Three Fiat Chrysler cars – the muscly Dodge Challenger R/T, the peppy Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, and the pure-electric Fiat 500e – were named to Driving Today‘s list of the Top 10 Coolest Cars Under $35,000. Driving Today‘s list, which was published last week, contains plenty of cool company for the three FCA vehicles selected, including the venerable Mazda MX-5 Miata, the Ford Mustang, and the MINI Cooper S Convertible.
The 375-horsepower Dodge Challenger R/T ranked third on the list, ahead of both of its American pony car competitors: the Chevrolet Camaro (No. 5) and the Ford Mustang (No. 7). Likewise, the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, ranked second, placed ahead of its sporty convertible rival: the Mazda MX-5 Miata (No. 9). That’s a bit funny when you consider the 124 is built by Mazda under contract at the Japanese automaker’s Hiroshima plant, and in fact shares the same basic Mazda-developed architecture.
The 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T has a starting MSRP of $34,100, allowing the two-door pony car to come in just below Driving Today‘s $35k cap, and making it the most affordable V8 model in the US pony car segment. It’s propelled by a 375-horsepower/410-lb-ft 5.7L Hemi V8 paired with either an eight-speed TorqueFlite automatic or a good old six-speed manual.
Down on power but certainly not lacking in thrills, the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth is powered by a turbocharged, 164-horsepower/184-lb-ft four-cylinder engine displacing just 1.4 liters, mated to a six-speed auto or six-speed manual. That output is just marginally greater than what you’d get with a standard, non-Abarth Fiat 124 Spider, but it’s all the other performance equipment – the Bilstein dampers, mechanical limited-slip differential, and optional Brembo brakes – that makes the upgrade worthwhile.
The Fiat 500e has none of the performance appeal of either of the above, relying instead upon its charming classical styling and zero emissions to attract the attention of Driving Today‘s staff. The car, which FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne once asked consumers not to buy as the automaker loses money on each sale, does have 111 horsepower on tap, plus instant electric torque for gratifying launches.
“From a pure electric vehicle, to a classic two-seat sports car, to what has to be the best muscle car bargain on the planet, FCA is offering some of the coolest cars out there,” says Driving Today Contributing Editor Jack R. Nerad. “The Fiat 500e is the cheekiest EV on the street; the Fiat 124 channels the best aspects of the traditional sports car, and then there is the Dodge Challenger R/T and its beefy HEMI V-8. Each one of them is cool.”