Vespa Reviews

"Luxury scooter" is kind of oxymoronic, no? It's kind of like saying "powered sailboat" or "mandatory volunteer work." Scooters, after all, are the basic transportation of our powered two-wheeled world, a half-step up from a bicycle. Making a limited-edition, luxury version that costs three times competing models might seem an odd choice, like a limousine converted from a PT Cruiser. How nice could it be, really?

Well, it's not for everybody – which is why Vespa made just 3600 of the special 946 models for the 2014 model year. Vespa knows you'll roll your eyes, shake your head and maybe even spray some spittle on your iPad when you see that a 155cc scooter broaches five figures ($10,499, if you're crass enough to ask the price of things) – the most expensive Vespa ever – but the company didn't build the 946 to corner the market on 150s. Instead, it's a rolling artwork that may forever cement Vespa's place in history as the builder of the most stylish and desirable scooters of all time. And it's too late to dig up the rusty corpse of Lambretta to challenge it.

Vespa pretty much pulled out all the stops when it came to the 946, putting style and the display of technology at the front of the bus. The monocoque chassis – a hallmark of the Vespa – is labor-intensive to build, with 320 welds. The curves and shapes evoke the original D'Ascancio-designed 1946 MP6 prototype (hence the '946' designation), if not the original's size and simplicity. There are some aluminum panels bolted on, but the scooter's main structure is made of sheets of steel, just like the first prototypes.

The MP6 was beautiful, but it was also as crude as the 946 is leading edge. The smoky, anemic 98cc 2-stroke is long gone, replaced with the new-generation, clean-burning and fuel efficient port-injected, three-valve, SOHC 155cc 4-stroke Single also found in the Primavera and Sprint models. Vespa claims up to 117 mpg and 12.7 horsepower from this mill – good for a top speed of 57 mph. To tame that not-quite-a-baker's-dozen of ponies, the 946 is equipped with ASR electronic traction control – the first on a Vespa. Laugh all you want at the idea of equipping a vehicle with less power than a snowblower with traction control, but at least you won't weep uncontrollably when your body-and-fender man hands you an estimate for fixing dents after you dropped your $10,000 work of art turning left in a slippery intersection. Other high-tech touches include LED lighting and turnsignals, an LCD multifunction display and two-channel ABS brakes.

Braking and suspension is also a far cry from the early post-war Vespas in that the 946, like all modern Vespas, actually has functioning brakes and suspension. The front keeps that iconic aero-inspired single-sided link-arm and coil spring setup, but it's been refined and tuned so it actually does its job of keeping the front wheel on the ground with some efficiency. In back, a single horizontally-mounted, linkage-equipped shock and spring (adjustable for preload) do a decent job of managing the 346 pounds of elegantly styled bulk.

Technical details aside, let's drink in the beauty of the 946's design, shall we? Try this exercise: open one of Bob's photos of my white 2013 test unit to full-screen size. And just stare at it. Look at any one spot and see if you'd second guess the decision the designers made (no fair judging the USA-market turnsignals and reflectors, which are hideous and the result of bureaucratic meddling – Euro-market turnsignals are beautifully Frenched-in LED units, not cheap-o plastic dealybobs). The curves are swoopy and sexy, and there are so many little vintage details you could spend all day gazing at them: the vents, the round taillamp, the rubber grips on the floorboards, the stitched leather handgrips... it's a rolling Guggenheim exhibit. I thought how nice it would have been with an exposed tube handlebar like the original (not to mention the fender-mounted headlamp), but the aluminum bar cover makes sense – since the 946 is so much bigger than the MP6 and 98, a naked bar would have looked out of proportion.

Looking for somewhere to put your stuff? Keep looking – you won't find room for anything bigger than half a panini in the 946. There's no glove box, and flipping up the seat reveals the fuel filler for the 2.2-gallon tank and a small indentation containing a seat cover and small toolkit. There are mounts for a stylish, minimal chrome parcel rack on the tail section, and the 2014 'Bellissima' edition comes with it as standard equipment (as well as a buddy seat, to answer that question), and you could probably bolt a locking trunk to it, but that would be like hiring Kate Moss to be a caddy. There is a bag hook under the seat, but if you're going Christmas shopping you should probably find a better sleigh.

