It’s only just had the sheets whipped off its Italian-styled panels at the Los Angeles Auto Show, but already hints are dropping that a performance-tuned version of the Fiat 124 Spider - potentially wearing the legendary Abarth badge - is in the works.
Asked by TMR at the international reveal of the 124 Spider, Fiat chief Olivier Francois said there is a distinct possibility that a hotted-up 124 could eventuate.
“We might look at a tuned version, yeah,” Francois told us.
“With an Abarth badge? Maybe yes, maybe no. We will see.”
But Francois need not be so coy - after all, Fiat-Chrysler COO Alfredo Altavilla gave a frank admission back in July that work is already underway on the Abarth 124 Spider.
And details are now starting to filter through.
Previous rumours speculated that the Alfa Romeo 4C's 150kW 1.7 litre turbo could be slotted in, but given the expense of re-engineering the 1.4 Multiair motor for the 124 Spider's longitudinal mechanical layout it seems unlikely that Fiat would double that cost by doing the same for the bigger 1.7.
It’s not yet apparent whether the high-performance 124 variant will be available with both a manual and automatic transmission option (the 695 Tributo Ferrari was saddled with a single-clutch robotised auto only), but a manual would be in keeping with the Spider's postiion as Fiat's driver-focused hero car.
The regular 124 Spider makes use of an optional Aisin-sourced automatic, while the standard six-speed manual transmission is believed to be a unique design due to its higher torque output over the MX-5.
If it follows the formula established by the Abarth 500, the Abarth 124 Spider should also come with uprated brakes, firmer suspension and figure-hugging seats - not to mention a sportier body kit.
When can we expect it? That detail is not quite so clear, but a 2016 debut is unlikely. Expect to hear more about Fiat’s plans for a hotter 124 Spider in 2017.