I'm not the kind of guy who spends a lot of time wandering the boulevards of Beverly Hills. In fact, I don't think I had ever been there before the recent Fiat media event introducing the all-new 2016 500X crossover. I may have skirted this community on some previous carmaker ride and drive, but if so, I don't remember it. But then my memory isn't all that it used to be.
Fiat put us up at the trendy Mr. C Beverly Hills. This is an accommodation both upscale and a bit odd. The dominating art lining its public spaces and guest rooms is a series of large black-and-white candid photos of people you think you should recognize, but can't quite place them. That's because they aren't celebrities; rather, they are just civilians mugging for the camera. I guess that's one way to save a few bucks on the decorating.
Mr. C Beverly Hills is buffered from the city itself by three or four blocks of private residences. Upon arriving at the hotel, I took advantage of the early hour by hiking the few blocks into the heart of Beverly Hills in search of some craft beers. Strolling by Rodeo Drive, I eventually arrived at Bedford & Burns on Bedford Avenue just off of Wilshire Boulevard. There I had the bar and the attention of the bartender all to myself. Only three craft beers were on tap and one of those an IPA from the despicable Stone Brewery. That alone almost sent me packing. Calming down, however, I searched the bottled-beer list and found Moose Drool Brown Ale from Montana's Big Sky Brewery. A staple of my Eatons' Ranch visits over the years, I simply couldn't pass it up.
Dinner that evening was at the Smog Shoppe. This is a wedding venue. No one tied the knot, but the catered dinner was good. If memory serves, I think there were some drinks, too.
The next morning, we were introduced to the star of the show at an hour-long presentation. The 500X looms over Fiat's core 500 in size and cost. Offered in five trims, the 500X base prices range from $20,000 for the entry-level Pop to $27,100 for the Trekking Plus. All grades but the Pop can be armed with all-wheel drive.
Beneath the skin, the 500X shares mechanicals with the recently released Jeep Renegade. This isn't a bad thing. Renegade is a wonderfully competent off roader. Roomy and comfortable, the 500X relies on either a 160-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter engine. Both use a nine-speed automatic transmission to transfer output to the wheels.
AWD versions get a rear axle that completely disconnects when only two-wheel propulsion is required. That saves fuel. A grocery list of available and standard features provide as much safety and gee-whiz technology as you could want. Things like Uconnect, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and so forth are among the 500X's goodies.
We zipped around southern Calif. on our ride and drive. We cruised along the beach, as well as negotiating the foothills. This wasn't a particularly challenging drive, but it did include a healthy dose of twists and turns. The 500X really handles!
Lunch was back at 3Labs Warehouse in Culver City where we had soaked up 500X details with rapt attention earlier in the day. The lunch highlight was a food truck offering wood-fired pizza.
The 500X should raise Fiat's U.S. profile. Although the tiny 500 can be written off as one of many econoboxes, the 500X casts a much larger shadow, difficult to ignore. Italian styling plus a high level of utility will put the 500X on the consideration list of people who, up to this point, probably haven't given Fiat much thought.
Once returned from our 500X outing, Fiat kept us at the hotel where we had dinner, wrapping up the evening with cocktails in the hospitality suite. Not being much of a shopper, the lure of Beverly Hills is lost on me. However, rubbing elbows with the one percent is always entertaining.