Search

The Review Garage

Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.

Tag

Italian Cars

2019 Fiat 500 Lounge: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Whether you see it on the wall at an Interstate rest stop or on a small car, the message is the same: For a good time, dial FIAT 500.

In this rendering, that would be the 2019 Fiat 500 Lounge model, an upscale version of the basic two-door Italian runabout, which if nothing else comes across as cute and spunky. It arrives from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which also produces Jeeps, Chryslers, Dodges, Ram Trucks and high-performance marques Alfa-Romeo and Maserati.

2019 Fiat 500c

The 500 is quintessentially Italian, not much different in concept from the many tiny Fiat 500s of yore that have been romanticized in film and fiction. The idea was to be small enough to negotiate narrow Italian roads, economical enough to withstand outrageous gasoline prices, quick enough to handle urban traffic and maybe just roomy enough with a miniscule cargo area and constricted back seat suited mainly for groceries.

Not much of that has changed little with the 2019 model except that it’s more comfortable up front, with semi-exciting performance and entertaining handling, and modern amenities like satellite radio, automatic climate control, backup camera and turbocharged engines.

2019 Fiat 500c

The original 500 actually made its way to the United States, along with the Fiat 124 Spider convertible, rear-engine X/19 sports car and other models in the 1950s and 1960s. But the cars were plagued by rust and poor reliability, which prompted the recurring joke that FIAT stood for, “Fix It Again, Tony.”

In 1983, Fiat bailed out of the U.S. market. But after the merger that created FCA, the marque returned in 2011, and it’s been around since for fans of its bello design, recognized world-wide as the leader of automotive style, mostly on ultra-performing machines like Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.

2019 Fiat 500c

The 500 Lounge tested here, of course, does not dance in that company. Nevertheless, it has styling that has delighted generations of motorists who consider it charming and endearing. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always equated with everyday reliability and durability. Even today Fiat ranks near the top in aggravation.

Still, ratings of reliability nowadays are not what they were. In earlier days, a low ranking meant a car that had transmission, electrical or engine problems that left an owner at the side of a rural road at midnight. Now a low ranking might include some of that as well, but more often traced to a loose gasoline cap, an unfamiliar automatic transmission shifter, wind noise at highway speeds or frustration in using an infotainment system.

All of that said, the 2019 Fiat Lounge prompts affection both for its driving traits and its idiosyncrasies. On the plus side, despite a paucity of power from its 135-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers 150 lb-ft of torque, it feels quick off the line with the six-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration at all speeds is enhanced if you punch the dash-mounted Sport button, which tweaks transmission shifting.

2019 Fiat 500c

Engine sounds, which deliver constant cabin noise during stoplight sprints as well as highway cruising, are pleasant to an enthusiast’s ears though annoying on a long drive. The shortage of cabin insulation also allows a tinny sound to the audio system no matter how the bass and treble are adjusted.

Negatives also include: Sun visors that are fixed forward with no way to swing sideways to block sunlight; the impossibly cramped back seat, a perforated cloth sunshade for the motorized glass sunroof which admits blistering sunlight in summer, a big adjustable steering wheel that tilts but does not telescope and no pushbutton starting, though the ignition key works as well as always.

2019 Fiat 500

The tested 2019 Fiat 500, with no increase in price, is essentially the same as the 2018 model, which introduced a number of mechanical and style improvements, including the standard turbocharged engine, performance braking and suspension systems, backup camera, rear spoiler and fog lights.

Interior appointments belie the 500 Lounge’s economy runabout classification. The tester featured white leather seats and steering wheel, and body-colored metal dashboard with matte black trim—altogether classy looking though there were no soft-touch surfaces.

Base price of the Lounge trim level is $21,240 and the bottom-line sticker came to $24,815. Options included the six-speed automatic transmission (a five-speed manual is standard), motorized glass sunroof, navigation system, 16-inch bright aluminum wheels and a Beats premium audio system, which as noted earlier could not manage a premium listening experience.

If what you need or want is a stylish, entertaining mini-car that also is OK for an occasional short trip, take a test drive.