If you ride a scooter around, people tend to comment: "what kind of mileage are you getting?" or "my uncle had one of those!" So I was surprised to not get a lot of commentary from the civilian population, although moto and scooter enthusiasts loved the bike, sometimes overlooking actual vintage Vespas to gaze upon it. I blame it on living in the Bay Area, where the tech boom has inundated us with Teslas, Maseratis and other exotica.

Riding a vintage scooter in modern traffic conditions can be exciting. Sixty-year-old drum brakes might be made of Parmigianino Reggiano judging by their effectiveness, acceleration is glacial and the lights, blinkers and horn have all the reliability of a meth addict working in a pharmaceutical warehouse.

In contrast, riding the 946 is relaxing, the motor-scooter equivalent of a nice warm bath. Acceleration is stately by middleweight scooter standards, but still brisk enough to keep up with modern city traffic. The 946 is heavy – really heavy – but like all Vespas, it's nicely engineered and balanced, with humane steering geometry so it doesn't feel unstable or weird. It is a large bike with a high seat, so smaller folk may feel even smaller riding it – see the photos with 5’6” me riding. Like the handling, the brakes are also civilized – powerful and responsive, with well-engineered and unobtrusive ABS. Of course, they're limited by the 946's heftiness, but you're also not going that fast.

Yes, let's talk about the main flaw of the 946: it's about as slow as a $10,000 vehicle gets, high-end riding mowers excepted. Vespa claims a 57 mph top speed, and I think it actually goes a bit faster, maybe even 60 mph. I saw 67 indicated on the easy-to-read, fancy LCD speedometer (although it does take a long time to get there), and I kept thinking how great it would be if this beautiful bike had the 300 GTS motor so it could have as much go as show.

The 946 is all about show, but it goes, too. It looks so good parked it's almost a shame to ride it around. But riding it around is still smooth, pleasant and I never really needed more performance, even on the several trips I made around the Bay Area on fast-moving interstates. Stay out of the fast lane and you're fine – at 60-plus mph there's always somebody slower than you. It's also very comfortable, with a wide and well-padded seat and nice ergonomics with lots of room to move around and ease hot spots. Vespa claims 117 mpg, but I saw mileage in the 60s – pretty good for a freeway-capable steed. I think riding slowly at a steady speed you might see numbers closer to the claim, but with gas at $2.69 a gallon locally, who has the patience for that? With a 2.2-gallon tank, you can ride for a week for the price of a super burrito, or a month for the cost of an extra-large pizza with three toppings.

This is the part of the review where I say I should buy one, or maybe you should buy one, but that point is probably moot. Vespas is only selling 100 of these a year in the USA, so you probably can't buy one even if you do want to drop weekend-in-Monaco money on a 155cc scooter. If you do get one, you'll find a fine and functional ride, but no matter how well it works, you can be assured, the bar for scooter style and design has once again been moved by the designers and scooterists in Pontedera. And that's why the 946 is worth reading about. 



2015 Vespa GTS 300 Range First Look



Just over a year ago Motorcycle USA scooter contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin reviewed the 2013 Vespa GTS 300 Sport Special, finding it to be a fun, stylish and capable commuter with enough on tap to provide a memorable run through the twisties outside San Francisco. For 2015 Vespa has updated its GTS 300 range, which includes three versions– a standard, a GTS 300 Super and a GTS 300 Super Sport. Each boasts electronics improvements, updated suspension and braking systems as well as compatibility with the Vespa Multimedia Platform (VPM).

The peppy, 278cc Single remains unchanged from the version Ets-Hokin sampled, engineers choosing to zero-in on areas such as rider comfort and safety for the 2015 GTS 300's. At the top of the list of upgrades are new ABS and traction control systems, along with the adoption of Vespa’s ESS (Enhanced Sliding Suspension), a feature already included on other mounts in the company’s line-up such as the Primavera and the Sprint. The front shock absorber is now connected to the trailing arm with a hinged pin, rather than being bolted on rigidly as before, a design which helps cut sliding friction according to Vespa.

