limited number of Greek alphabetic letters, Lancia does not have many
to fail again. For 15 years, Lancia’s flagship models did not receive
funding, therefore the Thema was just a little more than a repackaged
Croma (although so was Saab 9000), the Kappa was a derivative of the
Alfa 164. That saved cost, and allowed the cars to be priced lower than
equivalent BMW and Mercedes, but also hurt their competitiveness. The
might work in the 80s, but no longer worked for the Kappa. Say, if a V6
Kappa was 15% cheaper than an equivalent BMW 5-series, which one would
you choose ?
said, brand image is increasingly important for large cars. No one
the likes of Granada or Safrane anymore. They want something looking
and have a premium brand sticking on the bonnet. Fiat also wants to
Lancia its premium brand. After the failure of Kappa, it finally
that building a premium brand requires decent development budget and
control to production cost. They can no longer build another
luxury car. They must start from a flagship model, making it as
to feel as German rivals to change people’s perception to the brand.
without a realistic price to attract people into Lancia showrooms, no
will know the improvement made on the new car. Therefore they must find
way to keep price lower than rivals without losing money. Again, the
of achieving this is to share engines and transmissions with Fiat and
Romeo, while leaving the chassis - which is decisive to the driving
of a car - unique.
the next Greek alphabetic letter to Kappa, in Lancia’s dictionary, is
From concept to production, Thesis took a long time to take shape. Its
concept car, Dialogo, was reported by AutoZine in sometime around 1997
as I remember. Like the final production car, it was penned by American
designer Michael Robinson, now moved to head Fiat Design Center. The
emphasis one thing: classics. Everyone should notice its big grille
in front of sculpted bonnet, and the front wings clearly separate from
the engine compartment. Does it look like a pre-war classic car?
PT Cruiser might applied such retro design earlier, but Thesis has it
cleanly without compromise. You can see its bonnet and front wings
smoothly towards the bumper. The whole thing is so clean, so creamy
so elegant. Elegance is also enhanced by the diamond-shape headlights,
the laser-cut-looking assembly gap between bonnet and bumper, and the
lines separating the front wings and bumper. Turn 90°, side profile
is much more conventional. Turn to its tail, you will notice it looks
similar to Rover 75, with the trunk lid slip towards the tail.
the Lancia has a unique LED taillights shaped as a vertical stripe. It
looks cool and elegant. It looks expensive. The first test has
Thesis is built on a unique platform which won’t be used on other cars
in Fiat group. This is strange, considering Fiat was the inventor of
sharing. Today, the Italian company is also the first car maker
platform sharing and enters the age of modular space-frame chassis.
by Fiat Multipla (the strange MPV), the company’s space-frame
allows the chassis to be tailored to different cars, with flexible
and flexible mountings for components to enable virtually unlimited
steel space-frame chassis of Thesis measures 4.9 meters in length, very
long indeed. For instance, a Mercedes E-class is 100mm shorter.
is less impressive. At 2803mm it equals to Volvo S80 but shorter than
E-class and 5-series. However, as Thesis is front-wheel-drive, just
the Volvo, it spends the wheelbase more efficiently to cabin room than
the rear-drive Mercedes and BMW. In terms of space, the Thesis is of
more spacious than Alfa 166 and Peugeot 607, but it does not break any
new ground either, because most other rivals are already very spacious.
While space race is no longer a thing customers ask for, quality
should be the first priority. In the Thesis cabin, you will see really
expensive materials covering everywhere, such as leather, Alcantara,
and some understated real wood inserts. The cast-magnesium center
is another quality job. This is where it can beat any Volkswagen group
cabins - the solid feel of cup-holder sliding out of the magnesium
The big and soft seats are also unrivalled for their comfort. Well,
just inferior to Renault Vel Satis.
talk about equipment, but because this is a strong card of Thesis we
go through once. First of all, the front seats have heating,
and massager incorporated while rear passengers enjoy their own climate
control. Then, Lancia said there are a total of 54 CPUs in the car,
variety functions such as memory customized settings, keyless entry and
start, electric door-opening-and-closing, radar cruise control and ESP.
