The legendary Italian motor-scooter company Piaggio has pulled the covers off the Vespa 946, its first all-new scooter model in six years. It could be an instant classic.
Hand-built of welded steel and aluminum alloy in Piaggio's Pontedera factory, and "inspired by" the original MP6 Vespa prototype from 1946, this machine has classic Italian lines. The rear end looks like something off a vintage Bugatti.
But this is no exercise in nostalgia. This is the first Vespa with ABS and electronic traction control. The 12-inch wheels are stopped by front and rear 220-millimeter disc brakes, the engine is fuel-injected and the transmission is a super-smooth CVT system that distributes the power very harmoniously.
The 946 is said to be capable of a top speed of 60 mph, and fuel consumption of over 100 mpg. Because it has a longer wheelbase than other Vespa models, it's very stable on the road, with none of the steering wobble that some scooters produce.
It's a pleasure to ride. I took an hourlong cruise down Sunset Boulevard, from downtown to the beach, and then rode back -- and could happily have kept riding.