The digital instrument cluster is new and each GTS 300 now comes with a USB port in the leg shield back plate compartment, which can be used to charge a variety of electronic devices. Additionally, the GTS 300 range is now compatible with Vespa Multimedia Platform. VMP allows riders to connect a smartphone to the scoot and gather a wide variety of information, from speedometer and tachometer readings to average fuel consumption, battery voltage, engine power, torque and more. The Platform also includes maps, routes and points of interest, tire condition readouts and a parking locator.

Rider comfort is improved with an updated seat which features new padding and covering. Designers also increased the capacity of the under-seat storage area. The GTS Super and GTS Super Sport 300s get black, five-spoke wheels as well.

The 2015 Vespa GTS 300 will be available in Nero Vulcano and Grigio Dolomiti colorways, with beige saddles and chrome rear racks. The GTS 300 Super can be had in Nero Lucido, Montebianco and Blu Gaiola with black saddles/white piping. The GTS 300 Super Sport comes in Nero Abisso with orange graphics, a black saddle with orange piping. The standard GTS 300 and GTS 300 Super carry a price tag of $6599 while the GTS Super Sport will cost $6799.


Vespa has announced its 2013 line-up of scooters; 11 models ranging from the LX50 to the GTS 300 Super Sport SE. The changes coming in 2013 are mainly cosmetic upgrades to existing scoots, with a handful of limited edition units offered. All models available come with Vespa’s characteristic steel monocoque frame and trailing-link front suspension chassis and will begin arriving on dealer sales floors in late October.

The LX 50 and LX 150 i.e. models get new Aquamarine color options for 2013. The 150 also boasts upgraded graphics which, according to Vespa, are geared to “provide higher visibility in any condition.” The instrument panel on the LX 150 has also been spruced up and includes a speedometer, odometer, fuel level indicator, digital clock, direction indicators, low and high beams as well as engine oil and fuel reserve levels.

A limited edition LXV 150 i.e. will hit the market in 2013 as well, built to the same specs as the LX 150 i.e. but coming in two color options unavailable on the LX 150 – Siena Ivory and Espresso.


The S 50 Super Sport SE in Satin Black.
The S 50 Super Sport SE comes with more agressive styling in 2013, offering customers a more sporty look.

The S range, including the S 50 and S 150 i.e., received styling upgrades as well, with new horn covers located on the front shield, improved instrument panel graphics and a matte black finish on the mudguard which replaces the chrome of earlier models. The S 50 and LX 50 share the same specs, as do the S 150 i.e. and LX 150 i.e.

There will also be two limited edition 50 and 150 Sport SE models that are decked out with more aggressive styling, such as a red front spring and sport graphics and both are only available in Satin Black.

Moving up the displacement ladder, the GTV 300 i.e. claims 21.1 horsepower from its fuel-injected QUASAR single-cylinder 4-stroke. It comes with two dual effect shock absorbers with adjustable preload on the back and has front and rear luggage racks standard. As with the LXV150 i.e., the GTV comes in Siena Ivory and Espresso. The GTS 300 i.e. spec sheet lines up with the GTV, and the GTS comes in Midnight Blue as well as Bronze.

The GTS 300 i.e. Super receives similar sport upgrades as the S range sport models, including the red front spring, and can be purchased in either Dragon Red or Montebianco White. The GTS 300 i.e. Super Sport SE Limited Edition rounds off the 2013 line, matching up mechanically with the 300 i.e. Super but coming in Satin Black with all the graphic sport upgrades as the S Sport models.

With the exception of the GTV 300 i.e., which was made available late September, all of Vespa’s 2013 models will hit the market late October, 2012. Individual MSRP’s for the 2013 Vespa lineup are listed below.


The LXV 150 i.e. comes in Siena Ivory  pictured  or Espresso.
The LXV 150 i.e. comes in Siena Ivory (pictured) or Espresso.


Vespa is getting into the holiday spirit with a interesting promotion. Or at least and interestingly-named promotion – Hello Beautiful. The gist is purchasers of Vespa LX 150, S 150 or LXV 150 scooters will get a $500 discount off the MSRP, as well as a free two-year extended warranty worth $350. But wait there’s more… Picking up a new Vespa will score riders a copy of the Wii fitness sensation - EA SPORTS Active. Read the following press release from Vespa USA for campaign details.


