SOMETIMES you just know if you love your job… and for a complete petrol head like me a day spent in the beautiful (if a little wet) Cotswolds countryside trying out a selection of great cars is right where I want to be.
Those lovely people at FCA (Fiat, Chrysler Automobiles) invited yours truly to try out their latest line up on a media drive day and I was like a kid in a sweet shop!
Where to start? Well as a true off road fan it had to be the new Jeep Wrangler and I was let loose in the 2019 top of the range Rubicon 2.2 diesel version. What a great truck – having been on a Jeep event in the Utah desert a few years ago I can testify that there is no better 4×4 when the going gets really tough.
But this time it was almost all on road and the big SUV, with its bright red paintwork and huge alloy wheels, was a prefect pose-mobile as I trundled through quaint villages and small market towns.
Despite its size the Wrangler is surprisingly easy to drive – especially as other motorists tend to get out of your way – and has all the creature comforts you would expect including an excellent eight speed auto box and full time all-wheel drive.
At £48,365 on the road it may not be cheap – but the big Jeep undercuts rivals like Porsche, Range Rover and Mercedes by a long way on price yet has kerb appeal to rival the best.
Then it was from FCA’s biggest car to their smallest – the Fiat 500 – but this was no ordinary 500, it was the Abarth 695C Rivale 1.4 T-Jet, which means an amazing 180bhp and 0 to 60 in a breath-taking 6.7 seconds with a 140mph top speed.
What a hoot! With the canvas roof down dodging the showers the 695C was perfect for flashing along country lanes bringing a big grin as you go. For a Fiat 500 £25,895 is a lot – but not for the kind of performance and fun factor this little pocket rocket brings.
And talking about performance, I then got behind the wheel of the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio 2.9 Bi-turbo – which has a staggering 510bhp. Here we are in supercar territory with a 0 to 60 time (in track mode) of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 191mph… in a saloon car!
And the noise it makes from those four exhaust pipes – an Italian automotive opera which was music to my ears. Like many motoring journalists I have a soft spot for Alfas and this latest one is probably the best yet – what an amazing machine, although you will have to find over £63,000 to buy one.
These were just the highlights of a great day and full reviews on the cars mentioned will be in your motors section later in the year.
By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth