Join us for the next chapter of our story.

This year, following a highly successful re-launch, we’re welcoming you to step inside the world of Abarth. 

Each month we’ll give you a new behind-the-scenes look into the philosophy, the process, the people and the parts, that go into every car. Find our why we’re so proud of our heritage and how we work on a daily basis


A Real Racing Icon

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“Our ethos at Abarth is to create something from an everyday car that has this unique signature of incredible performance.


Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

Officine Abarth, at the centre of Fiat’s huge Mirafiori industrial complex in Turin, is Abarth’s very modern home. From the expansive glass-walled foyer filled with iconic cars, to the minimalist corridors adorned with design sketches and evocative images from Abarth’s past, it’s a perfect study of a contemporary workplace. Calm and welcoming, yet invigorating and dynamic, with an eye firmly on the future.

Yet step inside one office and you’ll find yourself back in 1960’s. Adorning the artful slim-line desk are a vintage Bakelite phone, an old-school desk blotter and a pair of heavy tortoiseshell glasses. The walls are a visual tale of a glorious heritage for race and road cars. Dotted amongst them are portraits of the man who started this incredible journey – Abarth’s late, great, founding father, Carlo Abarth.

When Abarth was re-born as a manufacturer in its own right in 2007, it was decided an office for Carlo should be retained in the new building. This commemorative act is no small gesture – after all, it’s prime office space, opposite the boardroom. Carlo’s office, though, serves as a constant reminder of how his pioneering performance-driven ideals still sit at the core of Abarth’s ethos today.

The room is full of wonderful touches and genuine items from Carlo’s original office. The nameplate on the door says Karl Abarth – Carlo’s given Austrian name, before he adopted an Italian moniker following his move there in the  1940s. On the desk are vintage pots of Cocco glue and Pelikan 4001 ink in a shade of ‘Blu Brilliante’. If you were filming Carlo’s life story, this could be a working set.

And what a story you’d tell. It’s the tale of a man who built and raced motorcycles in his youth with huge success, even beating the Orient Express in a mad 1.372 km dash across Europe from Vienna to Ostend. There’s a great cast of supporting characters – Italian grand prix ace Tazio Nuvolari, iconic industrialist Ferdinand Porsche, and Cistitalia racing driver Guido Scagliarini, who all helped Carlo hone his craft, establish his reputation and start his eponymous company.

Even then, the story is just getting started. On Carlo’s desk, there’s a scale model of a Fiat 600 Multipla, advertising ‘La Marmitta Abarth’ – the pioneering exhaust that established Abarth’s reputation for tuning and transforming ordinary Fiats in the early 1950s. With a series of record-breaking speed runs at Monza in the 1960s – for which Carlo resorted to a diet to lose weight – allied to racing and rallying success in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Abarth’s reputation for using hand-crafted performance parts to turn small cars into giant killers was firmly established.

Standing in this office you can feel Carlo’s spirit and understand why it still runs through Abarth today. “Carlo’s grand idea is more than a philosophy – it’s an absolute necessity,” says Abarth’s Head of Technical Development, Maurizo Consalvo. “Our ethos at Abarth is to create something from an everyday car that has this unique signature of incredible performance.

“To achieve that, you need a different approach to the rest of the industry. You need to live in the world of racing. In racing, if you stand still, you’re really moving backward. You need an obsession to continually improve every part of the vehicle – a constant evolution. At Abarth, we want all the people who drive our cars to feel a little bit of Carlo’s racing spirit.”


Every Abarth is designed and built using technology and experience gained from the world of motorsport

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"Everty Abarth is designed and built using technology and experience gained from the world of motorsport"

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” goes the saying. Car manufacturers have long used motorsport as a marketing tool, highlighting the performance and success of a racing car’s speed, handling and reliability to sell its conventional road-going cousins.

Carlo Abarth went by a slightly different philosophy: “Race on Sunday, office on Monday. Both with the same car.” His subtle distinction was to create road cars that had all the invigorating feel, performance and sensation of a race-ready car, but that had the characteristics and practicality of one destined for the lowly road. You could feasibly race an Abarth to the podium at the weekend, and then use it to spice up your daily commute.

“Carlo’s dream was the democratisation of racing – racing for everybody,” says Abarth’s Head of Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “Instead of starting a clean sheet of paper to create a high-performance car – dreaming about big wheels and V12 engines – he took normal, mass-market small cars and used racing as his inspiration to increase a car’s performance. He invented this unique idea of tuning in the car industry.”

