Fast ride
Fast ride

With the Sport mode button pressed, the engine gains a bit more torque -- the pulling power used for acceleration -- and the 500's steering becomes even tighter, although it's pretty tight to start with.

You'll want to hold that steering wheel tight, too. When you're accelerating hard, what with this car's low weight and small size, every ripple and patch in the road sends you bouncing this way and the other. With the engine roaring, it can be work to keep the little beast going where you want it to.

Which brings us to the shifter, the one major weak point in the Abarth. Or at least, in my test car. Shifting gears felt indistinct and slushy, like stirring paint in a bucket.

Chrysler says that sloppiness has been tightened up on cars produced later. At least the shifter's mounted high up so it's comfortable and easy to reach. That's good.

By Peter Valdes-Dapena @PeterDrives - Last updated April 20 2012: 9:28 AM ET
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