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Abarth 595 Competition and 124 Spider vs the clock

We've drag raced them, now see how they fared against the clock

Abarth vs Abarth: not the fastest drag race we’ve run, but an intriguing little family rivalry nonetheless. On paper the edge should be with the 1,045kg 595 hot hatch. It’s got 10bhp more and weighs 15kg less, which gives it a (modest) 12bhp/tonne power to weight advantage (172bhp/tonne plays 160). Or to put it another way, 1bhp shoves along 5.8kg of hot hatch, or 6.2kg of roadster. Both have an identical 184lb ft of torque.

But the 124 Spider is faster. And by a reasonably significant margin. Because it’s rear wheel drive. You can see this advantage from the word go. The cars accelerate, the weight moves backward, putting more pressure on the Spider’s driven wheels, and taking it away from the hatch’s. More pressure equals more grip. Sorry, teaching you to suck eggs.

Anyway. The Spider is 0.16sec quicker to 10mph, 0.22secs to 20mph, and 0.28secs to 30mph. All the while the 595 is scrabbling for traction, and watching the Spider get away knowing there’s nothing it can do to pull it back. But then the gap gets bigger. Between 40 and 80mph the Spider maintains an advantage of around 0.4-0.5secs. Traction isn’t the issue any more, now it’s the gearbox that harm the 595’s prospects.

Both have six–speed manual shifts, but in the Spider it’s a modified version of the MX-5 gearbox. It’s not quite as slick and crisp as in the Mazda, but it’s a damn sight snappier than the spongy linkages in the 595’s transmission. Sloppy shifts into second and third account, firstly, for the lost time to 40mph, and secondly, for the fact the 595 doesn’t pull back time where it should – around 50-70mph. Still, the margins are comparatively small – the 595 is only 0.37secs slower from 30-70mph.

But then the gap opens up again. The Spider is 0.68 ahead at 80mph, 0.81secs at 90mph and 0.93secs faster to the ton. At these speeds it’s the aerodynamics – both have the same 0.35Cd drag factor, but I’m willing to bet (i.e. I couldn’t find the actual figures) the Spider has a lower frontal area (bashes a smaller hole through the air). There’s a reason we speed test roadsters with the roof up, and it’s not so we don’t disturb our barnets.

                   124         595
0-10            0.74        0.90
0-20            1.53        1.75
0-30            2.40        2.68
0-40            3.61        4.07
0-50            4.84        5.27
0-60            6.67        7.13
0-70            8.48        8.97
0-80            10.53      11.21
0-90            13.89      14.70
0-100          17.47      18.40

30-70mph    6.08        6.45

St ¼ mile       15.09      15.46
@                  93.7         92.3

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