Little Luigi’s turbo boost – Jeremy Clarkson (In het oorspronkelijke Engels)

Naar het artikel in het Nederlands:

Of course you are familiar with the 500. Your estate agent’s daughter probably has one. And unless you are James May, the chances are you like it very much. You like the cheekiness, and the way it is both retro and very modern at the same time.

It gets better, because whilst the Fiat is very similar in concept to the mini – they’re both fashion statements first and cars second, it is much cheaper. And as a little bit of icing on the cake, here is a car that doesn’t have to be grey or silver like 75% of all the other cars on the road. It can be powder-blue or egg-yolk-yellow or child’s lipstick red. You can even cover it in stickers, and you should.

In short, the little Fiat is a joyous machine that makes you smile, but the car I am talking about today is different. And better. It’s the new TwinAir, so called because it has an engine quite unlike anything else we’ve seen before.

First of all, there are only two cylinders, which is not a revolutionary idea. The original Fiat 500 was similarly equipped. However, in the new version, there is no camshaft. Instead, the exhaust valves drive the inlet valves using hydraulics and electronics, and that sounds like the greatest solution ever to a problem that doesn’t exist. But the end result is spectacular.

First of all, there’s the noise. Remember the sound you got when you put a lollypop stick in the spokes of your bicycle wheel? It’s that. Only amplified. It is one of the best engine noises I’ve ever heard. It’s nearly as good as a Merlin.

And then there’s the grunt. Yes, it may be tiny – just 875 cc – but it is turbocharged so you get 85 horsepower. That means you can cruise down the motorway with ease. And it takes off from the lights like it’s been kicked into action by Toby Flood.

There’s more. Because there is much less friction in a two-cylinder engine than there is in a four, it is incredibly efficient, which means it produces less carbon dioxide on one of Boris Johnson’s rent-a-bikes. As a result, you don’t have to pay the London congestion charge.

Certainly, this little car is ten times more environmentally friendly than the Toyota Prius because it’s smaller and it’s made from fewer parts and Fiat doesn’t have to plunder the Canadian countryside and cause acid rain to make it’s batteries. With this little car, everybody wins.

Especially the oil companies, because unfortunately, the TwinAir is not what you’d call economical. It could be, if you drove it sensibly, and if you press the Eco button on the dash, it probably is. But you won’t deploy the Eco button. And you won’t drive it sensibly because it’s impossible. It’s as impossible as expecting a puppy to sit still.

I’ve had the car for a week and because I’ve enjoyed the noise it makes so much, I’ve averaged just 38 mpg. I got more from the hot Fiat 500 Abarth. And to make the economy argument even less palatable, the TwinAir costs around £1000 more than a similarly specced model that has twice as many cylinders. So it’s not cheap to buy and, unless you have the will power of a donkey, it’s not cheap to run, either.

And it doesn’t matter because, as you sail through central London, flicking V-signs at the congestion camera and beating bikes off the lights and revelling in that fantastic noise, you really won’t care. The 500 is a great little car. And now you can have it with what is almost certainly the best engine… in the world.

By Jeremy Clarkson in his book

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”

Published 2014.


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