The Thesis, Lancia’s new flagship, is our family interpretation of the big prestige saloon theme. In other words, typically Italian craftsmanship and the ability to give a new face to cutting edge engineering.
Well-being is assured, for example, by using top-quality materials not merely for their appearance but also for the sensory reactions they arouse. On a more hi-tech note, the information and telematic technology on board the Lancia Thesis meets its occupants desires with immediacy because the machine adapts to man and not the other way round.
The Lancia Thesis is built for the most demanding market band, for customers’ who want to maintain complete mastery of in-car comfort and activities even when not at the wheel: from the arrangement of interior space to climate control and the use of tools communicate with the outside world and gain access to the media - for work or pleasure.
The new model slots into a segment that includes a select band of cars selected by the biggest Manufacturers to showcase the cream of present-day in-car technology.
The Thesis’s task, within this rarefied environment, is to repackage Lancia’s great heritage of creativity and constructional skill. Beginning with the Lambda, the first car in the world with a load-bearing body and independent front suspension, the Aprilia that boasted a Cd of 0.47 back in the early Thirties when the average figure for cars of the time was 0.60. The Aurelia concealed the first V6 engine ever fitted to a standard production car under its bonnet, while the Delta ’s technological superiority was confirmed by the six consecutive titles it won in the world rally championship. Cars that shine because they represent a blend of contemporary technological innovation and the sheer quality of an unmistakably élite lifestyle.
All current market surveys confirm a persistent demand for technology that is less soul-less than that currently on offer. There seems to be a need for warmth, higher levels of craftsmanship, greater attention to the individual. These trends are indicative of a more general movement to re-appropriate the art of living and contrive to be at peace with oneself. This is the philosophy that permeates the feelings of the new managerial class.
Lancia’s venerable chromosomes make it better than other brands at interpreting this new world of luxury. It is better equipped to respond to the needs of customers who know about technology but are also aware of the value of tradition; who demand product substance but also exclusivity and prestige.
The Lancia Thesis is a big luxury car that measures a little under five metres in length and displays certain motifs that bring part glories into the present: high front, long bonnet and an upturned wedge-shaped profile. These traits are, however, immediately offset by smooth curves and crisp corners combined in a completely new stylistic language.
A car of emotion that unhesitatingly rejects rationalism and visual sparseness in favour of a large, tall grille and diamond-shaped headlamps. The headlamps are separated by the grille and enfolded by sculpted, shapely wings.
The new integrated front end replaces the customary protruding bumpers to do away with the section that hangs over from the car body and the division of the front end into ’above’ and ’below’. The result is a new vertical division: wing, grille, wing. This imposing, distinctive motif is bound to become an obligatory point of reference for future Lancia cars from now on.
The side of the Lancia Thesis also features clean, uncluttered form. The side line starts from the front wing and runs unbroken along the car’s waistline from headlamp to tail-light. It therefore helps reinforce the limousine effect by lengthening the car.
The hunky, protective shoulders and well-proportioned front and rear overhangs help to increase the sensation of importance engendered by the car.
The sides and front reveal only the barest hints of chrome here and there. Here: a subtle thread framing the long, dark shape of the windows and two inserts to set off the door handles. There: the grille and triangular headlamp surround.
The well-proportioned, striking rear end brings all the lines and elements that form the Lancia Thesis to a satisfying conclusion.
When viewed from the rear, the integral bumper leaves room for vertical motifs. Most important of these are the fins that drop from the pillar and taper away to set off the subtle and innovative led tail-lights to perfection. By day, these look like two understated chrome decorations; by night they are red and orange stripes, both one centimetre wide that make the car unique and immediately recognisable even on the motorway.
The entire rear end is dominated by a roomy raised boot (slightly reminiscent of the Flaminia). This displays a transverse ridge that adds a touch of crispness to an otherwise flowing outline.
The environment is luxurious, generous and protective. An emotionally involving place. The Lancia Thesis passenger compartment is enfolding and created using soft Alcantara®, wool or leather to enfold the passengers in a reassuring embrace. The surfaces are full, clear-cut and even dynamic with edges that cut across the shapes to give the car character and vigour.