This ethos is demonstrated in every Abarth model – from the extreme 695 Biposto, directly inspired by the Assetto Corse that races in the Trofeo Abarth, through to the 595 Competizione and the still potent entry-level 595 Custom.

“This unique ability to completely change the behaviour of a car – extracting this performance-led spirit from within – is the most important aspect of Abarth,” says Maurizio. “We always talk about the 695 Biposto as a street legal version of the Assetto Corse, but we use the same philosophy in all our cars – continuously improving performance and reducing weight, always adopting solutions that have been developed in racing.

“For us, the race track is a laboratory. We are in a constant loop where we have an idea, try it on the race car, then use it to transform the road cars. That means you can feel, in a very direct way, that racing spirit in each and every model.”

Equally, Abarth focuses on making sure race-bred performance is suitably refined for everyday road use. “We can create an ultimate beast, the ultimate racing machine,” says Maurizio. “But if it’s impossible to drive every day it’s not for us. There are lots of dedicated track day cars that are impossible to drive on the road, but you can happily get out of an Abarth and go to a meeting.”

Much of Abarth’s performance comes from working with the best racing companies in the world – Brembo for brakes, Sabelt for seats and belts, Extreme Shox and Koni for suspension, the list goes on. But there’s another, less obvious, less mechanical and more human influence.

“There are a lot of elements that go into creating this special interpretation of a race car – the engine, the suspension and brakes,” says Maurizio. “But there is another element, something truly unique, not inside the engine, or under the chassis. Passion is the most important element, and that comes from people. In order to make our cars, there are a lot of people involved, and we are all obsessed with performance.”


It's Personal

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“We’re making something that is an extension of a driver’s personality.

It’s important that the car embodies some of your values, some of your taste.”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing & Technical Development

There’s something about your relationship with a car – a pride of ownership that rarely extends to other possessions. It starts with the exterior paint scheme, alloy wheels and body-kits that mark your car out from the pack. It continues with the colours and materials you choose for the interior – your personal driving space. Finally, it’s how the car feels when you drive it – a ride that is taut and responsive, or smooth and refined, and an engine note that is laid-back or raucous.

At Abarth, you can have your car, your way, thanks to a wealth of personalisation options. It all started in the 1950s, when Carlo Abarth sold the race-inspired ‘La Marmitta Abarth’ exhaust kit for standard production Fiats. Today, Abarth’s list of kits includes Brembo brake and Koni suspension kits for added handling performance, Esseesse alloy wheels for a dash of extra style, and the distinctive Record Monza and Record Modena exhausts to audibly mark you out.

Then there are the accessories that offer a smaller, but no less distinctive touch – whether it’s aluminium pedals, oil and fuel caps, Abarth-branded interior moquette mats, or winter tyre kits complete with an Abarth-liveried snowboard. And they all come in Abarth’s distinctive wooden shipping crates, which you get to keep.

“We’re not selling cars that are a commodity,” says Abarth’s Head of Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “We’re making something that is an extension of a driver’s personality. It’s important that the car embodies some of your values, some of your taste.

“For most mass-production manufacturers, high levels of personalisation are challenging in terms matching the expectations of the breadth of their audience and the complexity of manufacturing small volumes. At Abarth, we have a direct connection with the people who drive our cars. We know their tastes and we share them passionately.”

How the car will be manufactured and built also comes into consideration. Cars such as the 695 Biposto or limited-edition model runs, for example, benefit from the racing-inspired, hand-built processes used in the Officine Abarth workshop in Turin.

“Using this more bespoke approach means we can be smarter about defining our product line-up – whether it’s having distinctive core cars, special editions, kits of equipment that we can add at the dealer, or hand-built cars, which is what defined the decision to build the Abarth 695 Biposto in Officine Abarth,” says Maurizio.

“Because we’re making our cars in smaller volumes, we have the flexibility and can react quicker to introduce more performance, more technology, or more desirable materials,” says Maurizio. “In our workshop, we can exploit our flexibility to create something. We don’t need to invest a lot of money in buying or creating specialised robots to assemble a unique car. We already have the perfect intelligent machines – our highly-skilled mechanics – who can use their experience, and adapt it to any special car we produce.”


