How does it feel at higher speeds? The only 500 I ever owned was electric, and while it was FANTASTIC up to about 60mph there wasn't much more beyond that worth playing with. I've always imagine the Abarth to feel a bit squirrelly due to its height and small footprint, but it may be just in my head. I did have a pair of regular 500s as rentals - a Sport and I think an Anniversary (?) model and they were lots of fun to drive... but lacked any of the real capability of the Abarth.
You are right, that was one of the first things I noticed. I didn't 't feel comfortable over 70 mph, it would wonder around and it felt very unsafe! Its like a Go Kart, short wheel based and wide. I lowered the center of gravity and stiffened the back with a stiffer rear sway bar and that did the trick. Now my Abarth gives me confidence to chase Camaros ZL1's and Mustangs in a short track as you can see in the video! Very stable now, after I got the right balance!
Yeah, it looked really good on the track, especially considering you're chasing an 86. I hustled the 500 Sport over Highway 17 (aka The Death Highway) when I had it, but all that driving is ultimately sub-legal speeds... the road is simply too unpredictable (traffic, wildlife, etc.) to go much over 60 or 70 so everything beyond was my imagination.
One thing I was impressed with was that even flogging it pretty hard, the regular 1.4l still returned >30mpg. How is the economy on the Abarth? A friend has a new Fiata with the 1.4 turbo and he's doing pretty well with it, even driving around like an idiot. Although quick, even a turbo 500 wouldn't be as quick as other cars I've got, so I really need to sell it to myself as a fuel economy move.
That is one of the things I really like about this car. Drove it 5 hours from NC to WV and it gave me an average of 41mpg. Drove it hard for 2 days (with 100 octane at the track to be safe) and drove it back to NC and still gave me 41mpg. That was the way the REAL Abarths, Mini's, Alfa's, and other vintage club racers used to do it back in the day, drive it to work during the week and race'em on the weekends! I'm going back this month on the 18th and 19th but I've been working on some upgrades. Got me some stickier and wider tires to improve grip, just purchased a piece of 4130 Chromoly to make my own rear swaybar, I still feel it needs to rotate better. and since I'm running race fuel at the track I'll put the highest setting on the race computer. I also want to improve the back part of the exhaust, that dual pipes design is very restrictive. Eventually i'll replace the entire exhaust but I want to keep it as quiet as I can. we'll see!