Vespa S 150
Looking for that special holiday gift? Want to make it something they'll actually use? Vespa has the perfect gift for you!

One-day Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals may be history but Vespa has a special offer with permanent benefits for folks who like to save year-round. Vespa USA’s new Hello Beautiful campaign outfits a brand-new Vespa LX 150, S 150 or LXV 150 with season-exclusive goodies that not only saves buyers $500 off the MSRP, but adds benefits designed for peace of mind and healthy living for a total savings of over $900.

From now through February 28, 2010, consumers who add one of these three most popular Vespa scooter models to their shopping lists will not only keep more cash on hand for other winter necessities but they can also take home a great product that’s as fun to keep as it is to regift. In addition to the instant $500 purchase price savings, buyers also receive a free two-year extended warranty (a $350 value) and a copy of EA SPORTS Active, the #1 rated interactive fitness product for the Wii, to help keep bodies in tip top shape year-round. Whether a longtime two-wheel enthusiast, first-time buyer or fitness fan, the Hello Beautiful offer is a unique opportunity to join the vibrant Vespa community.

A Vespa really is the gift that will keep on giving 365 days a year – whether you keep it in your own garage or wrap it up for someone else. Owning a Vespa is a bit like investing in a piggy bank - the savings just keep adding up. Swap out just one of your cars for a Vespa and you could save an average of $6000 a year. Score Italian style points that never go out of fashion (and cost less than most designer clothes). Save time – one of our most precious commodities – by using your Vespa around town or commuting. Bank fuel savings - some Vespas can get up to 100mpg and with an average gas tank of 2.3 gallons, that’s a lot of miles before you have to fill-up at the pump. Take up less space thanks to Vespa’s compact body style, and take the stress out of finding a parking space. And, because a Vespa produces 72% less CO2 than the average car, you’re not only having fun, you’re more environmentally friendly.




The GTSs styling is modern  but unmistakable as a Vespa. Che bella!
The 2010 Vespa GTS300 is an evolution of the GTS250 model and is the largest capacity Vespa ever made.

Florence, Italy, April 23, 1946: Noon

A Piaggio & Cie. representative walks into the patent office and files an application for a “motorcycle with a rational arrangement of organs and elements, with a frame with a mudguards and covers concealing all mechanical parts.” Rational? Isn't Florence in Italy? What gives? Italian engineering produces beauty, performance, a fat pricetag and all the reliability of Robert Downey Jr. I didn't even know there was a word in Italian for “rational” until I looked it up for this article (razionale, which I previously, and not unreasonably, assumed was some kind of pasta, as in “I'll have the squid-ink razionale with fennel”).

Of course, the birth stories of most Italian motorcycle companies usually begin with a pair of colorful brothers (“born in Bologna in 1911, the Tarontina boys were well-known in the bicycle racing scene and by 1934, were racing a hand-built 125cc prototype in the Mille Miglia”) starting out from a shed behind the prosciutto-curing room. But that wasn't the story with Vespa. Piaggio, a large munitions and heavy manufacturing concern, needed a cheap transportation product to sell to Italy's post-war masses. The company had mechanical engineers, designers, skilled workers, a factory - okay, a large, rubble-filled field where there used to be a factory - and capital. All that was needed was a decent design, something a little more practical and substantial than early scooters, which were seen more as toys for wealthy nitwits than practical transportation. Yes practical: post-war Italy was marked by chronic unemployment, horrible roads and a youthful, restless population. Nobody could afford a car, but they needed to get around, and for that they needed cheap, tough, dependable and (since it was Italy) stylish wheels.

Fuel gauge  temperature gauge and clock round out the instrumentation. Anti-theft ignition is very effective  and standard.
Fuel gauge, temperature gauge and clock round out the instrumentation. Anti-theft ignition is very effective, and standard.