And then there is a clever information and control system called
This has been launched in Alfa 147 and Fiat Stilo, but the group’s most
luxurious flagship gets even more functions. Through the LCD screen on
center console, you can activate phone, TV, audio (via the 11 speakers
Bose Hi-Fi, by the way), navigation and a telematic information service
which help you to find routes, hotels, restaurant etc. via conversation
with real human. In case you don’t like to pay attention to the screen
during driving, you can use voice control instead.
size and lots of equipment leads to a heavy kerb weight - from 1680kg
the base 2.4-litre to 1750kg of range-topping V6. It is more than 100kg
heavier than equivalent BMW and Mercedes. I would have liked to see
powerful engines, but because Lancia cannot afford to develop its own
has to rely on the group’s existing engines. These consist of a couple
of Super Fire inline-5, a 2.4-litre JTD turbo diesel, a 3.0 V6 from
Romeo and an Isuzu 3.0 V6 turbo diesel. The fastest is the 215hp Alfa
but even that can just accelerate from 0-60mph in 8.7 seconds.
the comfort bias of Thesis, engine is perhaps the most appropriate area
to compromise with cost concern.
base Super Fire engine is a 2.4-litre, with VVT, 2-stage variable
and balance shaft to generate 170hp and 167lbft. Despite of 6-speed
gearbox, it is still painfully slow.
up is another Super Fire engine. Basically a detuned version of the
Fiat Coupe. Displacing 2.0-litre, mildly charged by a light-pressure
to deliver 185hp and 227 lbft. It also has balance shafts and VVT. The
turbo even gets variable nozzle. The extra torque gives it much
overtaking ability than the 2.4.
JTD is still 2-valve per cylinder. But there is nothing wrong with
injection, VTG turbo and intercooler. It produces 150hp and 225lbft in
a less refined way than BMW 520d.
might remember the Isuzu V6 - it is sold to Saab 9-5 and Renault Vel
3.0 V6 is best of the range. At 194 lbft, it is not very torquey.
in terms of smoothness and eagerness it is lovely. Beautiful vocal in
tradition. Were it quieter, it would have suited the luxurious manner
Thesis. It mates with a 5-speed automatic with Tiptronic-style manual
Shift quality is smooth and responsive enough.
rides on unique suspensions. The front are 5-link suspensions, which is
said to allow virtual steering axle to be as close as possible to the
center, thus benefit steering accuracy and response. Rear suspensions
a new design called "multiple-arm" suspensions. Each consists of
upper and lower arms, a cast iron pillar and a steel beam. It is said
allow greater degree of freedom thus benefit bump absorption. There is
also an adaptive damping called "Skyhook", similar to the one using by
motorway, the Thesis’ 5mm-thick glazing and sound insulation work
to keep wind and tyre noise out of the cabin. It is so quiet that the
of Alfa V6 become obvious. The chassis feels solid, free of rattles and
shake. The ride is exceptional supple. Skyhook deals remarkably with
surfaces and even pot holes. The suspension setting bias towards the
side, more like a traditional Jaguar instead of an Italian car. German
saloons ride far firmer.
trade off is handling agility. At 8/10 effort, the Thesis handles
It changes direction without reluctance, it resists roll well and
bags of grip. However, what separate a good driver’s car from an
one is the last couple of tenths, and here you can see the Thesis
Push harder, and you won’t have confidence in its light yet isolated
The car turns into understeer quicker than German saloons, with ESP
gently to correct understeer while reducing throttle.
if we judge Thesis by the standard of driver’s car, we will be wrong.
is tuned to be a comfortable luxurious car - to please Lancia’s
or to distinguish it from German cars. Lancia’s intention is very
from the styling, from the cabin, from the refinement and from the ride
quality you can see this is a pure comfortable car. Having understood
we will applause for its fine handling in most conditions. Compare with
Japanese and Korean executive sedans, Thesis is still recognizably a