The facia is apparently supported by a central column. This separates the two front seats that have been set apart to make room for a high, broad armrest that both occupants can use simultaneously without getting in each other’s way. The technological brain of the Thesis is also housed in the same place: a seven-inch colour screen flanked on either side by switches and complemented underneath by a row of reconfigurable keys.
The front seats feature rounded, soft, comfortable shapes that ensure maximum comfort and the aesthetic appeal of a luxury environment. The elongated cushion is reminiscent of a first-class airline armchair. The central area is deliberately retro and makes the seats look as though they belong in your lounge.
Rear passengers also enjoy comfort and a satisfying sense of well-being because the seats are two true armchairs joined by curves and countercurves. The formula is the same as for the front seats, with saddle-shaped head-restraints that ensure outstanding comfort without affecting the driver’s view. This luxury saloon offers one of the best rear passenger room specifications in its segment thanks to its long wheelbase.
The top-quality material selection lays the emphasis on leather, ultra-soft Poltrona Frau hide and Alcantara®. Lancia has returned to wool with a vengeance for the seats and the central trim band that runs unbroken around the passenger compartment. An understated wooden insert adds an extra touch of class. Lastly, the central console and tunnel are made out of pressure cast magnesium. The resulting environment is made out of warm, exclusive, sophisticated materials that are a far cry from the cold, rational surfaces typical of other cars in this segment.
A top-class specification, therefore, for top-class motorists. The sort of people who can appreciate the tasteful monochromatic effect created by the materials. For example, the beige, grey or blue of the facia that recurs in the seats, door panels and even the floor carpet.
The Lancia Thesis instruments and controls are analogue as one would expect from an élite car. These feature large round, clear, three-dimensional faces with numbers that appear to float in space (the reference is to the Aurelia and Flaminia). One glance provides all the information required. The action is similar to consulting your wristwatch, where the accurate analogue hands tell you everything you want to know without having to decode a lot of figures. When the lights come on, the dashboard combines the simplicity of the past with ultra-new electroluminescent technology that makes the instruments easier to read by setting them against a soft blue background.
The Lancia Thesis also interfaces with its driver in an appealing, practical way: from instrument panel to central console. Here you can find a seven-inch colour screen flanked on either side by switches for direct access to the various menus and completed underneath by a row of reconfigurable keys. The keys change function according to the menu selected for user-friendly virtual communication. They are used to control CONNECT, the sophisticated integrated telematic system that connects users to the world of services offered by Targasys.
CONNECT offers something more than its competitors. In other words, the possibility of talking to a real live person. This person is a call centre operator who is ready to provide information, resolve problems and offer a wide range of services at any time. All you have to do to gain access to this new world of services is to press the green CONNECT key. Then you are in contact with one of the 750 operators employed at the Contact Centre in Arese. This veritable factory produces services and information 365 days a year. Motorists are just a phone call away from operators who speak their language (14 are already active), can help them find their way and give them information on traffic conditions and the weather en route to their destination. They can even recommend a restaurant and book a hotel. In the future, they will also be able to buy airline ticket for motorists. And, if necessary, they can send out a rescue vehicle. Someone who can guide you step by step to your destination, remind you of appointments and notify you of traffic changes. While still remembering to give the result of a match played by your favourite team.
The CONNECT system is really one of a kind in terms of the number of functions it offers and the quality of its services. Plus, Lancia Thesis customers can also choose one of two CONNECT specification levels, both with a 7" TFT colour graphic display.
The detailed range is as follows: CONNECT, that includes a Hi-Fi system with RDS radio, CD and tape player, trip computer, GSM phone with handsfree set, GPS module, voice commands and steering wheel controls, module with Targasys services and SOS for logging on to the Contact Centre and receiving assistance and information; the system can also handle an external CD-changer, where present. CONNECT NAV+ is the ultra-comprehensive system that offers all the above functions plus dynamic navigation using pictograms and maps, an atlas function and a CD-changer.
For a comfortable, stress-free drive, the Lancia Thesis also offers all the great little features that simplify life on board: smart window washing, follow me home lights, electric windows with anti-obstruction sensor and puddle lights. You can let your emotions be aroused while aboard the Lancia Thesis as well. Thanks to the high-fidelity, highly realistic music produced by the Bose system, designed to measure for the Lancia flagship by Bose, the US leader in the Hi-Fi sector. Suffice it to say that the Bose® engineers carried out more than 1200 measurements and recordings on the car and carefully chose all the parts of the stereo system. They then established the best possible speaker position in relation to the listeners with the aid of advanced design software.