Harmony in Duality

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“The 595 Competizione sits at the heart of Abarth’s range, offering drivers the chance to experience race-bred performance in a car that is incredibly refined”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

Great performance cars are all about duality. When the open road demands it, their handling is fast, sharp and responsive. In a more contained environment, such as crowded city streets, they evolve to become more softer, more cosseting and relaxing to drive. The Abarth 595 Competizione is the epitome of this philosophy.

While an extreme Abarth model – such as the 695 Biposto – offers the ultimate interpretation of a stripped-down racing car for the road, the 595 Competizione blends no-less stunning race-bred performance with refined comfort and luxurious style. It’s the best of both worlds.

“It’s all about balance,” says Abarth’s Head of Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “All Abarth drivers want precise, tactile handling, with an aggressive power-to-weight ratio. However, the more extreme 695 Biposto is often the second car for a driver – only used occasionally. The 595 Competizione could be a driver’s only car, driven every day. That means something engaging to drive with great handling, but that’s accessible with a degree of comfort.”

In the 595 Competizione, two systems adapt to the way you’re driving. Firstly, the optional ‘robotised’ sequential gearbox – a rarity on a car in this segment. It offers the race-inspired sensation of a dynamic driver-selected sequential gearshift, with all the comfort of an automatic.

In the right mood and on the right road, the driver can select ‘Manual’ and squeeze the fingertip paddles behind the steering wheel for a more involved gear-change. Press the ‘Sport’ button, and you get increased throttle response and torque, giving the car a more aggressive personality. In traffic the driver can turn the gearbox to ‘Auto’, sit back and let the car’s electronic brain do the work.

“A lot of people love the ease of an automatic for city commuting, but still want that racing sensation for the open road,” says Maurizio. “It helps ensure the different personalities of the car fit the mood of the driver – offering them a choice to drive how they want, when they want.”

The second part of the 595 Competizione equation is Frequency Selective Damping, a race-inspired suspension solution which blends taut hot-hatch handling with everyday comfort, practicality and refinement.

“In racing, no two race tracks are identical, with ever-changing characteristics of grip or smoothness,” says Maurizio. “We’ve developed a suspension that can separate high frequency movements, such as tiny ridges in the road, and low-frequency movements, such as bumps. It acts differently, depending on the situation. Hit a tram rail in the centre of Turin and the shock absorber valve opens to absorb peak compression. On a twisty road with a consistently rough surface, the suspension adapts to maintain optimum contact with the asphalt.”

The 595 Competizione’s stylish interior also reflects its dual nature. One of the most distinctive elements is the central instrument panel with its analogue turbo dial and large, high-tech central LCD display behind the steering wheel.

Press the throttle and the rev counter and throttle percentage displays dance in time to the movement of your feet on the pedals, while the g-meter shows your acceleration, braking and cornering forces.

“With the 595 Competizione’s instrument cluster, we wanted something more performance-led,” says Abarth’s Chief Designer Ruben Weinberg. “A car as unique as an Abarth needs a very special identity, and we want that to be present in every detail. You live with an Abarth in a different way to other cars, and that changes the way you design the interior. Every element needs to be about a spiritual visualisation of the car, which – with an Abarth – is all about performance.”


The engineer behind every modern Abarth

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“I was raised in Turin, so naturally I had all of these amazing cars around me – Lancia, Alfa Romeo, and, of course, Fiat and Abarth. This was my world.”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

As the man in charge of technical development and product marketing for Abarth, Maurizio Consalvo lives and breathes the brand. He can talk (a lot!) about what makes Abarth’s cars so distinctive and invigorating. It’s an affinity for cars that goes back to his childhood, and a life lived working for Fiat.

“I always had this incredible passion for cars,” he explains. “I was raised in Turin, so naturally I had all of these amazing cars around me – Lancia, Alfa Romeo, and, of course, Fiat and Abarth. This was my world. My mother told me that, even as a baby, I was always looking at pictures of cars and adverts in magazines. This is strange, because cars were not a key element in my family. Everyone saw them as a tool, rather than a passion.”

A career in the car industry seemed the only logical move for Maurizio – although he admits there was a hint of teenage rebellion, opting to tread his own path rather than work for his father’s engineering firm. At 14, Maurizio joined Lancia’s technical school. “It combined theory with practical, hands-on exercises,” he explains. “This was important because your physical connection with the engineering of a car – the machinery – is what helps you intuitively understand how it works. You need this before you can use any technical knowledge.”

