Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A beast of burden doesn't have to look like a mule.

Lancia Beta HPE advert

It's only human to think that useful things can be ugly.

And it's only Italian to believe that everything should be as beautiful as possible.

Hence the Lancia Beta HPE - the Italian High Performance Estate.

Being an estate car, the HPE will seat five people. But it does so in quite un-estatelike luxury. With fitted carpets, cloth upholstery (PVC if you prefer), integral headrests on the front seats and wrap-around rear seats that are as far away from the usual estate car 'bench' as you can get.

Being an estate, the HPE carries a lot with the rear seats folded - 42.36 cu. ft. to be precise. But unlike most estate cars, you can also fold just one seat to carry a long load and a third passenger in complete comfort.

There are also self-levelling headlights to stop you dazzling approaching drivers when the back is loaded.

But being Italian, the HPE doesn't look remotely like an estate car.

In fact, it looks much more like a sleek sports coupé, which is exactly what it performs and handles like.

The 2000 version has a sliding steel sun roof. A top speed of 115mph. A 2 litre twin overhead camshaft engine, driving the front wheels. Five gears. All-round independent suspension. All-round servo-assisted disc brakes. And full instrumentation, including electronic rev counter and clock, with oil level, oil pressure and oil temperature gauges to protect the lubrication system.

The 1600 has a smaller version of the same engine, its own distinctive alloy wheels and costs a little less.

So if you're the sort of person who wants something far more prestigious than a mere estate car, go and ask your Lancia dealer to show you the Beta HPE. You've never seen an estate like it.

And you've never driven more of a thoroughbred.

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