2.0 20v Turbo LE
1998... the year of the big test. Would there be a market for a super-refined version of the Fiat Coupe? The '96 20v Turbo versions were fairly successful and Fiat decided to do a little market research...
The Fiat Coupe Limited Edition was born in July '98. Featuring a range of stylistic, functional and otherwise performance-wise enhancements, would the public be seduced by the LE?
The trick was to attract people by positioning the LE as a collectors' item. Each one would feature a plaque with the production number on. No-one actually knows how many were made. The latest number I know of is 1471. And then in the UK there was the big discussion about the whole 'Limited' thing. Some journalist told the world only 400 would be made. Later it turned out this was not true: it was the number of LE's Fiat initially promised to the UK. More a 'we are planning to bring at least 400' but no definite 'and nothing more'.
But there's more myths surrounding the car. LE number one had been rumoured to be owned by a certain Michael Schumacher for three months. In the end, one of our members got the chance to ask the man himself, but he said he seems to remember it was a red one - so the Crono Grey LE 0001 drops off the list.
With the LE came a bodykit. The LE got bodycoloured side skirts and front spoiler extensions. But there's more differences between a Turbo and an LE...
With various parts getting a titanium look it's easy to tell a Limited Edition. Side mirrors, rear light surrounds, fuel filler cap, wheels and dashboard strip. Front grille and headlight mountings also get a grey colour. A grey center console was an option in some countries. Some like it, some don't. The thing is: it's different from all other Coupe models, and that's the thing LE owners are looking for: a special car with a special twist.
Technical changes? Yes! The brakes get an upgrade. No change in size, and you wouldn't call the Brembo's that are now laquered red an upgrade, but the cross-drilled front brake discs do make a difference. Initial bite is a bit better, but the most important thing is the holes let out the gas formed when braking, which prevents fading and adds a bit more force to braking manouvres.
Setting forth the retro elements there's one in the LE that you get to touch each and every time you drive it. The red starter button. You no longer turn the ke - you press the button. Seen before in some Ferrari's and older race-cars this makes the car feel special. Look at the faces of the people you take along when you reach for the starter. Great! And it was one of the first buttons that came with a protection circuit: you can press the button as long as you want or even when the engine is already running, it won't do any harm. Also, you no longer have to shut the ignition off should you happen to stall. Just press the button.
Okay, everyone admits... the standard Coupe seats aren't very sporty. They're alright, but you don't get the supercar feeling. So anatomical seats were just an idea away. And not just any: Recaro's with red dyed leather. The entire interior received some red insets by the way: doors, steering wheel, handbrake, gear lever,... Even the seat belts are red. And on the outside, the 20v Turbo logo on the B-pillar got 'infected' too.
The speedometer got updated with a reading up to 280km/h (175miles per hour). Optimistic? The new 6-speed gearbox didn't actually bring a higher top speed possible but made cruising more comfortable.
...and then there's the pedals and footrest. The Sparco pedals provide better grip through rubber 'dots' and a larger surface. The larger accelerator pedal provides for improved tip-heeling.
Under the bonnet? You can't believe the Fiat designers still found space for a strut brace. Providing better turn-in and tight cornering behaviour, the metal bar between the suspension supports is there to please our fast selves. And the red colour is continued in the 'Testa Rossa' too: the rocker and coil covers are... red, just like in a Ferrari.
2.0 20v Turbo LE specs
* Acceleration figures measured carrying 2 people + 20 kg luggage.