slip systems for that extra level of control, support and safety. The car even comes with the practical Tyre Pressure Monitoring System on the dash that will alert you if the pressure is getting too low. No wonder the Fiat 500 is often referred to as one of the safest cars on the road.

    Customisable And Cool

    Fiat have never been known as a car manufacturer that shies away from creating cars that are not only fun to drive, but fun to look at as well. The Fiat 500 has always had a very iconic look; one that has been improved on over the years. You can choose from a total of 11 different colours for the interior, allowing you to customise it to your preferences and tastes.

    Along with the many other bits of technology utilised in the car, such as the Blue&Me navigation system, it is easy to see the attraction with the Fiat 500. Not only will it save you money driving it around for those day to day city commutes, you will look good and feel safe doing it. What’s not to like?

    Finally, this infographic showcases the Fiat 500 family

    The Fiat 500 Family – An infographic by the team at The Fiat 500 Family

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