Starting out as a mechanic and training as an engineer, Maurizio spent time in the Fiat and Lancia prototype shop. “The first car I worked on was the Fiat Uno Turbo with a very early version of ABS – or anti-skid, as we called it,” Maurizio recalls. He then spent time in the more pragmatic side of automotive engineering, helping to refine production processes that reduced the time-to-market for new models, before running the prototype construction and test validation programme for the second-generation Fiat Punto.

After a 10-year stint working on product development for Alfa Romeo – during which he helped bring to life the Giullietta and MiTo hatchbacks, as well as the stunning 8C Competizione and 4C sports cars – a move to the recently reborn, performance-led Abarth was a logical move. It also fulfilled Maurizio’s lifelong passion. “I’ve always wanted to work for Abarth,” he says. “As a child, I had a passenger ride in an Abarth 850TC Berlina. It was incredible discovering that this basic Fiat 600 had hidden performance, with rear-wheel drive and the engine on the rear axle, and such an amazing sound – not simply loud, but beautiful. My first car was an Autobianchi Abarth – with the 70hp engine and the two-pipe exhaust. I was in love with that car.

“I’ve worked for Fiat all of my life, and I’m very proud of this decision, but the chance to work for Abarth has been a great opportunity. At Abarth you need to have an unconventional approach – you need an independent point of view. You need to think about engineering creatively.”


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“We’re taking the Fiat 500 and transforming it into Superman.”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

When cooking, it’s essential to start with the right ingredients. With the Fiat 500 as a base, Abarth has the perfect starting point. And, by adding the right degree of spice, they’ve turned something great into something amazing. 

“Our links with Fiat are incredibly strong,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “Not only for historic reasons, but it’s also important at the start of a project to have a good understanding of the car – what freedoms you have, whether you need to safeguard certain aspects.

“Having the Fiat 500 as a base, our aim is to transform it. We obviously respect the core design, maintaining that shape, that small-car flavour. But we want to take an iconic design, and extend it in every way.

“Before Fiat finish the design activities for the production Fiat 500, it’s important for us to get involved, to see if we have the right opportunities – extra space in the engine bay for a larger engine, the turbo and the cooling, or enough room in the wheel arches for racing suspension, larger brakes and 18” alloy wheels. We’re always sitting on their shoulders, demanding: ‘More space, more space’.”

Equally, Abarth’s design team are thinking about how to extend the look of the raw Fiat 500 to new extremes. As Chief Designer Ruben Weinberg admits, changing the face of an icon must be done with care. But Abarth’s close links with the Fiat design team mean it is planned from an early concept stage.

“Fiat always has an eye on the future,” says Ruben. “I was part of the design team for the Fiat 500, and we were always thinking about how it could be upgraded in different ways – for style, fashion or performance. This means you think about how you can apply those upgrades and build them in from the start. The Abarth has to be the ultimate performance extension of the car. Of course, with any production car, there are limits to what you can do, but the 500 is a good base to start from.”

Acting like a well-developed skeleton, the Fiat 500 chassis is given new muscles in the form of a powerful 1.4-litre T-jet engine, along with stiffer, more responsive suspension and brakes, a more stylish interior and new body panels.

“We take a very modular approach,” says Maurizio. “The only part of the Fiat 500 which is the same is the car’s chassis, which acts as a support for all the other systems. The engine, gearbox, suspension, brakes and cooling, to the seats, dashboard materials and the instrument cluster – everything else is different.”

What you end up with is a wolf in (stylish) sheep’s clothing, although Maurizio draws an analogy with a much more modern idiom. “It’s like a superhero, where the Fiat 500 is the everyday persona we identify with – it’s a Clark Kent. But there’s a secret, hidden side, which reflects our deep desire to be stronger, faster, more powerful. This is exactly what we are doing at Abarth. We’re taking the Fiat 500 and transforming it into Superman.”


Transforming the great into spectacular

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“We’re so proud of our mechanical elements that we want to show them off. ”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

When did you last see a gearbox like this? One where the inner workings of the H-pattern are exposed for all to see, and you can hear the gears and cogs interacting beneath your feet? The Abarth 695 Biposto’s optional six-speed dog-ring gearbox is a key ingredient in its race-inspired recipe, transforming a great car into a spectacular one.

