2008 Vespa GTV 250ie Review

Everything has its pinnacle


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For everything there exists a connoisseur and for every connoisseur there exists a pinnacle... that single masterpiece that sings out above the others; and even though their choice may change from year to year, the expert would be willing to argue that none other surpasses it.

Cigar aficionados might say theirs is the Montecristo Robustos Millenium, wine critics might consider a 2005 Chateau L'Evangile Bordeaux Vintage the crème de la crème. A Scooter snob, like myself, would call the Vespa GTV 250 the ‘Scooter Superlative’... a two wheeler fit for nobility.

I know it may sound a bit boisterous, maybe even over-the-top; but, I wouldn't have said it if I didn't believe it. First impressions are made at first with the eyes and then with the hands. Combined, these two human senses are nearly impossible to betray. It wouldn't matter if you stripped the GTV of its Piaggio Vespa badge. The moment you touched her supple, saddle-stitched leather seat you would nod your head in approval. And that's just the first impression.

Let's take a step back. What we are talking about here is a Vespa; the quintessential scooter icon. They didn't earn their reputation by being the first scooter manufacturer but 60 years of elegant Italian design has a tendency to make people take notice. Ask any American to think of a scooter and 8 out of 10 will say “Vespa”, the other two will say, “You mean like a Vespa?” It's that deep.

So, why would Vespa go through the trouble of building the most expensive ($6,899 MSRP), mass production 250cc, 2-wheeled scooter in existence? The same reason Ferrari built the Enzo and Ducati built the Desmosedici, the Italians wanted a flagship model, Vespa wanted something to celebrate their 60 year milestone. Well, actually that's why they built the Vespa GT60, which was the limited collector’s edition scooter on which the mass production GTV 250 was based. Besides a different paint job, a fancy gift set, a limited number badge and a $400 savings, they are nearly identical.

Aesthetics

What sets the GTV apart from the closely related GTS are the details. The $900 difference buys you a rounded, simple, almost vintage analog gauge cluster with low profile windscreen, a gorgeously detailed split (rider separate from passenger) leather seat, a complex iridescent metallic gray paint scheme that gives off a purple/pink highlight in the sun and the pièce de rèsistance, naked chrome handlebars and a fender mounted headlamp in the heritage of the original Vespa of the 1940's. It's all very classy.

As with all Vespa scooters, both vintage and modern, the GTV is built as a steel body, monocoque frame. Having a monocoque (single shell) design allows for lighter, more ridged construction than a typical welded pipe frame covered in a non-load-bearing fairing. The added rigidity maximizes tracking and control while reducing vibration. Many changes and advancements have been seen in 60 years, but the frame remains.

Handling

The Vespa GTV 250 is one of the lightest scooters in its class, weighing in at 322 lbs it just edges out the Aprilia SportCity 250 by 4.3 lbs. The GTV also has one of the shortest wheelbases in it class at 54.9 inches. These two attributes combine to make this scooter one of the most maneuverable two wheelers available. The city streets are her playground. A 40 mph slalom around potholes and pedestrians are all part of the fun. The GTV, like her GTS sister, handles these roads with a certain forgiveness teetering on nonchalance. The tactile feedback of road is exchanged for a whimsical softness; almost a lighthearted waltz down the road, which means you wouldn't want to take one on the race track. Fine! She's doing what she was built for.

With her 244cc, fuel injected, Piaggio Quasar engine producing about 22 bhp, the GTV is suitable for short highway runs, though I don't recommend it for the weak at heart. The small, 12-inch wheels do not provide a strong sense of stability at her top speeds (76 mph). I unwittingly rode mine on California's 405 for about 12 miles in light, midday traffic and didn't need to buy a cup of coffee for the next 48 hours. The adrenaline double latte did the job quite well. Next time I'll stick with the Pacific Coast Highway. That was a lovely ride.

Acceleration was sufficient and matched the relaxed handling characteristics with a 13.84 zero to 60. Your time may vary, but this was the result of a single test on a flat surface with a broad shouldered, 200-pound guy sitting upright on a straightaway.

