QUATTROPORTE GTS IS AMORE!
of amore and passion. Venice to the northeast beckons lovers from around the world with centuries old canals and gondola serenades. To the southwest, slithering two-lanes on the Amalfi Coast are a sports car lover's dream, inspiring fantasies of red Ferraris and sundrenched afternoon drives. Few destinations offer so much in such a relatively small geographical footprint.
In my case our plane was landing in Bologna and we were making a quick stop to pick up a glistening white Maserati Quattroporte GTS, before heading northwest to Rapallo and Portofino. Destinations in between would include Pisa, with numerous leans to the left and right as we navigated winding highways on a notso-direct path to the Mediterranean coast. When in Italy, take full advantage of the side roads, don't be in a hurry, and eat pizza and prosciutto whenever possible. Amalfi sunshine would have to wait for another day.
To fully embrace what distinguishes the Trident brand from other exotics, it is important to start at the beginning. For me, this means making the pilgrimage to Modena, the home of Maserati and the birthplace of one other equally famous Italian automaker.
A short walk from the factory, I come upon the unassuming red brick structure that was once the ancestral residence of Enzo Anselmo Ferrari. A few kilometres down the road, Maranello is now home to the Cavallino Rampante (prancing horse).
Enzo's father, like the Maserati brothers of Modena, repaired trains in the early 20th Century. Today, the former railroad workshop remains true to its original character. This is the heart of Italy's automobile legacy to the world.
A coach bus stops and a large group of overly enthusiastic teenagers suddenly fills the square where I am standing. They have arrived here to embrace not only the home of a legend, but spend an afternoon in the shadow of his greatness, witnessing firsthand a factory-owned collection of the finest sports cars in the recently opened, completely modern, Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari.
After a brief tour of my own through the hallowed halls, I stroll back to Maserati world headquarters located a few blocks away. From the outside, the building soars skyward, a glass and steel structure resplendent in scope and personality. You expect the Maserati building to exude confidence in a manner similar to their automobiles and it exceeds all expectations.
Entrance is by gated access only, several guards keep watch ensuring privacy for those wishing to remain anonymous. Once inside, the ceiling appears to fall from the sky and I am whisked away to a world of motion. Maserati is as much about a posh lifestyle as it is fast cars, with both on full display for those fortunate enough to gain entrance.
This is where dreams are made, exterior and interior palettes grace the walls for customers to choose the finest elements that will define their personal vehicle. Freshly brewed espresso is never far away; it may take a while to finalize your Maserati, as the choice of colours and options is almost endless. Today, I am choosing a brand new Quattroporte with a return date ten days in the future.
Power for the Quattroporte GTS comes in the form of a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 gasoline powered engine. A performance masterpiece when called upon, it produces 523 horsepower between 6,500-6,800 rpm and develops 524 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,250-3,500 rpm.
Matched to a dynamic 8-speed automatic transmission, it accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds and reaches a top speed of 307 km/h. When you consider the overall size of this exceptional four-door sedan, the amount of trunk space and its wide footprint, this level performance is truly amazing.
Paddle-shifters on the steering column and a Sport mode setting on the center console beside the gear lever, take manual shifting of the Quattroporte GTS to a whole new level. In stretches, Italy's many mountain tunnels afford the opportunity to move from bright sunshine to cave-like darkness on an almost continuous basis. The bark of the exhaust note bounces off concrete; even the Ducati motorcycle rider beside me pays close attention and gives us an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Steering is light around the tight city streets, the full-size sedan responses with mid-size dexterity. I appreciate this fact on more than one occasion, particularly in Pisa where inner-city roads are extremely tight and covered with centuries old cobblestone.
When the road finally does open up to higher speeds, the 3-spoke steering wheel tightens in response, making the most of Maserati's Sport Skyhook electronic system and staggered tires on 20” alloy wheels. Just in case, special Brembo brakes make short of work of coming to a quick and controlled stop.
Eventually our route leads into the beautiful seaside town of Rapallo, in the province of Genoa. Historically, the name first appears in official documents in 964 AD. Today, it is a vibrant city home to many of Italy's wealthiest northern residents during the winter months as the climate here is warm year-round. In the summer, tourists swarm in and fill the beaches. Situated between Portofino and Chiavari, it is the perfect place to bring a Maserati on a sunny day.
The Excelsior Palace Hotel, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, has a long history of opulence. Opened in 1901, it is renowned as Italy's first casino. In 1928 this status was transferred to San Remo and accommodating guests became the main focus. During the 1950s and 60s, kings, Hollywood's brightest; writers and Nobel Prize winners walked the halls. It fell into disrepair in the 1970's, remaining closed until 1995. Today, after a full rebuild, it is once again a society favourite with commanding views of the Gulf of Tigullio.
A total of 128 rooms including 109 double rooms, 12 junior suites and 7 suites define the hotel guest accommodations. Two restaurants and two bars, a full conference centre and exceptional exercise facilities are all on-site. The Lord Byron Restaurant hosts breakfast, lunch and dinner, with spectacular views of the city and coast. At night, standing on the balcony looking out to sea, I hear the sound of distant trains rolling south towards the Cinque Terre.
The morning dawns bright, with blue skies and warm breezes. We make the short walk from the room through the lower lobby to a catwalk extended across the main road. Once on the other side, the Beach Club shows us a whole new side of the hotel's luxurious surroundings. As waves crash below, we seem to hover above the sea in an infinity pool, yachts floating casually in the distance. The scene is right out of a movie set, that perfect post card picture with the message “wish you were here!”
I watch with a sense of sadness as Rapallo recedes in the rearview mirror the next day. This is quickly replaced with excitement as I command the road once again from the driver's seat of the Quattroporte GTS. We are taking a direct route to Modena for a much anticipated factory tour.
Soon we will see firsthand how each vehicle is handcrafted; Ferrari-built motors matched perfectly together with a Maserati body and chassis by expert craftsmen. But for now, I am navigating tunnels and paved highways at speed, eagerly cresting 200 km/h on numerous occasions without cause for concern. It is Italy after all; where speed and style go down as well as pizza and prosciutto.