The 695 Biposto is the only street-legal car with a dog-ring gearbox, making it a singular driving proposition. Developed in collaboration with Italian transmission specialists Bacci Romano, it uses all the experience gained while developing the Assetto Corse cars that race in the Trofeo Abarth.

“When we first started working on the 695 Biposto, we knew if we were to be credible when saying it is derived from a race car, then we had to include elements straight from the world of motorsport,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “Adding a dog-ring gearbox was all about using our racing experience to offer something nobody else can offer – something that can surprise and excite our customers.

“It’s important, because it brings back the emotional connection you get when using a mechanical device. Instead of simply pulling a shift paddle, where the changes are under the control of the electronic throttle and the ECU, we wanted to put the driver in total control. You have a different, more direct feeling with a dog-ring gearbox. It’s a very rapid movement and you get the sound of a mechanical interaction – tock, tock, tock – each time you change gear.

“From a driving point of view, there’s an additional advantage in torque delivery. As the gearbox doesn’t need a synchroniser, which causes extra friction, the torque is delivered more rapidly and efficiently. So, when you shift up, you immediately feel that power boost. In fact, the torque delivery is so efficient, and has such a high peak, that we had to change the clutch to copper – something usually only used in racing. It also gives a short run for the clutch pedal, which enhances the feel.”

The dog-ring gearbox also looks spectacular, with its exposed linkages and ergal aluminium shaft, crowned by a shiny aluminium gear knob. “It’s not something we want to hide,” says Maurizio. “We’re so proud of our mechanical elements that we want to show them off.

“The ergal aluminium of the shaft is part of our heritage. It has a wonderful aesthetic, but it’s also about reducing the weight of the car. When you start from a production car, you need to refine every detail. Carlo Abarth’s philosophy was to change every part of the car you could, but only by using the best technical solution

“It’s beautiful to see this lever combined with the carbon fibre of the dashboard. It’s a link between the future and the past. A mechanical lever is an old-fashioned solution, but carbon fibre is the future. It also has a beautiful aluminium turret – a jewel – that shows we’re designing the interior of the car with the same attention to detail that we give the exterior. 

“Admittedly, a dog-ring gearbox is not for everyone. You need to understand how it works mechanically to get the most out of it. But, once you do understand, you develop a relationship with your car that allows you to make faster and more enjoyable gear changes. It’s a chance to feel engaged and really enjoy driving again.”



Collaborations with the best in motorsport.

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“Abarth is not a big company, which means it’s the perfect size to work collaboratively with other experts,”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

In racing, you’re only as good as your weakest link. Fortunately, at Abarth, every element of the company’s race and road cars are made of considerably sterner stuff. By working with some of the best specialist parts manufacturers in the world of motorsport, Abarth ensures that every element is honed in terms of race-bred performance and reliability.

“Any racing car is a big system, made up of lots of smaller systems,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “Whether you win or lose depends on the smallest of detail. You need the right bodywork, the right engine, the right gearbox, but you also need the people with the right expertise to bring it all together and make it work as one.  

“In racing, it’s almost impossible to win without any external, expert contribution. It’s crucial you have a sort of extended family of experts who can help create an amazing car – it allows you to multiply the effect of all your efforts. In Italy, we are very lucky because we have a long tradition of racing companies to call on.” 

This is why the specification and option lists for all of Abarth’s models reads like a Who’s Who of Italian racing specialists – Brembo for brakes, Sabelt for seats and belts, OZ Racing for wheels, Extreme Shox and Koni for suspension, BMC for air filters and Akrapovic for exhausts.

“It’s important to understand who your most experienced, your most appropriate counterpart is, to match your philosophy and your particular car,” says Maurizio. “We don’t use Akrapovic exhausts as a marketing exercise because they’re expensive or well-known. We work with them because they have the same philosophy as Abarth.

“All of their knowledge and experience is gained through racing, particularly in MotoGP. This passion for performance, a constant quest for improvement, is what is important to people who drive an Abarth. It’s not just using generic brands, but working with brands that create their products in a truly pragmatic way, turning something from racing into a street-legal version.”

Working with a portfolio of experts also allows Abarth to find the perfect solution quickly. “Abarth is not a big company, which means it’s the perfect size to work collaboratively with other experts,” Maurizio explains. “A good example was the special 695 Biposto rally car we created to run as the ‘00’ pace car on the Sardinian Rally, driven by Miki Biasion. 

