Rare Rides: The 2003 Lancia Thesis - Questionable Styling and Legality Comes Standard

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 2003 lancia thesis questionable styling and legality comes standard

Rare Rides occasionally features vehicles that have somehow slipped through the 25-year importation net and exist in this country as illegal immigrants. First up was a little Citroën Picasso hatchback from Arizona, and more recently we featured a bright orange Fiat Barchetta from Florida.

Today we venture into illegality once more, with the luxurious and beautiful Lancia Thesis from 2003.

The Thesis was Lancia’s executive luxury sedan offering for most of the 2000s. Introduced in 2001, it was a replacement for the outgoing Kappa; Lancia’s version of the Alfa Romeo 166. The Kappa was originally introduced as successor to the Thema sedan, which was Lancia’s version of the Saab 9000. Already featured here in 8.32 guise, Thema was notable for its status as a front-drive sedan powered by a Ferrari V8.

Lancia previewed its Thesis styling in 1998, in the form of the Diàlogos concept car. The production version stayed true to the exterior cues of the concept, designed in-house by Lancia’s American-born lead designer, Michael Robinson.

Lancia pulled out all the stops for its new luxury car. The company intended to take on established contenders like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Audi A6. Lancia felt there was room in the marketplace for a more stylish alternative offering the same quality and substance as found in the Germanic offerings.

The automaker also intended to incorporate more advanced technology and creature comforts, and do it all at a significantly lower price. When Thesis went on sale in 2001, it cost 15 percent less, on average, than the E-Class or A6.

Unlike prior large Lancia sedans, which were all a rework of someone else’s car, the Thesis was on its own bespoke platform. While it was front-drive, as expected, it utilized a unique and complicated suspension that was largely made of aluminum. There were also adjustable dampers at both ends, shared with the contemporary Maserati Spyder. Inside, Lancia spared no expense on the materials: High quality leather, real wood trim, and a center console covered in milled magnesium were among the highlights.

Underneath the hood were engines of inline-five or V6 configurations, sourced from Fiat and Alfa Romeo. The smallest engine was a 2.0-liter turbo; the largest was the well-regarded 3.2-liter Alfa V6. A single diesel was also available, a 2.4-liter mill sourced from Fiat. All Thesis shifted through either a five-speed automatic or six-speed manual.

Unfortunately, the battle in which Lancia entered the Thesis was a losing one. Customers continually and reliably chose the established German players instead of the Thesis. By the time it went out of production in 2009, it was long overdue for replacement — and the brass at FCA had just the ticket! 2011 brought an all-new Thema, courtesy of a lightly reworked Chrysler 300.

Today’s Rare Ride is on sale in Wisconsin, of all places. With an automatic transmission and no mention of the engine under hood, it asks $19,995 in good condition. At least it’s very rare, and likely the only one in the United States. Good luck with titling and insurance.

[Images: seller]

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