MASERATI

QU­AT­TRO­PORTE GTS IS AMORE!

Ignition - - 1st Gear - STORY AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JEFF VOTH

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.

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