Engines and gearboxes
The Lancia Thesis assures outstanding performance. The two litre engines, for example, are absolutely outstanding when compared with other engines of the same capacity offered by the competition. Car handling and agility are also important. Especially when you consider that a car just under five metres long with a weight to match has to work harder to achieve a good result.
The credit for this agility goes to the power unit as a whole because on all Lancia Thesis versions, this comprises a power unit offering high torque at low speeds with a gearbox with a high number of ratios. Five in the case of the sophisticated automatic transmission; six for the manual gearbox.
The decision to create a range of engines that are all multifractional (i.e. with 5 or 6 cylinders) was responsible for most of the results achieved in terms of lack of vibration, content, good timbre and smooth running.
The following table gives details of the four power units (three petrol and a Common Rail turbodiesel unit) that the Lancia Thesis will present to the market next spring.
The 2.0 20v Turbo Soft, in particular, is confirmation of Lancia’s engine building traditions: the brand has always achieved outstanding results with this engine capacity. On the Lancia Thesis, the thermodynamic efficiency of this power unit is combined with a smooth, gradual turbo action able to assure outstanding comfort with scintillating performance comparable to that of a far bigger aspirated engine.
The Lancia Thesis 2.0 20v Turbo Soft is for people who want a car of temperament without giving up the class, elegance and élite appeal of a prestigious, imposing, big-looking car. When equipped with this power unit, the Thesis offers extra punch and accentuates agility and handling to satisfy customers who have no intention of giving up on a fast drive.
If we were to sum up the 2.4 20v in a nutshell, we could say: the right capacity for the car and the most effective proportion of that capacity in terms of performance and also of smooth power and torque delivery. In other words, a 5 cylinder engine with the smooth running of a six cylinder and the fuel consumption of a four cylinder unit.
The Lancia Thesis 2.4 20v, is an interesting car because it offers satisfactory power and speed levels, all the brio required for vigorous take-off and pick-up and the ability to cover around 12 kilometres out of town on a litre of fuel.
This is an engine for more rational customers, people who look for the great comfort, luxury and well-being that only a great élite saloon can offer. Combined with the technical efficiency required to keep running costs down. All in all, it is the Lancia Thesis for someone who wishes to use their car every day for everything they do: whether it be long trips or going to work.
Now for the 3.0 V6 24v. This three litre engine of European capacity is perfect for the Lancia Thesis because the end result is a big luxury saloon with a well-balanced blend of roominess, comfort and performance. The power unit is special because it turns very roundly due to its 6 cylinders - and also offers formidable torque enhanced by a 5-speed automatic transmission converter.
Altogether, the version driven by the 3.0 V6 24v offers greater driving satisfaction than rivals with similar capacity: acceleration, pick-up, power and torque delivery. The credit for this goes to a power unit that balances torque at low speed and maximum power with outstanding panache.
The Lancia Thesis 3.0 V6 24v is the ideal car for customers who want great performance delivered with absolute ease. For people who do not like to be second to anyone, even on the road. For anyone who can fall in love with a good-looking, luxurious car and the unmistakable throb of an engine that is reminiscent of great, powerful Lancias of the past such as the Aurelia.
The Lancia Thesis range concludes with the 2.4 JTD engine. This engine combines the tried and tested benefits of common rail technology (better performance and fuel economy) with formidable torque achieved by applying a variable geometry turbine to the JTD power unit. As far as the driver is concerned, this means a Lancia Thesis that is a greater roadster yet also agile and easy to handle if necessary. This combination of attributes is certainly not usual in this type of car.
The 2.4 JTD engine is thus a prompt and efficient engine and tireless on long motorway trips. A great mile-eater with low fuel consumption. The Lancia Thesis 2.4 JTD is therefore designed for people who move around a lot and cover a very high mileage each year. Customers who want a comfortable, luxurious car that can be run at a reasonable cost and ensure the same driving satisfaction as a petrol engine.
The gearboxes are slick, smooth-shifting, silent: they include a six-speed manual and a 5-speed automatic that are outstanding for their sophisticated, innovative engineering. Both offer the best possible channel for power transmitted by the engines (150 to 215 bhp) and ensure the car delivers uniformly crisp performance. They are also so easy and satisfying to use that any driver can handle a great saloon like the Lancia Thesis with ease and panache.