2019 Fiat 500c

Specifications

  • Model: 2019 Fiat 500 Lounge two-door hatchback.
  • Engine: 1.4-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged; 135 hp, 150 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
  • Overall length: 11 feet 8 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 76/10 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 2,375 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 24/32/27 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $21,040.
  • Price as tested: $24,815.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2019 Fiat 500c

Photos (c) FCA North America

Advertisements

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reinforces its incursion into the luxury/performance class with the all-new 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

It is part of a determined push to rebuild the storied Italian brand. It started with the 4C coupe and roadster, continued with the Giulia compact sedan and now takes on high-end crossover SUVs: Porsche Macan, BMW X3, Audi Q5, Jaguar F-Pace, Lexus NX, and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Sport

The Stelvio, named for the highest mountain pass in the Italian Alps where 12 highway miles encompass 48 hairpin turns, is a crossover version of the Giulia. They share the same wheelbase—the distance between the front and rear axles—though the Stelvio is two inches longer at 15 feet 5 inches.

Like its sibling, the Stelvio is a stellar performer with quick throttle response, rapid acceleration, precise steering and accurate handling. For now, it comes in two versions, both with a 280-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers 306 lb-ft of torque, enough to accelerate to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds with a top speed of 144 mph, according to Alfa Romeo’s specifications.

The company markets the Stelvio as a midsize crossover but its size belies that. It fits into the EPA’s “small” classification, which includes small and medium-sized SUVs like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Kia Sportage

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Moreover, its 89 cubic feet of passenger volume actually is less than the Giulia’s 94 cubic feet, though the Stelvio has a larger cargo area of 39 cubic feet compared to the Giulia’s trunk of 13 cubic feet.

There’s plenty of space up front and, on the tested Ti Sport model, beautifully bolstered leather sport seats. But the back seat passengers do not fare as well. In the outboard seats, head and knee room are tight and the seatbacks do not recline. The center-rear position is cramped and nearly unusable.

But the Stelvio is biased toward sport. It has a 50/50 front and rear weight distribution, and the standard all-wheel-drive system can automatically shift 100% of the power to the rear wheels for optimum performance. In nasty weather conditions, the system can send 60% of the power to the front wheels.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Road clearance is 8.1 inches, which provides some confidence in the unlikely event an owner ventures off-road. But the Stelvio has no other boondocks assists. It is first and foremost a roadie, competing in what currently is the hottest segment of the market from popular-priced to big-bucks luxury.

It offers three driving modes, controlled by a knob on the center console: Dynamic; natural; and advanced efficiency. The last enhances fuel economy by, among other things, shifting the 8-speed automatic transmission at lower engine revolutions.

The natural setting is slightly more aggressive. But the dynamic setting is the choice for maximum performance, including shifts at higher revs, quicker response to throttle inputs, tighter steering, enhanced braking and driver-oriented stability control.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Both the base Stelvio and the upscale Ti can be ordered as Sport versions, the main difference being large aluminum paddles mounted on the steering column to manually shift the automatic transmission. Though every Stelvio can be manually shifted, only the Sport versions get the paddles.

None of this, as might be expected, comes cheap. The base Stelvio has a starting price of $42,990, which includes leather upholstery, power seats for the driver and front passenger, automatic climate control, remote locking and a power lift gate. Add $1,800 for the Sport version and you get the paddle shifters. There’s also a luxury-oriented Ti Lusso.

The tested Ti Sport model started at $47,490. With options that included adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, autonomous emergency braking with forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, blind-spot detection, automatic-high headlight beams, auto-dimming mirrors and an infrared-heated windshield, the tester’s bottom line came to $55,240.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Other than the usual question mark about Italian build quality and whether the Stelvio will deliver a confident owner experience, there are a few quibbles with the opening act: The tight back seat with no reclining seatbacks, a cheesecloth-like sunroof shade and a fussy navigation system whose traveling instructions underway block the trip odometer.

Enthusiasts with plenty of bucks await next year’s debut of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio, analogous to the sedan of the same name, which sports a V6 engine with 505 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. That Stelvio should hit the showrooms with a price above $80,000.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport

Specifications

  • Model: 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine:0-liter four-cylinder, turbocharged, 280 hp, 306 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume:
  • Weight: 4,004 lbs.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 22/28/24 mpg. Premium fuel required.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $47,490.
  • Price as tested: $55,240.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Lusso

Photos (c) Alfa Romeo.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Talk about polar opposites. The 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia is everything its previously introduced garage-mate, the 4C, is not.