Piaggio's aeronautical past revealed itself in designer Corradino D'Ascanio's (who developed several early helicopter prototypes) new scooter with its swoopy cowlings and landing-gear-like front end. But that's what he knew: “With no knowledge of motorbikes, I thought about making a vehicle that I could use without having to be a motorcyclist,” said D'Ascanio in a 1949 radio interview. That must have been the winning formula, because it wasn't long before “Vespa” (it was dubbed Vespa, or “wasp,” because of its buzzing engine note or slim waist and bulbous tailsection, depending on which scooter nerd you talk to) and “scooter” were interchangeable terms, like “Kleenex” and “Facial Tissue” or “Microsoft” and “Pain in the Ass.”

Orange County, California, 2010: Noon(ish)

The GTS300 is held together by a monoque chassis that makes for good handling and maneuverability.

Sixty-four years later, and the brilliance of a non-rider's idea - to build a motorcycle for non-riders - is still readily apparent in Piaggio & Co.'s Vespa 300 GTSie. Introduced last year, it's an evolution of the GTS250, and is the largest-capacity Vespa ever made. And the irony is that the quick-and-dirty post-war engineering, intended to get Italy back on its wheels as quickly and cheaply as possible, is now the hallmark of the luxury scooter. At $6199, the 300 GTSie is pricey for its category.

Sixty-four years along, Vespas are still built with that steel monocoque chassis: simple steel stampings welded together to form a rigid structure, unlike the tube-steel and plastic construction of your typical 21st-century scooter. All that metal makes the scoot rigid, good handling, expensive-looking and pricey to repair dents or dings. The swingarm is also the engine/drive unit, and it's suspended by dual preload-adjustable shocks. In front is that distinctive single-sided front...suspension...thing...with a double-acting hydraulic damper. A solo 220mm disc, two-piston caliper and braided-steel line handles the braking action up front, and another 220mm disk is in back. To live up the the “Super” badging - a moniker that harkens back to Vespa's sport-touring Super Sprint models of 1965 - there's sporty-looking trim on the front shield, engine cowl and suspension, as well as two-tone alloy wheels.


The Supers modern  liquid-cooled  four-valve  fuel-injected Single means hills  no matter how steep  just arent a problem.
The Super's modern, liquid-cooled, four-valve, fuel-injected Single means hills, no matter how steep, just aren't a problem.

That stuff may look familiar to the ghost of D'Ascanio, but the motor probably wouldn't. It's as modern and clean-burning as an internal-combustion mill can be, a far cry from the smoky, buzzy two-strokes of the Vespas of yore. It uses a chain to drive a single overhead camshaft, operating four valves. It's also fuel-injected and water-cooled, catalyzed, sanitized and it probably has the Pope's blessing as well (calls and prayers to the Vatican were unanswered as of press time). It's the biggest motor Vespa has put in a vehicle of late: 278cc, 34cc bigger than the GTS250 or GTV300 (no, I don't know why the 250 is 244cc and the GTV300 is also 244cc). That's good for a claimed 22 horsepower pumping through the no-shifting-required CVT, better than some dual-sport motorcycles of similar displacement I could name but won't because I like getting invited to press events.

This luxury scooter gets luxury appointments: wide, cushy seat with lots of room for two, underseat storage for two half-helmets,* a digital clock, a locking glovebox, fuel gauge and fire-engine-red paint that's as deep and glossy as a wet Jolly Rancher candy. Electric starting and built-in anti-theft electronics are also standard. But the real luxury feature on this Vespa - all Vespas, really - is the exceptional build quality, fit, finish and feel of all the components. It's a luxury vehicle, something that can't be faked with fancy names or chrome-plated plastic trim.

Luxury vehicles have to perform and handle better than budget ones, and the Super delivers. The motor's new displacement and tuning are readily apparent. Twisting the throttle makes all 22 horsies leap right out and gets the 326 lbs (claimed dry weight!) of Italian metal moving down the road pretty briskly. Keeping up with any kind of city traffic is no problem at all, uphills, downhills, passenger, cargo, whatever. This is one scoot that will never hold up traffic. On divided freeways, the GTS gets up to its 65-70 mph cruising speed very easily, but past that it struggles a little—and maybe needs a long downhill slope—to get to its 80 mph (claimed) top speed. And for all that performance, fuel economy is still quite acceptable: I saw around 60 mpg in my very unscientific mpg testing, which means you can expect 120-150 miles from its 2.4 gallon tank.


