The Lancia Kappa is an executive car produced by Italian automaker Lancia. It replaced the Thema as Lancia’s flagship model in 1994 and was itself replaced by Lancia Thesis in 2001. It shared its platform with the Alfa Romeo 166 and was available as a saloon, estate or coupé. The Kappa was only available in left-hand drive, as Lancia pulled out of right-hand drive markets after the demise of the Thema.
Kappa is the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet. Greek letters have frequently been used to denote Lancia models. Back in 1919, Lancia had already produced a Kappa (and its later evolutions called Dikappa and Trikappa), but these are far less known nowadays than the 1990s Kappa. In writing, Lancia often referred to the Kappa simply as the k (lower case “k”), which is fairly similar to the original Greek letter ?.
The Kappa was not particularly popular, with only 117,216 made in total. Italy remained Kappa’s most important market, absorbing the bulk of sales. It is also worth noting that in Poland, where Fiat Auto is the biggest domestic car manufacturer, Kappas served as official government cars (replacing Themas). This boosted the Kappa’s profile in that country and gave it a peculiar cachet, which is why the Kappa enjoys a solid enthusiast base there.
Autocar’s Peter Robinson reviewed the Kappa in November 1994. He commented on the car’s bland styling which was justified by Fiat’s Paolo Cantarella on the basis that the designers didn’t want to create too much “visual noise.” The body was reported as having twice the torsional rigidity of the outgoing Thema. It was 15% stiffer than any of its rivals. The automatic Aisin-Warner gearbox was shared with the Volvo 850.
Robinson went on to say “the Kappa´s dimensions ensure a commodious interior, the impression of space only heightened by a low cowl and very Japanese-looking fascia, somewhere between a Honda NSX and Lexus LS400.” Rear cabin room was described as “immense” but the cushion was criticised for being too flat, a fault rectified in later iterations of the car. Robinson criticised the “horrid mock wood with which Lancia frames the prominent central console that runs from the handbrake, up the full length of the dash and over the top.” About the driving characteristics, Robinson wrote: “If Lancia quietened the starter motor, this would be one refined drivetrain…with no hint of any 5-cylinder unevenness.”
The 2.4 litre engine tested appeared to have been tuned for low-end torque, a characteristic of this Alpine brand. The engine was praised by Robinson for its “smooth responsiveness” and “torque steer has been eliminated…and the Servotronic steering is terrific, with just the right degreee of self-centering.” His summary of ride and handling was that car was better than average but not class-leading: “On the Lancia there is too much body roll and the front grip in the wet didn´t inspire confidence.”
1994 – Kappa production begins.
1996 – An estate car joins the lineup. The naturally aspirated 2.0-litre gasoline engine is fitted with a variable geometry inlet manifold. Inside the cabin, the seats are replaced by a new design, including new upholstery patterns.
1997 – The coupé is launched, while at the same time, some changes are made to the interior, trunk, suspension and engine bay, as well as new alloy wheels.
1998 – The 2.0 L turbocharged four-cylinder engine gets replaced by the five-cylinder, while the turbodiesel was upgraded to a JTD engine. The bumper guards, previously black, are changed to body-coloured, and the base trim level, LE, is dropped, leaving only the more lavish LS and LX.
At the same time, a special trim level is introduced for the turbocharged gasoline engine, called simply the “Turbo”, distinguished by the lack of chrome decals around the window frames. The interior materials are also upgraded across the lineup, including the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel and front central armrest.
1999 – The other two five-cylinder engines are modified along with the air conditioning unit.
2000 – The Kappa gains xenon HID headlamps. Production ceased in mid-2000 (Coupé’s earlier in the year).
1998 cc, straight-5, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 146 PS (107 kW; 144 hp) @ 6100 rpm & 185 N·m (136 lb·ft) @4500 rpm
1998 cc, straight-5, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 155 PS (114 kW; 153 hp) @ 6500 rpm & 186 N·m (137 lb·ft) @4000 rpm
uprated to 155 PS in 1996, after the addition of a variable geometry inlet manifold, called the Variable Intake System (V.I.S) by Lancia
modified again in 1999
there were two versions of the manual transmission available for this engine, called Power Drive and Comfort Drive, with gear ratios optimized towards the former or the latter, respectively
this engine was not available in the Coupé
2446 cc, straight-5, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 175 PS (129 kW; 173 hp) @ 6100 rpm & 230 N·m (170 lb·ft) @3750 rpm
fitted with V.I.S
slightly modified in 1999
3.0 V6 24V
2959 cc, V6, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 205 PS (151 kW; 202 hp) @ 6300 rpm & 270 N·m (200 lb·ft) @4500 rpm
not fitted with V.I.S
slightly modified in 1999
2.0 16V Turbo
1995 cc, turbo straight-4, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 205 PS (151 kW; 202 hp) @ 5600 rpm & 298 N·m (220 lb·ft) @2750 rpm
superseded by the 4-cylinder turbo in 1998
5-speed manual transmission only
2.0 20V Turbo
1998 cc, turbo straight-5, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 220 PS (160 kW; 220 hp) @ 6000 rpm & 309 N·m (228 lb·ft) @2750 rpm
superseded the 5-cylinder turbo in 1998
5-speed manual transmission only
2.4 Turbo DS/JTD
originally a distributor-pump turbodiesel refitted with common rail in 1998 and hence referred to as JTD engine
TDI – 2387 cc, turbodiesel straight-5, SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder, 124 PS (91 kW; 122 hp) @ 4250 rpm & 246 N·m (181 lb·ft) @2250 rpm
JTD – 2387 cc common rail turbodiesel straight-5, SOHC, 2 valves per cylinder, 136 PS (100 kW; 134 hp) @ 4250 rpm & 304 N·m (224 lb·ft) @2000 rpm
not available with automatic transmission or in the Coupé