Stopping power is provided by two large (8.66") hydraulic disc brakes in the front and rear and they do a swell job of keeping things under control. Also, take a good look at those chrome rims.

'The tactile feedback of road is exchanged for a whimsical softness...almost a lighthearted waltz down the road...'

Ergonomics

One of the greatest features on all Vespa scooters is the roomy floorboard protected by a wide leg shield. It allows the rider a variety of foot positions, as well as extra stowage space for things like groceries or a backpack. You can ride with your knees bent and feet tucked below you or stretch out with your feet at the back of the leg shield. There is a foldout hook to keep things in place and since there are no foot controls you can use your legs to keep things steady without fear of covering a foot brake (like I have on my old Vespa at home). I often use a large ski boot backpack to haul stuff around and the modern Vespa is one of the few scooters that allows me to do so comfortably without fear of losing the gear or control of the bike.

Another feature that is especially handy for cold weather riders is the leg shield exhaust grill. Warm air from the radiator is forced in behind the front wheel and out near your legs. Add a scooter lap apron (yes, that's a real accessory) and you're in for a warm and toasty commute; as long as you are cold and confident enough to wear such a device. I'd do it, but it doesn't get cold or wet enough to need one here in Texas.

If you are to have one complaint about the GTV, you might say the split seat doesn't allow for enough seat position variety like you have on the one piece seat of the GTS. I'll say for myself, the split seat didn't cause an issue and I'm 6'2". You'll have to judge this for yourself. 

Other features

As you go over the GTV you really begin to see the extra time and effort the Italians put into her design. The passenger foot pegs are polished steel and fold neatly into the body, forming a complimenting accent to her chrome-trimmed body panels. Even the exhaust looks great! So often it looks like manufacturers will just stick an off-the-shelf pipe on their scooters and call it a day. The Vespa has an exhaust that matches the profile of the engine cowl and is accented by an elegant chrome heat shield. Vespa includes front and rear reflectors that are set nicely along the sides of the scooter and do not look like afterthoughts to fit American DOT requirements. You'll see what I mean when you look at other scooters: tacked on reflectors, turn signals, etc. They all mess with the aesthetics.

The GTV also includes a beautiful, spring-loaded rear rack for your briefcase (please don't tie a milk crate on there!), and a lockable glove box in the front leg shield with room for your quick access items like gloves, goggles, garage door opener (and those are just the ‘G’ items). Under the seat there is lockable storage for your helmet, camera case, water bottle and more. The total carrying capacity of the GTV is rather impressive considering the diminutive stature of this powerful little scoot. Oh, and the details. Look under the front of the seat. See that little space that looks like it's filled with some sort of plastic bag? That's actually a rain proof, protective seat cover. Joy!

With all this, you may have concerns around how to keep your little gem from getting nicked (stolen). There's no surefire way to prevent theft, but to help deter thieves there is a lock loop attached to the bottom frame (below the floorboard) for your choice of chain or cable lock and you could always add a disc lock for an added sense of security.

Conclusion

Overall, nothing felt short-changed. Each and every piece I examined came together flawlessly to create this exquisite rolling sculpture. As a roadworthy vehicle, any perceived flaws are by design. No one can expect a scooter with 12 inch wheels to be a great daily highway commuter. The forgiving suspension is not going to please a sport bike racer, but if you are looking for powerful and stylish urban transportation and if you enjoy the finer things in life (a machine built with timeless Italian design and proven Piaggio quality) then you will find the Vespa GTV 250 to be the pinnacle of the motor scooter world. It’s all that and 68mpg!

Oh, and one last thing. If you are a bit frightened of the price tag (over $8000 out the door) you could always look at her little sister the GTS 250. If you decide you'd rather wait around for a used one, good luck! I haven't seen one yet. Anybody? Someone wanna make me a good deal on a GTV? I'll take good care of her!

Bike Personality Profile - If this machine could have its own personality, summed up in one or two words, what would it be? The Piaggio Vespa GTV 250 is a luxurious machine.

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