“We have an established relationship with ExtremeShox, who have a lot of experience from the World Rally Championship. This allows us to develop a specific suspension setup for the 695 Biposto prototype in just 24 hours. We were only able to do this because we have direct contact with the company, and because they share our obsession for performance.”

That kind of relationship is mutually beneficial, as Abarth’s Chief Designer Ruben Weinberg explains. “When you design anything, there are restrictions and limitations you need to respect in terms of creating a design that functions,” says Ruben. “With an alloy wheel, for example, we have a lot of things to think about – the durability of the materials, the engineering strength of the design, the aerodynamics for brake cooling and drag. Having that partnership with a specialist company such as OZ Racing is nice, because you can learn from their experience.”



Abarth’s chief designer

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“When you see the finished car, and drive it on the road, it’s truly amazing.”

Ruben Wainberg, Abarth Chief Designer

As Abarth’s Chief Designer, Ruben Wainberg is responsible for taking the core Fiat 500 – an iconic car in its own right – and shaping its sumptuous curves and inviting interior into something that is even more astonishing. Born in Argentina, he travelled to Europe with the dream of designing cars, and now ploughs every ounce of his fervour into Abarth’s line-up.

  “My passion for cars comes from my father,” Ruben explains. “He raced production cars in time-trial rallying in Argentina, and I used to watch all the motor racing on television with him. I got my creative side – my love of drawing and making 3-D models – from my mother. From an early age, I started creating my own designs. Then I studied industrial design and architecture.

“I had to follow my dream, though. Buildings are not my true passion – I wanted to design cars. As there’s no real car industry in Argentina, I had to go to Europe. I was 23-years-old when I arrived, with €2,000 in my pocket and three bags. I was on my own in the beginning, and it was tough, but I got a place in the [CHECK] Istituto d'arte Applicata e Design Torino. The only way to start working in the world of car design is a car design school, and there were just two in Turin. My choice was probably determined by my budget, but it was the perfect start in Italy.

“My first job was with Fiat. I started working on future models with the department for advanced model design. The most important car I worked on was the current Fiat 500, which was coordinated by Fiat’s Head of Design Roberto Giolito. On a car such as that there’s a big team working on it. I was focused on the exterior, but I always dreamed of being able to lead the design– inside and out. Now, at Abarth, I have that opportunity.”

Having those links to the Fiat 500 – and still working in Fiat’s central design studio just a few doors away in Fiat’s Mirafiori industrial complex in Turin – is a useful part of Ruben’s skill-set. “I know exactly what is coming from Fiat,” he says. “This is a great opportunity to check what kind of things we can take from Fiat and use as the base to create the next Abarth.

“It’s incredible, because the most important thing in life is to do something you love – and I’m doing what I dreamed about when I was five years old. Today, working for Abarth, I can put that passion into everything I do. I have the opportunity to start with a blank sheet, put my pen on the paper and follow the progress of every element of the project to the end. When you see the finished car, and drive it on the road, it’s truly amazing.”



On the snow, and in the desert

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“You learn so much more at the track and on the road. The important thing is not to waste time”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

Talk to any race team boss and they’ll tell you that very few victories occur in the moment – it’s really a matter of preparation. Teams and drivers spend countless hours before a race weekend testing cars and simulating every scenario in order to perform at their peak. The two hours of action you watch are just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s the same at Abarth. That thrill from your hour-long commute or your Sunday blast in the country, is the result of Abarth’s countless miles and months spent honing its cars to perfection.

Every road car – even supercars – must go through comprehensive testing and thousands of miles of running before they can be declared ready for the road, and it’s no different for Abarth. As well as honing the car’s handling and raw performance at race tracks around the world, Abarths need to be tested in the harsh -40C of a frozen Swedish forest and the sweltering 50C of a traffic jam in a desert city. After all, your Abarth isn’t just for driving around pristine circuits in perfect sunny weather.

Fortunately, by using the well-proven Fiat 500 chassis as a base – and by bolstering it with components from experienced performance partners such as Brembo, Extreme Shox, Koni and Akrapovic – an Abarth can be developed far faster than a typical mass-market model. Another benefit to being part of the Fiat-Chrysler group is that Abarth can call on the latest technology and access a wealth of specialist facilities and experts.

“For final approval, a car typically needs 5over 30,000 miles of real-world testing,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “It’s a combination of engine tests, reliability work, hot-weather testing and cold-weather winter testing. We also have subjective tests, such as handling, acceleration and braking, where we fine-tune the character of the car.

