England - Fiat of Italy, which owns 20 per cent and counting of Chrysler, has never really received recognition as a successful pioneer of modern engine technology.
But Europe is now awash with diesels " getting on for every other new car sold is an oil burner " and most of these cars have the so-called common rail system, which uses high pressure technology to improve smoothness, power and economy. This was developed by Fiat.
Now Fiat has designed a twin-cylinder 875 c.c. 84 hp gasoline engine called the TwinAir, which will soon appear in Europe in the 500 city car. (First editions of the Fiat 500, appearing in America next year, via a factory in Mexico, will use the 1.4 liter MultiAir gasoline engine). The TwinAir produces 107 lb feet of torque at 1,900 rpm. The new TwinAir uses Fiat's MultiAir technology, which improves air flow in the engine, together with supercharging for power and balancing countershafts to reduce vibration, and according to Fiat, compares favorably with modern diesels.
At the launch around Reading, a large town about 25 miles west of London on the road to Bristol, the TwinAir-powered 500 produced a surprisingly lively and flexible performance. The engine sounded a bit gruff and was a shade noisier than usual, but not unpleasantly so. The widely spaced 5-gear manual gearbox showed that despite its small size, pickup was impressive even in fourth and fifth gears. Fiat claims this engine, which weighs only 187 lbs, can achieve an average fuel consumption of close to 60 miles per U.S. gallon.
You won't be able to buy this yet in the U.S. The first Fiat 500 hatchbacks and cabriolets on sale in the U.S. though will have some goodies denied to us Europeans. It will offer a new Aisin six-speed automatic transmission. We have to make do with a Dualogic automated manual gearbox which huffs and puffs and struggles slowly to change up, and explains why the Smart hasn't sold too well. Your 500s will also be much safer. U.S. laws call for among other things improved structural strength for rear crashes, higher front and rear fenders, and more interior safety features to improve anti-whiplash head restraints. In the future, expect an electric version, plus a stretched five-door Fiat 600, and maybe a small SUV.
But European and American versions have one thing in common; both look adorably retro. Fiat and Chrysler have big ambitions for the car, but do Americans realize just how small this is?
From The Detroit News: http://apps.detnews.com/apps/blogs/autosblog/index.php#ixzz14DCkXZjm