Driven: Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari

DSC_0415A few months ago Any Given Reason took a closer look at the Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari. Without the ability to take one for a drive at the time we were left to arrive at our conclusion based on looks and assumptions alone, which was that it seems like a cool, fun little car, but its eye wateringly expensive price made it not very good value.

DSC_0365So when the chance arose to take one for a spin through the hills, I jumped at it. I was keen to answer two questions: how does it drive in comparison to the regular Abarth 500, and is it worth the money? For this story I’ll avoid re-hashing the minute details of the Tributo (you can read that here), and will instead look to answer these questions.

DSC_0428The first thing you notice as soon as you climb into the Tributo are the seats and how fantastic they are. Made in Italy by racing specialist Sabelt, they bear hug you in the corners yet remain comfortable in the commute. They’re easily the most similar to fixed back race seats I’ve found in any road car, however they are juxtaposed against the upright city-commuter driving position which shines through from the 500’s origins. It feels slightly odd for the first few kilometers, but the driving position is actually pretty good once you get used to it. 

DSC_0348The Tributo Ferrari is only offered with a paddle shift clutchless manual gearbox. Before I drove the Tributo I didn’t think this would fit the character of the car – this is a tribute to Ferrari, therefore it should have a traditional three-pedal manual I reasoned. However these days Ferrari are renowned for their F1 paddle shift systems more than anything else, so I guess it makes sense. And as my drive revealed, the paddles fit the character of the Tributo more than a conventional manual would, anyway.

DSC_0442Put simply, the gearbox is huge fun. Whilst it doesn’t shift as fast as the revolutionary system employed by Ferrari, the shift is quick enough given the performance of the Tributo, and the cracking sound made on upshift is enough to turn heads on the pavement. The closest thing I can liken it to is the sound of a DSG upshift, but louder. It’s great.

DSC_0446Speaking of turning heads, the Tributo is surprisingly loud for a stock car, with the sound of the regular Abarth 500 amplified through both the revised exhaust and BMC air induction system. At higher rpm it sounds properly raucous, living up to both the Abarth and Ferrari badges adorning its flanks, boot, bonnet and seemingly every other free surface.

DSC_0461Once you hit those corners, the Tributo is very similar to a regular Abarth 500, just better. Everything feels just a little sharper – turn in a touch crisper, body roll and damping better controlled, and power down grip on corner exit improved. But more importantly than the data is that it’s just plain good fun to hustle through the bends. It’s a point and squirt go-kart, the cracks from the paddle shift changes just adding to the joy. My drive included the twisty Summit Road between Mt Lofty Summit and Greenhill Road, surprisingly free of slower traffic and the perfect road for the Tributo.

DSC_0426So this brings us to the elephant in the room – the price. My head says no, that despite being as much fun as it is, it’s just not worth the extra money. The official list price is $69,990, and I think you’d be better off modifying a regular Abarth 500 and pocketing the significant change.

DSC_0396But the 695 is a tribute to Ferrari, and Ferrari’s never make rational sense, right? The Tributo has something about it that just gets under your skin, it tugs at your heart strings and makes you fall in love with it despite the fact it remains a slightly ridiculous automobile. It’s like the naughty four year old, that despite running amok all day still puts a smile on your face. Your brain tells you not to like it, but you do.

DSC_0378If I were in the market, would I drop my own $70k on a Tributo Ferrari? Probably not. But I can sure understand how someone could, and you can’t properly understand this until you drive one. There are only 40 of these in Australia, so for your money you do get some degree of exclusivity, if that’s important to you. It’s not a package that will appeal to everyone – it’s a niche car and if you happen to fall into that niche, you’ll love the 695 Tributo Ferrari.

DSC_0452Words and photos by Andrew Coles.

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