The 5-speed automatic transmission, in particular, is two gearboxes in one. You can use the normal P, R, N and D positions when the lever is moved up in the gate. When in D position, however, all you have to do is move the lever to the left, into the areas marked ’plus’ and ’minus’ and the automatic device converts to a sequential manual gearbox. For the motorist, this means being able to benefit from a full range of gears with discreet guidance from the control unit (the sound of a buzzer and a warning on the control panel) if the engine is revved too much or too little. Plus the freedom of a normal manual gearbox, including the ability to set off in second or third when the car is driven over slippery ground.
The 5-speed automatic transmission comes with the 3.0 V6 24v engine, while the 6-speed manual unit is fitted to all other power units.
Chassis and Driving
The intention is to offer those who travel in the Lancia Thesis exclusive satisfaction. The car comes fitted as standard with a Skyhook (so-called because it allows the car to move as though it were suspended from the sky). The system is restricted to a few élite cars and takes the form of a semi-active damping system that has been developed for the Lancia flagship itself. The system was developed by Mannesmann-Sachs and takes the form of 6 sensors that determine relative speed between body and wheels in order to choose the optimum damping force to be provided by each individual shock absorber. Instantaneous sensor recordings and shock absorber regulation during compression and regulation make it possible for the system to brake the car’s vertical motion at every moment just as though the body were hanging from the sky.
Skyhook represents a true step forward in shock absorber calibration because it means that the designers no longer have to seek a compromise between stability, safety and comfort. It is also a vast improvement on current discrete damping control systems that offer a restricted adjustment range. The shock absorber valves on the system offered on the Lancia Thesis are controlled by an electronic control unit that screens factors such as load, road conditions, car motion and driver reactions. This enables the Skyhook system to choose the damping setting best suited to car driving conditions from an infinite range of possibilities within a few milliseconds and independently for each wheel. This helps highlight driving satisfaction under conditions of absolute safety.
Not to mention the fact that most of the Lancia Thesis’s handling and road insulation is down to its suspension. This was developed on a new track created specially for comfort-testing the model. At the front, the car features a Multilink system with a virtual steering axis while the rear system comprises multiple arms. The result is a noiseless car, whose movement and progress are barely perceptible. Just as you would expect from a big saloon whose owner often sits in the back intent on working or reading on long journeys.
Driving satisfaction means surrounding the driver and passenger with technologies that ensure the very highest acoustic and climatic comfort. Hence the need to make the interior environment into a cosseting, enveloping living room: this was the brief given at the outset to the Lancia Thesis engineers and designers. Thus thorough car sound-proofing is assured by the body’s high torsional rigidity (173,500 kgm/rad) and complemented by the use of 5 millimetre thick windows (that also aid climatic insulation) and a triple sealing system. And also: a multizone automatic climate control system, complete with automatic air recirculation function controlled by a pollution sensor.
The advanced device automatically controls temperature, air flow, air distribution, compressor activation and recirculation via an electronic control unit. The Lancia Thesis multizone climate control system can also ensure different air temperature and distribution patterns simultaneously in the different parts of the car: one microclimate for the driver, one for the passenger and for those who sit in the back. The revolutionary aspect of the system is the fact that rear passengers can control air temperature and distribution on a separate display. All you have to do to enable the rear controls is press the ’Rear’ button at the end of the central tunnel. This excludes the front passenger controls. But the driver, continues to manage the climate in his or her individual area.
The Lancia Thesis also offers a programmable supplementary heater that ensures a welcoming warmth even on the coldest days and a sunroof with solar cells. The sunroof is produced using an innovative technology that ensures greater reliability and quality. It consists of a panel that incorporates a battery of 21 monocrystalline cells that supply an overall power output of 24W. When the car is parked in daylight, the energy produced by the cells supplies the ventilation system to exchange the air in the passenger compartment.
All this sophisticated technology is also apparent in the front seats of the Comfort version of the Lancia Thesis. These are fully electric, and the driver’s seat can store all the personal seat, rear view mirror and steering wheel settings for three different people. Above all, both front seats offer other interesting, brand-new functions such as ventilation, heating, adaptivity and massage. To activate the functions and select the best one for each seat, simply press the ’Comfort’ button on the side of the seat. The relevant menu is then displayed on the central console display. A few, intuitive moves are all it takes to select the items you want. In the Comfort version, the rear seats also offer heating, adaptivity and massage functions. All adjustments can be made using buttons inside the rear Business armrest.
