I did this because the proof is in the pudding.
I attended the New York International Auto Show this past weekend for the first time in a couple years. Being that I go to school up in Boston, it’s hard for me to find time around this time of year to get down for the event. This year I was spending Easter with my brother in NJ, so it was a perfect opportunity for us to take the train into the city and check out the show.
First of all, you still have time to attend this show if you haven’t already and I must tell you up front GO GO GO. This year is an EXCELLENT year to check out what the automakers are pushing because there are a lot of amazing concepts that have been unveiled specifically for the NY Autoshow and you can get a first look, up close and personally! This includes the 2013 Dodge Viper and the new Acura NSX Concept.
Now, both of these cars are amazing, and so are many others that were on display, including the Lamborghini Aventador, Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, and several Aston Martins. But I have chosen to display this photograph. Why you ask? Well let me explain.
One of the most important parts of an auto show is being able to interact with the vehicles. While many of the higher-end ones are roped off, the consumer-friendly models that aren’t still in the concept phase are almost always open to the public to sit in, touch, sit on, whatever. (Yes, I saw two jackasses jump onto the trunk of a Mercedes-Benz SLK 55 ///AMG that was on the floor. It’s amazing to me what some people consider to be a “good idea.”)
One of the vehicles that was available for interaction was the new Scion FR-S, which was co-designed with the new Subaru BRZ. These vehicles have been receiving a lot of hype in the automotive community because of their bang-for-buck value. I was hoping for the best when I climbed into the cockpit of the FR-S, despite the fact that a scion representative approached me offering to answer all of the questions I had, and then failed to give a knowledgeable response to any of them.
I was severely disappointed.
The problem with creating a bang-for-buck vehicle, particularly when the company is Japanese (sorry to my fellow JDM drivers), is that when corners need to be cut, the designers don’t just cut them, they hack them off. Everything I touched in the interior was some sort of cheap-feeling plastic, and while the seats were very nicely bolstered, they felt about as cheap as one of my friend’s STI’s from ‘06, and that’s a 6 year old car. The paddle shifters looked and felt like they’d snap if I used them in any sort of aggressive driving and I just wasn’t very comfortable overall.
Yes there was a nice big headunit, and all of the things you’d get in a car that is miles above the FR-S’s price range were there, but they weren’t executed well, and that bothers me. The car has RWD and a LSD which is awesome, and a powerplant that is extremely tuneable, but what about those of use that want something nice out of the box?
I probably should have disclosed upfront that I am a Euro driver myself. As the proud owner of an APR Stage II+ mkv GTI, I eat, sleep, and breath Euros, but that doesn’t mean I have a dislike for other makes and models. I drool over my friend’s sti, and all of her friends’ stis as well. I know to stay away from primered civics for fear of a complete and total ass-whooping and I recognize that some of the greatest cars ever made came from just across the Pacific Ocean. But for some reason, these consumer-friendly JDM vehicles, in my eyes, can’t shake the stigma associated with their cost-cutting practices.
Shortly after my experience with the FR-S, I hopped into the vehicle pictured above; the Fiat 500 Abarth. I cannot begin to describe to you how different the experience was. I was cradled in a very comfortable leather seat, the controls were all user friendly, and I was approached by a representative that not only knew everything about the car, but had actually driven it himself. It was as though I’d gotten on a plane that took me on a direct flight from Tokyo to Maranello, and I was enjoying every minute of it.
This Abarth is smaller, lighter, and more economical with its hatch. It is out-of-the-box fun for everyone, and for those interested in more, the rep was happy to report that factory-supported tunes and mods are on the way as he walked me over to the Mopar-modified model that they had on display across the floor. Yes it is front wheel drive, and it doesn’t have an LSD; but are these things that are needed for everyday driving? Some would argue yes, but I would happily sacrifice them for the comfort that comes with the almost perfectly designed interior of the Abarth and the knowledge that I won’t be gluing my dashboard back together after I hit a few of New Jersey’s infamous pot holes.
I love this little car, probably more than Jeremy Clarkson does. You can watch his test drive here: http://www.topgear.com/uk/videos/take-abarth#commentsListTop
I’m sure the Subaru crowd will be showing up any minute now complaining about my lack of discussion of the BRZ. I must admit that I did not get over to the Subaru booth so I cannot give an objective opinion on it, so as it stands, L’Abarth e` il massimo.