Fiat has always built fast and engaging enthusiasts cars, whether it is the petite 127 from the 70s, or the stylish Punto Turbo in the 90s, the combination of chic Italian styling and eager rev-happy engines has made the brand popular with drivers everywhere for as long as one can remember. Combine this intrinsic driveability with sleek coupe styling and you have some of the most enigmatic and unforgettable coupes in recent memory. The elegant 124 Coupe was the car to have in the 70s, with its lusty twin-cam 1.8-litre engine and clean seductive lines. By comparison, Volkswagen at the time was still building the air-cooled Beetle, and finalising development of the Mk 1 Golf.
This tradition continues with the Fiat Stilo 2.4, particularly the limited edition ‘Michael Schumacher's version. What makes this car so special is that it once again brings together Italian good looks with a powerful engine under the bonnet, and a sense of style that most other carmakers are desperately trying to imitate. Worldwide, the number of ‘Schumacher' Stilos is capped at 3500 units, each of them bearing a numbered plaque on the dashboard. Singapore has been allotted 50 units that are available from now until the middle of next year.
It goes without saying that trendy designer labels are an Italian creation, and few cars are as innately stylish as the three-door Stilo, which by the way translates to ‘style' in Italian; the combination of crisp, laser-cut lines at the front flow into a dynamic wedge-shaped passenger compartment and resolve neatly with the dramatic trapezoidal tail lamps. The subtle flaring of the bodywork around the rear wheels gives the Stilo strong ‘shoulders' that evoke power and strength. And the manner in which the rear profile slopes forward gives the whole car a hold stance and an undeniable sense forward motion. For even more drama, the Schumacher version gets a lowered suspension, sporty Zender sill extensions and stylish 17-inch alloy rims.
But this limited edition Stilo is more than just eye-candy. Underneath the bonnet, there is a potent 20-valve 2.4-litre five-cylinder engine that puts out an impressive 170bhp. Just as Audi, Honda, and most recently Volvo, have discovered, an in-line five-cylinder offers the best of both worlds – it is just marginally larger and heavier than a four-pot unit, but provides similar output figures to a straight- or V6 engine. In the best Fiat tradition, this car is blisteringly quick, and feels potent and lusty, even when pressed. In fact, it just thrives on being pushed.