Lancia Dedra

Total Production: 418,084 1989 - 2000
The Lancia Dedra, like other Lancia products of the time, was not much more than a fancy Fiat. Lancia, once the producer of some of the world's most finely engineered automobiles, was taken over by Fiat in 1969 and would never fully recover its independent thinking or engineering prowess.

Since the Fiat takeover, Lancia has built plenty of good cars—but rarely have they exuded the fine qualities for which Lancia had become known in its earlier years. The Dedra illustrates Lancia's loss of character at the hands of Fiat.

Introduced in 1989, the Dedra was a small (considered mid-size in Europe) sedan with front-wheel-drive and largely conventional styling. It was based off of the Fiat Tipo's floorpan and, though it had upscale exterior trim and a well-appointed interior, it was far more ordinary than any true Lancia had been.

Several engine choices were offered in the Dedra. A twin-cam four with balancer shafts, displacing 1,995cc and producing 120bhp, was the gustiest engine offered upon the Dedra's arrival. The base engine was another four, with a single cam and 1,581cc displacement. That latter engine, along with a 1,929cc diesel four-cylinder, produced 90bhp. Such low power output in a premium car would have met with painfully slow sales in the United States, but in Europe, where fuel prices far exceeded those of the U.S., small and economical engines were the norm even in upscale autos.

The Dedra was not a particularly exciting car at the time of its introduction, but for the 1990 model year, Lancia added a couple of new variants to give some flavor to the lineup. One was the Dedra 2000 Turbo, which, true to its name, featured a 1,995cc twin-cam four with a turbocharger and 165bhp. The other new variant, called the Dedra Integrale, was even more exciting. It featured an engine similar to that in the 2000 Turbo, but with an added 15bhp. Even more impressive than the power increase was the Integrale's use of all-wheel-drive.

The Dedra 2000 Turbo and Integrale models proved that the Dedra platform, though conventional, was also capable. Those models added performance to an already comfortable vehicle, creating a car that, even if it wasn't a full-blooded Lancia, was at least a polished and entertaining machine.

Lancia's Dedra became available as a station wagon for 1994, broadening the car's appeal. The Dedra continued in production for several more years, before being replaced by the Lybra.

Fiat, which effectively owns the entire Italian auto industry today, could not have kept Lancia as a viable brand had it continued that company's traditions of putting quality and engineering perfection ahead of cost-effectiveness. Fiat was responsible for the lack of creativity in many of Lancia's more recent designs, but the Italian giant did manage to make some incredible Lancias—the Stratos and the Delta Integrale, for instance. Even though the Dedra was a somewhat bland car, it had its high points. The Dedra Integrale was an impressive performer, and the admittedly dull profile of the Dedra sedan was actually a remarkable work of aerodynamics, with a coefficient of drag of only 0.29. It's hard to mistake the Dedra for a pre-Fiat Lancia, but it's just as hard to call the Dedra a bad car.

'Lancia Dedra.' n. pag. Web. 21 Jun 2010.

Wood, Jonathan. Great Marques of Italy. London: Octopus Books Limited, 1987. 151-183. Print.

By Evan Acuña