LOS ANGELES--For such a cute little car, the Fiat 500 Abarth's scorpion logo is probably the manliest badge in automotive world.
At the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show, the peppy 101-horsepower Fiat 500 gets a heart transplant in the form of Fiat's award-winning 1.4-liter MultiAir Turbo engine that boosts available power to 160 ponies. More impressive is the torque number: 170 pound-feet, which is the same amount of twist the Honda Civic Si develops with 2.4 liters of displacement. The Abarth 500 also features a single-option five-speed manual transmission and upgraded driveline components that can withstand the rigors of performance driving while mitigating torque steer.
The suspension has also been beefed up with Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) twin-tube shock absorbers by KONI and a stabilizer bar up front. Out back, the 500 Abarth still makes do with a torsion-beam rear axle, but also gains a stiffer stabilizer bar. The 500 Abarth can be had with optional 17-inch wheels or the standard 16-inchers. Regardless of size, the wheels wrap around an upgraded braking system.
The Abarth's cabin features the same Blue&Me hands-free calling system that you can get the standard 500 with, but the driver and front passenger now interact with the system while seated in sport bucket seats with pass-throughs for racing harnesses (not included).
The Abarth name and the Fiat 500 Abarth have a racing pedigree dating back to the 1950s and this newest model has proven itself already in a number of 24-hour endurance races, so I'm eager to find myself behind the wheel soon. Until we're tossed the keys, check out our gallery of the 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth for more photos and details.