The very first scooter I ever owned was a 1979 Vespa P200E. It was silver, a little rough around the edges, and truthfully, kinda terrible. It did this terrifying clunk when shifting down from forth into third gear. Its brakes were mostly for show. It was a stark contrast to the Vespa 200 that would later replace it: a 2006 Vespa GT200L. Long story short, I sold that GT200L a few years later and I kind of regret it to this day.
With that history, I was excited to get my hands on the new 2015 Vespa GTS 300 Super ABS. I couldn’t help but wonder if it’d be like the GT200L I’d loved so much years ago. Would it feel familiar? How much difference would that extra 76cc of engine displacement make? Only one way to find out.
For the uninitiated, the GT-series Vespas harken back to 2003 with the Grantourismo 200L. The first modern large-frame Vespa, the GT200L featured a larger version of the LEADER engine later shared with the LX-150. The GT featured 12″ wheels front and rear, with disk brakes front and rear as well. Over the following decade, the GT200L gave way to the GTS 250ie, the GTS 300, and the GTS 300 Super. Swapping over to the fuel-injected QUASAR engine platform, the GTS engine grew first to 250cc, and later to the 278cc displacement across the range we see today. For 2015, Vespa has tweaked the front suspension for better response and less dive under braking, and added the aforementioned anti-lock braking system and traction control inherited from Vespa’s flagship 946 model.
Because the GTS has been around for so long, it’s easy to forget about it. Yet with that longevity comes a great degree of refinement. Vespa has used the same steel monocoque chassis all along, only tweaking the engines, suspension and braking systems over the years to refine and perfect the large-frame platform. As I climbed aboard our 2015 GTS 300 Super ABS demo unit, all of that evolution felt very present. Here was a scooter that feels like it’s had what few bugs it ever had thoroughly worked out of it.
As a conventional twist-and-go scooter, all it takes to get the GTS going is to turn the key, grab either brake and hit the starter button. The 278cc single-cylinder engine fires to life immediately thanks to its fuel-injection system and that’s it. There’s nothing left to do but rock the Vespa off its center stand and twist the throttle. Off you go.
Everything about this machine is easy and convenient. Want to go? Twist the throttle and the big Vespa just zooms away. Need to stop, those front and rear disks engage smoothly and halt the scooter with authority (ABS makes this even more confident). The suspension provides both comfort and cornering confidence. Easy. The ASR system kicks in early as things start to get loose. This puts an end to any gratuitous tail wagging and adds that much extra corner confidence, especially in less-than-ideal situations. I didn’t get much opportunity to engage the system, but conversations I’ve had with folks who have indicate that the traction control system saps all the hooligan right out of this scooter. For those concerned about maximizing traction at all times, that’s great news.
In addition to those big systems, the GTS offers a handful of best-in-industry scooter features. For example, the under-seat trunk is accessible by a handy button release on the Vespa’s leg shield. With the steering column unlocked, you don’t need to pull out your key to grab whatever’s in your under-seat storage area. Lock the column, however, and the button is de-activated and your stuff is secure. In addition to the under-seat storage area, the GTS features a locking glove box built into the cockpit side of the leg shield. Simply push in on the ignition column and the glove box tilts open. New for 2015, the glove box now includes a powered USB plug so that you can charge your mobile phone on the go.
On the street, the GTS 300 Super ABS is considerably quicker than I expected. The steel monocoque chassis (that is, the body is the frame — there is no tubular frame under the bodywork) keeps the GTS’s weight low. This helps put the engine’s nearly 22 hp to good use and also provides considerable chassis rigidity, allowing the suspension to do its job as well. I know 22 hp doesn’t sound like much, but on such a light scooter, the GTS is surprisingly fast — faster than nearly any regular traffic one is likely to encounter on city streets. There’s enough power there that I could feel the front end lighten up when I’d get hard on the throttle from a stop light. That power gives the GTS the ability to not simply be out and ahead of traffic, but to have that little extra punch when you need to get the heck out of the way. I consider that as much a safety feature as fun factor.
The suspension and brakes on the GTS 300 Super ABS round out the Vespa’s premium package. With ABS-equipped disk brakes front and rear, and an improved version of Vespa’s single-sided front fork, the GTS is both comfortable and taught. The rear shocks have adjustable pre-load out of the box, and after-market shock upgrades are out there, although I’d say they’re not necessary. As is, the GTS suspension is very well tuned — finding that sweet spot between sticky handling and comfortable riding in the often rough streets of Chicago. On its alloy 12″ wheels, the GTS still feels like a scooter. It’s nimble, responsive, but not twitchy. Sure, there are larger, faster scooters out there, but for us, the GTS hits that sweet spot between utility, size, comfort and authentic scooter feel.
So the big question is, who is this bike really for? It would be easy to say it’s for everybody, and that’s certainly true. With some basic rider training, the GTS would be a great first bike. Yet the benefits are just as significant for experienced riders. If you’re looking for a chic, around-town daily runner, it’d be tough to beat the GTS in our opinion. Beneath its stylish looks is a ton of secure storage and hop-on-and-ride ease of use. It’s got enough performance to cruise the freeway comfortably at 70 mph with a little power left (top speed is a hair over 80 mph).
Around town, few will be able to catch you. We think this makes the GTS a terrific scooter for someone with a longer commute, but isn’t into that traditional maxi-scooter aesthetic. Also, the GTS would make a great fit for that person who wants a scooter but all your buddies are riding bigger motorcycles. You’ll easily keep up with them around town and be able to cruise the backroads with ease. The GTS is even available in a Touring setup with luggage racks and a windshield. Lastly, the GTS’s open ergonomics let it accommodate a wide rage of body types and riders. It’s especially great for big-and-tall riders from both an ergonomic and power delivery standpoint.
MSRP on the GTS starts at $6,699, and considering the Vespa’s quality, performance and style, we think that’s reasonable. Sure, it’s going to price itself out for a lot of people and there are plenty of great scooters out there that deliver similar performance for less money. What’s difficult to compete with is the overall level of fit and finish you find in the Vespa GTS, not to mention that iconic Vespa name. There’s a level of refinement to the big Vespa that we just don’t find in most other scooters.
So all in all, the Vespa GTS 300 Super ABS did not disappoint. Besides its premium price, there’s really nothing to complain about. What’s perhaps most interesting to consider at this point is that 2015 may be the final year of the GTS as we know it. Our sources are telling us that the next generation large-frame Vespa will be driven by the same drivetrain as the Piaggio BV350. Along with that change, we can surely expect the aesthetics of the GTS to update as well, likely following the same new design language established by the Vespa 946, Primavera and Sprint models in showrooms today. If and when those changes come, we’re left looking at today’s GTS and at this point, it’s down to Vespa not to screw it up. With all they’ve learned over more than a decade making modern large-frames, plus the considerable improvements made in the small-frame lineup, we have high hopes for whatever replaces the GTS. In the meantime, the 2015 GTS 300 Super ABS is the best GTS Vespa has made to-date, and if you ask me, that’s saying something.