In Wheel Time – Toy Time

by Don Armstrong

Performance and price peak interest of Bay Area hobbyists

Entry into the world of factory-built performance cars doesn’t get much better than this. With starting prices in the mid-20’s, here are two cars that can handle the slow crawl of a Monday morning commute, up the Gulf Freeway, after a Sunday on the high speed slalom course at Motorsports Ranch off State Highway 288.

SubaruBRZ1Subaru BRZ

The BRZ is Subaru’s all-new, and only, offering that comes in a rear-wheel drive configuration and for the weekend racer that may be a good thing, making it easier to control while wagging its tail through the esses on the track.

The BRZ’s low center of gravity is aided by Subaru’s boxer-style engine, a horizontally opposed 4-cylinder that is nestled between the front wheels. The naturally aspirated power plant delivers its 200 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission. An automatic is also available.

Racing inspired seating, a leather steering wheel and aluminum pedal covers give occupants notice that this isn’t Grampa’s Corolla. The back seat is capable of toting the kids, but adults need not apply.

A 6.1-inch LCD screen handles audio through 8 speakers and comes standard with GPS. Blue Tooth, USB port and voice activation is also included.

The highway ride could be a little stiff for some. Consider it a compromise for its on-tack capabilities; this is where the little coupe really shines.

Pricing starts at $25,495.

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth CabrioFiat 500C Abarth

Cute as a button, the Fiat 500 garners looks, wherever it goes. While the exterior commands the first look, the interior is just as attractive and the ride is nothing short of just plain comfortable. If there were any criticism from enthusiasts, it would be a shortcoming in the power department. Enter the Abarth.

Austrian born Karl Abarth, a European hot rodder who reached icon status by developing performance goodies for the 500, now has his name attached to a hypo version of the little car that could.

Weighing in at a svelte 2,500-pounds, its turbocharged and twin-intercooled 1.4-liter engine delivers 160-horsepower to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission.

Like the hatchback, the new 2013 Fiat 500c Abarth – the “c” designation stands for convertible – features an enhanced front and rear suspension, quicker steering and a braking upgrade, needed for high-performance driving. And let’s not forget the exhaust, there’s no mistaking its deep throated burble from any other 500.

Pricing on the Fiat 500c begins at $26,000.

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