FCA. It stands for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Not terribly original. Just another set of letters that don’t even acronym nicely.
So, why not, considering that the group is actually comprised of Fiat, Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler and Jeep, FARJAC?!
Or CARAFAJ…more of a ring to that one. Maybe even a new brand-name to copyright.
Whatever, FCA invited us to a pleasant day out sampling a variety of their cars.
From the bottom up (price-wise), I got to drive the Abarth Rivale, Alfa Romeo Giulia Veloce Ti, Jeep Wrangler Sahara and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
First to go was the big, bold Wrangler. FCA’s car park for the day was at a Cotswolds hotel deep in a valley. The Renegade’s route out was off-road up a long, steep grassy hillside. This was of course not the slightest problem with the Wrangler Sahara being a proven rock-conquerer.
Jeep’s advertising stresses the ‘freedom’ the car offers its owners. You can go anywhere. It also proved itself, with a powerful 272 bhp engine, to be a more than useful performer on tarmac. It’s acceleration figures include an impressive traffic light Grand Prix figure of 7.3 seconds to 62 mph. This is through a smooth 8-speed automatic gearbox. The ride was perfectly comfortable and the on-road handling belied its off-roadworthiness – the two don’t always go together. It seems able to combine both worlds very impressively. ‘Freedom’ also refers to the fact that you can pull the roof back in three sections and, more remarkable, take all the doors off. Where you put them and how long it takes, I had no time to test.
£44,865 for this version is a competitive starting price.
After that, it was all Italian. The Abarth 695 Rivale, developed from the base Fiat 500, is a whole lot of fun in a small package. The Rivale name is borrowed from the luxury boat community.
Abarth itself has a long and distinguished history of souping up small cars — seventy years this year — and maybe nobody does it better. You get no less than 180 bhp, 6.7 seconds zero to 62 mph performance from the 1.4 turbo with a cracking exhaust note. And of course the Abarth scorpion badge on the cheeky 500’s looks. Anyone who needs a pocket-rocket should have a go in one…and be ready with £25,895.
Alfa Romeo fans waited ages for the current Giulia. When it arrived a couple of years ago, it was welcomed but with some reservations about its build quality. My first test version surround-warning system had a random mind of its own that, had I been its eager buyer, would have found it to be a frustrating nuisance.
Now, apparently, early gremlins have long gone and the Giulia range has expanded just as it should have with two very sporting models. Our Quadrifoglio update review will appear later in July; the 280 bhp Veloce Ti, meanwhile, was probably my favourite amongst all the cars tried out this year. It is just SO right.
£46,005 before options buys a brilliant machine that is a delight to look at and a delight to drive.
It provides scope for every sort of driving. As a sports saloon, it has all the performance (5.7 seconds to 62 mph), handling, cornering, steering, braking, sound, you name it, that enthusiastic drivers want. It’s also totally tractable in the rush hour. There are quite a few cars that you could say equal all those, but at least Alfa can confidently put in a claim to the crown.
Car number 4 on the FCA day was the awesome £79,890 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio. It has more than twice the power of the Giulia Veloce. The problem in limited time and road space was discovering just what it can do. Up to a point, anyway, because, finding a quiet country stretch, with a roar, almost a shriek (the Alfa, not me), booting the pedal was just phenomenal. Hurling a hefty machine up to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds is a special feeling. Astronauts know that…
Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.
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