First, however, we must stipulate that the two models from the storied Italian manufacturer share one thing: gorgeous styling. Italian designers always have had a flair for sensuous curves.

Beyond that the two cars are way different. The 4C is a two-seat, rear-drive sports coupe or convertible that fills the cabin with raucous noise, rides hard, is strenuous to enter and exit, with manual steering that delivers darting handling, and no amenities like pushbutton starting or cruise control.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Yet despite its near $70,000 price tag, it is loved by some enthusiasts for its looks and performance on smooth racetracks.

The new Giulia—at least in the top-line Quadrifoglio trim, could not be more different. It is the essence of sophistication and stirring performance: a four-door sports sedan in the mold of the BMW M3, Cadillac ATS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

Alfa Romeo, part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, is attempting a comeback after more than two decades absent from the U.S. market. It started with 4C and now brings the Giulia, which is being offered in two versions: the $38,990 standard and the tested Quadrifoglio, which starts at $73,595.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

For those who care about translations, Giulia is Italian for Julia and Quadrifoglio means four-leaf clover. You can’t miss the big green clover emblem on the flanks of the front fenders. Alfa stands for Anonima Lombarda Fabbrica Automobili, which translates into Lombard Automobile Factory, Public Company, which was founded in 1910.

The main distinguishing characteristic of the Quadrifoglio is its refinement. Slide into its well-bolstered driver’s seat, which hugs the torso for spirited high-speed driving around curves, slip it into gear in the normal driving mode and you can traipse about town as if you were lazily cruising in a Hyunda Elantra, Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

But just forward of your feet lurks explosive power from a 505-horsepower V6 engine with twin turbochargers that delivers 443 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. It can be manually shifted with two giant paddles mounted on the steering column—not the wheel itself—so you always know where they are.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia

That means you can, as they used to say, suck the doors off almost anything on the road in a drag race. Top speed, according to the company, is 191 miles an hour, and Car and Driver Magazine, in an instrumented test, clocked the acceleration time to 60 miles an hour in 3.6 seconds.

However, that’s under test conditions where the driver gets the turbochargers spooled up before punching the throttle. If you simply floor it away from a stop sign, there’s hesitation as the engine re-starts from the stop-start system and the turbo power lags. It helps to switch off the stop-start.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia (European spec)The Quadrifoglio manages speed runs with aplomb and crackling exhaust sounds—music to the ears of any enthusiast. There are four driver-selectable modes—Dynamic, Natural, Advanced, Efficiency and Race—that customize performance parameters, including transmission shift points, steering response and suspension settings. They are augmented by a rear differential that incorporates torque vectoring to enhance sharp handling on curves.

It wouldn’t do to have the rapid acceleration and highway speeds without a way to arrest them so the Quadrifoglio stops with authority. Though the disc brakes are superb, track-bound aficionados likely will order the optional $5,500 fade-minimizing carbon ceramic brakes.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia (European spec)Despite its Italian flair, the tested Quadrifoglio displayed a few shortcomings. The interior was thoughtfully designed but the knobs and buttons looked as if they had been copied from an economy car. The buttons on the outside door handles for keyless entry did not work and the lane departure warnings sounded as if someone were loudly burping or gassing through a megaphone.

The Giulia is a quiet long-distance cruiser with relaxed straight-line steering that requires few corrections. Comfort is first rate for the driver and up front passenger. Though the outboard back seats have decent head room, knee room is in short supply and, as usual in most cars, the center-rear seat should be studiously avoided.

With an overall length of 15 feet 3 inches and a total of 107 cubic feet of interior space—13 cubic feet of that in the trunk—the Giulia is classified by the U.S. government as a compact car. Regardless of the numbers, it is right-sized for exciting sports sedan duty.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Specifications

  • Model: 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio four-door sedan.
  • Engine:9-liter V6, twin turbochargers, 505 hp, 443 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 3 inches.
  • EPA passenger/trunk volume: 94/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 3,822 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 17/24/20 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $73,595.
  • Price as tested: $79,195.

Disclaimer: This test drive was conducted at a manufacturer-sponsored press event. The manufacturer provided travel, accommodations, vehicles, meals and fuel.

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti

Photos (c) FCA

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