The Italian flair for high performance luxury cars was never more evident than in 1981 when Fiat released the second major facelift of the 132 model, the wonderful Argenta.
At the time it was Fiat's Australian flagship, and for good reason. The new model was bristling with modern technology, and was brimming with high equipment levels (automatic transmission being standard as an example).
Most importantly though, the Argenta was the first Fiat to be sold in Australia with the fuel injected version of the renowned 2.0 liter twin cam motor. Running a compression ratio of 9.0:1, it developed a credible 122 bhp @ 5300 rpm.
The Argenta was also the first Fiat to come to Australia equipped with the company's then very advanced fuel saving technology - the result of a multi-million dollar research program undertaken by the company. These developments included the Digiplex electronic ignition control system and the fuel injection cut-off system.
This system, which incidentally was developed in collaboration with Ferrari
constantly monitored the engine performance and fuel consumption, and automatically adjusted the operating requirements to suit - Fiat claiming a resultant 10% fuel saving on the city cycle.
The fuel injection cut-off mechanism stopped the delivery of fuel to the injectors completely when the driver released the acelerator pedal, and could reduce petrol consumption by up to 5% in all deceleration stages. The Argenta featured the best average fuel consumption of class rivals, it being 9.75 liters per 100 kms - the Renault 20TS being the next best at 10 liters per 100 kms.
So much attention to making the Argenta fuel efficient did not mean the engineers sacrificied performance.
The three-speed automatic was smooth and superbly matched to the new injected powerplant, providing effortless
changes without affecting performance - a top speed of 170 km/hour being easily obtained. Not bad when you consider the Argenta was a fully loaded medium sized car being propelled by a 2.0 liter engine - it lugging around standard kit such as air-conditioning, stereo/cassette, central door locking, power steering, electric front windows, full instrumentation and an adjustable steering column.
The interior of the Argenta had an air of luxury befitting the most prestigous of sedans. The trim applied to the seats, doors and headlining was elegant, and the Argenta's passengers could make good use of the large amount of head and leg room. Even the boot was huge by class standards. Safety features included a heated rear window, head restraints adjustable for both height and angle, a door-ajar warning lamp, reflectors to all doors, halogen headlights and servo-assisted brakes and, from 1984, an anti-roll bar mounted to the rear axle.
Argenta's bound for Australia were available in only four colors, white, metallic silver, metallic blue and metallic beige.
In other countries, there was a larger engine line-up on offer, including a 1.6 liter petrol producing 90 hp (67 kW) 1585 cc, a 2.0 liter petrol with 113 hp (84 kW) 1995 cc and a 2.5 liter diesel
with 75 hp (56 kW) 2435 cc.