The experience of driving this flagship is rendered unique by a host of devices designed to ensure calm, collected car control at all times. Such as a variable power steering system known as Variosteer (available only on engines with automatic transmissions) that makes every manoeuvre comfortable, even during parking manoeuvres with minimum load on the steering wheel. It simultaneously ensures maximum driving precision at the highest speeds by adjusting driver effort on the wheel gradually. Such as Radar Cruise Control (RCC) an innovative control system that allows motorists to manage car speed in order to leave a safe distance before the car in front. This simultaneously achieves two aims: improves comfort and optimises traffic flow.
The Lancia flagship also offers as standard innovative bi-xenon headlamps and led tail-lights. The former generate both high and low beams using a single xenon lamp. The second come with 30 leds each, last longer than conventional bulbs and light up more quickly. As far as the car behind the Lancia Thesis is concerned, this speed means spotting a braking manoeuvre more quickly, so gaining more stopping distance. Apart from this, the Lancia flagship also offers headlamps that come on automatically at dusk and when you drive into a tunnel; windscreen wipers that come on by themselves when it starts to rain - and proximity sensors that aid parking manoeuvres.
By now the part played by invisible technology in the Lancia Thesis’s equipment should be becoming clear. The same sort of technology also plays a starring role in determining dynamic safety. On this front the Lancia flagship offers a braking system with outstanding performance while also benefiting from the most sophisticated electronic devices for controlling the car’s dynamic behaviour: from braking to traction. Thus the car comes with ESP for dynamic stability on corners; ASR to limit wheel slip during acceleration and MSR to regulate braking torque while changing down; ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution EBD. This outstanding equipment array ensures such consistent, predictable on-road behaviour that the driver can get away with making mistakes and emerge from sticky situations with aplomb. And the Lancia Thesis also offers an electrically-controlled parking brake: the EPB (Electric Parking Brake). The brand-new system works by means of an electronic control unit that controls and operates electromechanical actuators on the rear brakes, one per caliper. The operating details are described below. The EPB can be engaged by pressing a button on the central console behind the gear lever or automatically, when the driver stops the car and turns off the engine. In the first case, with the car in motion and pressing the button, the system applies enough braking force to ensure the shortest possible stopping distance compatible with available grip on the ground and car stability.
In the second case, with the car at a standstill, the EPB cuts in automatically to relieve customers of the worry of engaging the handbrake once the engine has been turned off and the door opened. The EPB can naturally be disengaged when required. This can be done in two ways: select the relevant function on CONNECT - or press the brake pedal and handbrake button simultaneously with the engine off and the panel on. For safety reasons, the EPB will be reinstated automatically next time the engine is stopped.
Passive safety also benefits from state-of-the-art technology. The credit goes above all to the array of devices available: beginning with eight airbags including two Multistage bags; five three-point seat-belts with pretensioners (except the central rear seat) and load limiters, five head-restraints and an FPS (Fire Prevention System). And goes on to include a new chassis designed to absorb impact with maximum efficacy. Lastly, the body and doors also contribute to occupant protection. And we must not forget the Isofix attachments used to carry the smallest passengers in maximum safety, plus systems to protect the car against theft and break-ins: from a second-generation Lancia CODE to central locking and deadlock.
>The latter is a technical feature that puts the interior door handle and all linkages connected to the lock in neutral. This represents a major step forward in the vehicle theft protection field: the deadlock renders any tool used by thieves to force open doors and door mechanisms ineffective. The device comes as standard on all Lancia Thesis versions and must be operated voluntarily (to ensure no-one is locked inside the car). Once the key has been turned once in one of the front doors or after one press on the remote control, the deadlock is engaged by turning the key a second time or pressing the remote control key again.
This all-round protection makes the Lancia Thesis one of the safest cars in the motoring world. If required, however, the car can also be fitted with an antilift and antitilt alarm in addition to EPG anti break-in side windows. Suffice it to say that the new model has passed the most severe crash tests and already complies with proposals for future European standards.