Time and design stand still in the aviation market. The massive cost of development and tight legislatory requirements ensure that new aircraft come to market in a trickle, rather than a flood. Incremental improvements, overhauls and upgrades ensure that once a fundamental form is fixed, it is able to endure for decades. Boeing’s 747 made its debut at the tail-end of the 60s and most estimates suggest the design will still be flying in the 2030s and 40s. Cessna’s 172 is the VW Beetle of the air, still in production after over 60 years.

Italian manufacturer Piaggio first flew the original P180 Avanti back in 1986, returning with a major upgrade in 2004 and then another round of improvements in 2015. That latest version of the aircraft is the Avanti EVO, and in the world of business aviation it still counts as something shiny and new.

Cabin view of the Piaggio Avanti EVO, featuring Poltrona Frau leather

We recently took a short hop around Kent in the EVO, courtesy of the company’s exclusive UK distributor, ConnectJets. The EVO has genuine presence, standing out from the current crop of identikit business jets for two reasons. For a start, it’s propeller-powered, rather than using jets. Two, the fuselage is unlike anything else on the market. With a large rear wing and two pushing propellers and distinctive small ‘canard’ wings at the front, the EVO is as distinctive as it is elegant. Inside, Poltrona Frau leather abounds, and although it’s not a full-height cabin, it’s pretty good for the class, especially in six-person configuration.

Manufactured in Piaggio’s factory on the Italian Riviera, the EVO is a singularly beautiful piece of aviation design, the left field choice of CEOs who care about style as well as the bottom line. For a time, Ferrari ran an Avanti (the company has Ferrari connections), and it offers numerous advantages, such as cabin space, fuel efficiency and a 1700 nautical mile range. The EVO has lost the distinctive sound of the Avanti 2, but there’s still a certain romance in resorting to the original form of propulsion. Coupled with the undeniable elegance of that fuselage, and the Piaggio EVO is the airborne equivalent of an Italian sports car.