A&R’s EICMA 2012 Best in Show: Vespa 946

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It is no easy feat in picking the very “best” from a wide array of motorcycles, like we have to do here with the 2012 EICMA motorcycle show in Milan, Italy. How do you compare an adventure-touring bike to a sport bike, and then declare one better than the other? As you can imagine, the comparison is very much an exercise in measuring apples to oranges.

If our metric of choice was simply based on how much buzz was generated here on Asphalt & Rubber, and on the various social media networks as a whole, then the clear winner would be the KTM 1290 Super Duke R Prototype. With a bored-out RC8 R motor that makes 180hp, the KTM surely performs as good as it look, and it looks quite delectable indeed.

Maybe the best bike of the show should go to the now water-cooled Ducati Hypermotard, or its touring variant the Ducati Hyperstrada. Doing away with the air-cooled DesmoDue design of Pierre Terblanche, the 2013 Hypers are a new chapter for Ducati, and just further proof that there are no sacred cows in the Borgo Panigale factory. Speaking of Panigales, we also have to consider the Ducati 1199 Panigale R, of course if that conversation is to occur, then we have to also include the Aprilia RSV4 Factory ABS.

You see it is no easy feat to pick the “Best in Show” at EICMA, and in even our short thought-process above, there are names that are glaringly omitted. What makes the process possible however is when a new model comes along, and clearly outshines everything else — such is the case with the Vespa 946.

A nod to the WWII-era Vespa MP6, it might not be hyperbole to say that the Vespa 946 has the dubious honor of having to build off one of the most iconic scooters to come out of Italy, and maybe even the world. That being said, the lines of the Vespa 946 are a nice blend of the MP6’s style, with a firm touch on the modern — this isn’t a modern take on an old design, but more of a modern design that gives appropriate credit to its predecessors.

Even this hardened sport-biker can’t help but enjoy the aesthetic that the Vespa 946 brings to the table, but it is the technical bits that sets the Vespa 946 truly apart. A true steel monocoque chassis designed with aluminum accents, the Vespa 946 has as much technical prowess as it has visual appeal. So, it makes it only more interesting that a bike with an 11hp motor should tickle our performance-oriented fancy so intently.

Using a 125cc, four-stroke, three-valve, single-cylinder engine design, the Vespa 946 is good for nearly 130mpg, making it a very practical choice for the urban commuter. Lighting is produced by a full-LED headlight system, a major new trend in the motorcycle industry, and our first glimpse of the technology on a Piaggio Group product. However, the real-game changer here is the Vespa’s inclusion of ABS brakes and an ASR traction control system on the Vespa 946 — the first adaptation of those technologies in this class of scooter.

A beautiful, efficient, cost-effective, and safety oriented machine for zipping around the city, it is hard not to make grandiose claims about how the Vespa 946 will change the urban-commuting landscape. Pricing will be key of course, as the Italian brand has often commanded a premium when compared to the more competitive options from Japan. However, out of all the new models we saw at EICMA this year, the Vespa 946 has the potential to bring the most change to the motorcycle industry.

It raises the bar significantly in the scooter segment by offering maxi-scooter features at the traditional scooter level. Additionally, the new Vespa also brings an appropriate design aesthetic that is universally appealing. However most importantly, the Vespa 946 has the greatest potential to bring mainstream appeal back to two-wheeled vehicles.

The most likely candidate for the motorcycle we will still be talking about a decade from now, the Vespa 946 isn’t built for motorcyclists to enjoy by either show-stopping performance or advanced technical specificatoins. It is a scooter built to woo the average citizen with product lust and common sense. More importantly, it is proof that the motorcycle industry can sell cool again to the mainstream.

Source: Piaggio Group