“Having access to Fiat’s resources is incredibly useful. Just as we can support Fiat in developing performance products thanks to our race experience, Abarth can use Fiat’s test facilities – such as the enormous proving ground in Balocco, or the winter test facilities in Sweden, as well as virtual test chambers and wind tunnels.”

This means a new Abarth can be developed in two years, rather than the typical four years for a mass-production car. Those two years matter, though. Perfection is worth waiting for, and it allows Abarth to bring in a very subjective, human touch – which ensures that Abarth’s unique character is firmly embedded in every model.

“In the car industry, it’s easy to fix 90% of your variables using vehicle simulation,” says Maurizio. “The final 10% of real-world testing, though, is the most important part. This is what defines the character of the car, and what will be perceived by the people who drive the car everyday.

“You learn so much more at the track and on the road. The important thing is not to waste time – and that means having good test drivers who are talented, professional and understand the car, can spot errors and always keep fine-tuning its spirit. It’s crucial to have the right brain in this game.”


The Abarth’s test driver

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“The sensation of a car when you sit in it is very important,”

Roberto Zampieri , Abarth chief test driver

As chief test driver for Abarth, Roberto Zampieri is responsible for defining how every one of its race and road cars handles on the track or road. It’s his experience as a mechanic and his instinctive feel as a driver that, blended together, transforms engineering solutions into dynamic reality.

“I started working for Fiat 20 years ago,” Roberto explains. “For the first seven years, I was a mechanic, which was very important because I learnt a lot – from suspension to gearboxes, engines to brakes. One day when I was driving a car I noticed a problem after just one kilometre with a gearbox that wasn’t working. This helped me become a test driver, but that hands-on experience as a mechanic is still so useful in my current role.”

As the man who defines what it’s like to drive a range of cars that have a true tfeeling of duality – from the more stylish, comfortable Abarth 500C convertibles, to the race-hardened, stripped-out 695 Biposto – Roberto manages to explain the challenge of his role in an emotive, non-engineering way.

“The sensation of a car when you sit in it is very important,” he says. “Whether it’s a race car or road car, this is the driver’s office. You need to touch the steering wheel, the gear lever, and adjust the seating position to find the perfect view. Everything has to feel naturally in the right place – especially for me, as I’m quite tall!

“Then it’s about how it feels on the road. Every Abarth should feel different, and each model needs two distinct characters – sporty for the open road, and comfort for the city. With so many technical possibilities and configurations – normal mode, ‘Sport’ mode, Torque Traction Control – it’s important to try every combination, in every scenario. You need to have the right feel through the steering wheel. The extra 20Nm of torque control that you get when you press the button from ‘Normal’ to ‘Sport’ should feel totally different. It needs to transform the car.”

Roberto’s role is certainly valued by Abarth’s design and engineering teams. “As our test driver, Roberto is the most important person in developing our cars, especially the 695 Biposto,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “There are many ways to approach the development of a car, but if you want to offer the same feeling as a racing car, you need someone to translate the engineering into the driving experience.

“Roberto knows every detail of the car. He has an incredible awareness and sensitivity to feel a small difference in the damper behaviours, the camber angle, or in tyre pressures. This is essential to ensuring something that delivers a real experience for the customer, otherwise you could create an engineering masterpiece that doesn’t have any heart. And an Abarth should always have heart.”



The thing that makes every Abarth model truly special

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“For Abarth, being able to put the mechanical parts on show is one of the iconic elements of the car,”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

Every great design or engineering project is the sum of its creators’ crafts, and that’s particularly true at Abarth. Each model – from the stylish Abarth 500C cabriolet, to the circuit-honed 695 Biposto and its Assetto Corse race car cousin – is the product of a close collaboration between engineering and design. You can’t have one without the other.

“At Abarth, we have an amazing relationship between design and engineering,” says Chief Designer Ruben Weinberg. “As designers, we like to think about the technical details of a car just as much as the visual styling. Any car is a combination – a fusion – between the science of engineering and the art of design. It’s how you connect them that matters.

 “There are a lot of steps in creating a car, but at Abarth engineering and design are done together, not separately. For every car – particularly one as extreme as the 695 Biposto – we start with a simple dream, an idea. The engineers think about how they can take the technical performance of the car to a totally new level. At the same time, we think about how dramatically we can push the exterior and interior styling. When we meet, we show each other the way we’re thinking, and we start working together to blend the best of both possibilities.”