The Super corners as well as anything with a purse hook has a right to do.
Chrome grab rails replace the luggage rack found on the standard GTS300.
The Super corners as well as anything with a purse hook has a right to do. Chrome grab rails replace the luggage rack found on the standard GTS300.

This is no continent-clobbering maxi-scooter: it's designed to stylishly, efficiently do what 95 percent of scooters need to do; get around town and maybe cruise confidently on winding two-lane roads. The Super's handling is...super. The long wheelbase and radial 12-inch Pirelli tires keep things stable and confident, and the suspension is well-calibrated, soaking up bumps and keeping the rubber stuck to the pavement despite the challenges the unsprung mass of the powertrain unit presents. The brakes work well, too, with good feedback and no fade, even after an hour of photo passes up and down a very twisty canyon road. Steering is very fast and easy, but mid-corner stability is remarkable; you can carry lots of corner speed, like on a much bigger motorcycle, without the bike feeling flighty or indistinct as you roll on throttle. The only limit is cornering clearance - the centerstand tang can drag if you lean too far over - but something has to remind you you're on a scooter.

Around town, the big Vespa doesn't give up much to its smaller cousins. It's very maneuverable, with a tight turning circle, and the step-through design means that even if your stumpy little legs can't touch the ground, you can still pop forward and paddle the bike in and out of a parking space. The centerstand is well-balanced, making parking the bike a snap (the sidestand works well too), and the underseat stowage is voluminous. No luggage rack, but you can buy that and a locking trunk as an accessory.

Dual disc brakes with braided-steel lines deliver sure  safe stops  two-tone wheels deliver the latest in Euro automotive fashion.
Dual disc brakes with braided-steel lines deliver sure, safe stops, two-tone wheels deliver the latest in Euro automotive fashion.

Vespa has come full circle. It's gone from building basic transportation to get Italy's post-war masses on the road to selling second luxury vehicles to well-off urban sophisticates who want to have fun while looking good and using less fuel. Sure, a motorcycle will have better performance-to-dollar ratio, but it's not a scooter, is it? Scooters are different, and riding a Vespa is like riding no other scooter: the distinctive frame and suspension give it the unmistakable character you'd expect from a limited-production, Italian-made vehicle. Now $6199 for the fastest, best-handling, biggest Vespa made...seems like a deal for the right person, although you can certainly find quality bikes for far less. Those products might even be better performing and offer more value. But like a guy who's been only driving a Mercedes for 40 years, if you want a Vespa, you want a Vespa. I didn't ask for facial tissue: I want some Kleenex for my delicate schnoz!

Were Vespa a person, it'd be busy purchasing golf shoes in anticipation of retirement. No such luck for Signore Vespa. Sixty-four years on, D'Ascanio's invention is still doing exactly what it promised: getting non-motorcyclists (and enlightened motorcyclists) out into the fresh air, enjoying the benefits of life on two wheels. And something tells me that even if the future brings electricity, fuel cells or even atom-powered hoverbikes, there will still be fashionable sorts riding their Vespas in 2046.

Thanks to “60 years of the Vespa” by Girogio Sarti and Piaggio Company's “Vespa: Italian Style for the World” for the historical information.

FOOTNOTE: *But no cats! There's a warning sticker under the seat with the “NO” symbol superimposed over a cute little cartoon cat and “NO PETS” written under it. Since I used to sell Vespas, I often wonder about that sticker: after all, when you see something like that, maybe with the warning about using your hairdrier in the bathtub (which I'll bet, if done carefully, can be a tremendous time-saver), it's on there because somebody, somewhere, tried to do that thing.

So I asked Erik Larson, Piaggio USA's Director of Technical Service about the sticker, not expecting a serious answer, but he told me a story about a dinner with Piaggio's international compliance people—who make sure Piaggio's products meet all the legal and political requirements of the markets they are being sold in - during which Erik told them the apocryphal tale of a manufacturer of home appliances that was sued because a little old lady dried her poodle off in her microwave with predictably bad results for the animal. The next week, a shipment of the NO PETS stickers arrived from Italy with no explanation, and they've been placed in every Vespa's underseat compartment since. I don't know why the sticker doesn't show a poodle, though: maybe Italians don't like dogs.


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