Driving impression Lancia Flavia: the good life in open air
We’ve already written a lot about the new Lancia Flavia; there was the introduction in beautiful Sicily and we were also invited by Lancia to go take a look at this cabriolet in Turin. The only thing we haven’t done this summer is drive it ourselves. Because Lancia decided to launch the Flavia, the first Italian cabriolet in a long time, on all markets simultaneously, we took the chance to look for a nearby Lancia-dealership. Luckily, the weather in our rather wet country (Netherlands) decided to cooperate.
Let’s start at the beginning. Back in 2011, when we first heard that the Chrysler 200 (open and closed version) was in the running for a European market introduction as a Lancia, the true ‘Lancist’ in us got really hurt. For some odd reason even more than with the Thema and the Voyager. Our visit to the stand in Geneva seemed more like a hospital visit… We then realized that, though a visit to intensive care was no longer necessary, this beautiful brand was still suffering. Eventually, the management in Turin decided that the closed sedan would be a bad choice and gave its blessing to the, what was then called, ‘Flavia Cabrio’. These reborn variants of the unfortunate Sebring are doing very well in the US by the way. Improvements in quality and refinement are the cause of this. The new 200 got a terrific start thanks to an epic commercial with Eminem, in which the productivity of Detroit was praised. The impoverished city is making its way back and the big factory where this car is being built is working at full strength again, while up to 2009 it seemed like it was taking its last breath.
The new Lancia is looking for a comparable evolution, though the selling of enormous amounts of cars is never, and never was, really the intention. The old brand just needs to be profitable and keep on generating unique creations meant for a specific audience, exactly what it has been doing for the past 106 years. The fusion with Chrysler was a big step in the right direction, with the other direction being a dead end. The first mission was to recreate a proper dealer network and a complete model range. Lancia was already planning to build a spacious cabriolet, even before 2009 (a CC named Aurelia was mentioned), but it was never feasible. That’s why the Flavia which we drove, with the stunning looking blue color of Lancia called ‘Blackberry’, is all in all still a suiting option for those looking for a Lancia.
Of course one swallow doesn’t make a summer, certainly not in the current economic climate. Yet once you’re actually driving the open Flavia, the pieces do seem to fall into place. One reason is that the car has a truly superb ride quality, something we already know from several Lancias from the past. The FFF Lancias (Fulvia, Flavia and Flaminia) from the 50’s and 60’s were especially known for their excellent level of comfort and not as much for their performance (apart from the Fulvia Coupe HF of course). The name Flavia thus fits it rather well, though the DNA from Detroit is also more than just present. The old Flavia, by the way, used to exist as a ‘Convertible’ from Vignale, designed by Giovanni Michelotti. This car was in the showroom of Lancia from 1963 to 1967.
The ‘smoothness’ of this car is the result of a good combination of several factors; the pleasant six-speed automatic, the very accurate steering and the brilliant way this Flavia just seems to suck up all the road irregularities (not too hard, nor too soft). Yet also the 2.4l petrol engine, producing 170bhp, does its work pretty well. Bear in mind though, you won’t be taking this car around the Nürburgring; at higher speeds the bodywork has some difficulties handling the sideward forces, but the electronics (ESC) do their work just fine and you never feel hopeless when it comes to power. A pleasant surprise was the maneuverability of this 4,9m long car and the fact that it never really feels log nor heavy, despite its weight of 1856 kilos. It made us happy to find out that the four cylinder engine from Michigan seems to be a modern block which can easily take on the job after all. It lets the driver rev quite easily and even produces a nice sound, without ever getting too loud. The consumption also doesn’t disappoint, especially when driving at a constant speed on highways. Still, the Flavia isn’t a fast car with a turbo, and that’s noticeable when really jamming the throttle. Even the transmission acts like it doesn’t know what to do for a few moments, a bit like suddenly interrupting a relaxed holiday in the sun. What did, however, catch our attention was that the Flavia stays at speed for a strikingly long time when not touching the throttle. The 16v with variable valve timing will thus be able to surprise those who were counting on a V6, as it allows one to cruise comfortably. The new Lancia cabrio has some very decent brakes as well, which are clearly visible through the two-tone 18” rims.
The Flavia is a very comfortable cabriolet and travel car, with a chic appearance (which we noticed from the reactions of several pedestrians). Hereby the car proves to be a valuable novelty within the Lancia-range; a very pleasant (and honestly not expected) surprise. The right color, the soft top and the beautiful – it’s growing on us – grill with suiting headlights do seem to fit the ‘La Dolce Vita’ feeling from the brochure. The latter was thus more than just a weak attempt to give an American car an Italian feeling. The folding-system of the roof also works really smooth, while the interior is luxurious and well-finished. The electronically adjustable leather seats are very comfortable and the Boston Acoustics Hifi with 6 speakers is a pleasure for your ears. Standard this car misses a few options though. The rear parking sensors, for example, is something we missed with the car’s long tail. Also the absence of a semi-automatic indicator, which comes in handy on highways, is a pity. The latter is probably something revealing the Flavia’s American roots.
The Lancia Flavia (official website) is available for sale now.