This can extend to engineering details that the average driver would rarely see. “For Abarth, being able to put the mechanical parts on show is one of the iconic elements of the car,” says Abarth’s Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development, Maurizio Consalvo. “Take the aluminium oil sump with the Abarth logo on top, or being able to look at the details of the engine when you open the bonnet. The mechanical elements are part of the style. They’re not something we want to hide, we want to show them off.”

That pride in engineering is something the design team shares. “We love to get involved with everything engineering do, right down to designing elements such as the engine cover,” says Ruben. “Every detail is special – it’s part of one big strategy, forming a unique identity for the car.

“Equally, you don’t always need to change something. Not every engineering element has to be touched by design, and we don’t need to extend every design dimension just to make the car look more dramatic. With a performance car such as an Abarth, any visual change must be driven by function, and sometimes it’s better if something is natural – especially if it’s dictated by performance.

“For example, on the 695 Biposto, the wider track and extended wheel arches are needed because we have larger, 18” alloy wheels from OZ that allow us to improve handling. We also needed to develop a special aero package for the engine because of the addition of the turbo and the two intercoolers. This is why we have the big ‘mouth’ for the front of the car – the size and dimensions are dictated by the intercoolers’ position. But that works beautifully, because it also allows it to look aggressive and sporty. It’s function, engineering and design, working together perfectly.”



The note of Abarth exhaust

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“There is no metric to express a car’s character and soul. It’s the sensation of driving a race car that is crucial in making an Abarth feel different”

Maurizio Consalvo, Abarth Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development

How do you like your exhaust note – raucous, throaty, or something more refined? Well, you’re in luck, because Abarth has a range of exhausts for all tastes.  

Exhausts lie at the heart of the Abarth story. In the company’s early days in the 1950s, founder Carlo Abarth needed to turn a quick profit to fund his racing team. The answer: selling race-inspired Abarth exhaust kits for standard production Fiats. As well as transforming the look of the car, and – with subtle engine tweaks – their performance, it gave the normally unassuming Italian super-minis a feisty Rottweiler bark that belied their compact size.

“Our obsession at Abarth is about creating cars that are unconventional,” says Head of Product Marketing and Technical Development Maurizio Consalvo. “It’s not just performance in terms of numbers – the highest power, the lowest weight, the fastest to 100km/h. What’s just as important, and harder to create, is an emotion.

“There is no metric to express a car’s character and soul. It’s the sensation of driving a race car that is crucial in making an Abarth feel different. And the sound you get from the engine and exhaust is an important part of this.”

At the core of Abarth’s modern exhaust range is the Record Monza – a name that harks back to Carlo Abarth’s industry benchmark-setting speed runs at the famed Italian track in the 1950s and 1960s.

By splitting two sets of twin exhaust pipes – outer and inner – engineers can run the inner pipes through a standard muffler for a more muted exhaust note for everyday driving. When the engine is run to 4,000 revs, the exhaust gas activates a pressure-sensitive valve, which opens the outer set of un-muffled pipes to deliver the full, unfettered exhaust note. It transforms a refined engine note into a raucous roar.

“Creating the Record Monza was an important achievement because it gave us the ability to modulate the exhaust sound, depending on how the car is being driven,” says Maurizo. “The two inner muffled pipes give a quieter engine note for standard driving, while the outer pipes deliver the full orchestral performance. You can also mix an intermediate range. What you get is a rich sound that combines two different tones, two different frequencies. It’s not about a peak of noise. It’s a matter of quality. It’s a unique solution, only offered in this segment by Abarth.”

Also available is the optional Record Modena exhaust, which uses the same technology but blends the four exhaust pipes into two, creating a different exterior look and a slightly smoother exhaust note.

The king of the Abarth exhaust crop, though, is the Akrapovic unit on the 695 Biposto, with its striking titanium tailpipes. While the Record Monza uses a passive valve, where the exhaust note is matched to the revs, the Akrapovic unit uses an active valve.

Press the ‘Sport’ button on the dashboard, and along with all the other enhancements – access to the full 190bhp from the 1.4 T-jet engine, and sharper steering and throttle response – you get instant access to the full opera of the exhausts throughout the rev range. “You don’t just get a different behaviour from the car,” says Maurizio. “You get an entirely different voice.”