A salute tto Maserati

It’s been a tough ride but Maserati makes it through to 100

The Star Early Edition - - MILESTONES - MI­NESH BHA­GA­LOO Mus­cat, Oman

THE LAST thing I ex­pected to find while go­ing through the il­lus­tri­ous his­tory of Ital­ian su­per­car maker Maserati, was a prom­i­nent men­tion of SA’s famed Kyalami cir­cuit.

The company’s last F1 win, with Juan Manuel Fan­gio at the wheel of a 250F took place in 1957 at the Ger­man Grand Prix – but in 1967 Pe­dro Ro­driguez recorded the company’s last F1 win with a Maserati three­l­itre en­gine, tak­ing the che­quered flag at the SA Grand Prix at Kyalami in a Cooper-V12.

Fast-for­ward to 2014 and it’s a spe­cial time for the Mo­dena-based fac­tory, with next month mark­ing a cen­tury of Maserati’s ex­is­tence. It’s an es­tab­lish­ment that opened its doors in Bologna, founded by Al­fieri Maserati to ser­vice Isotta Fras­chini cars – but which later on (along with three other Maserati brothers) started the car-man­u­fac­tur­ing business.

The fa­mous tri­dent on the bon­net of ev­ery car, as you may or may not know, was in­spired by the statue of Nep­tune in the Pi­azza Mag­giore in Bologna (the home-city of the Maserati fam­ily), with the blue and red in the logo match­ing the city’s of­fi­cial colours.

The early years saw the company mainly con­vert­ing cus­tomer cars for rac­ing, with the first gen­uine Maserati only see­ing the light of the day in 1926 in the form of the 1.5-litre su­per­charged eight-cylin­der Tipo 26 race car (which weighed 760kg and made 90kW).

The move to Mo­dena, the cur­rent home of Maserati, came with the company’s orig­i­nal sale in 1939 to a fam­ily based in that city. Im­por­tantly, this was fol­lowed by Maserati’s first road car, the A6, born in 1947 with a 1.5-litre 48kW en­gine and a top-end of 170km/h (just 58 of th­ese were built).

To­day Maserati is owned by the Fiat Chrysler group (which also owns Fer­rari); with the cur­rent se­lec­tion in­clud­ing the sporty twodoor GranTurismo and GranCabrio; the lux­ury-limo Qu­at­tro­porte; and the company’s lat­est fam­ily sedan, the Ghi­bli (which is a fa­bled Maserati name­plate in its own right).

And what bet­ter way to cel­e­brate a cen­te­nary than to gather th­ese cars, along with two rather spe­cial cen­te­nary-edi­tion mod­els, in Mus­cat – an area said to be the jewel of Ara­bia – for a blast in com­mem­o­ra­tion of the past.

As you’d ex­pect, the hon­our of the Cen­ten­nial Edi­tion badg­ing goes to the sporti­est cars in the sta­ble, with the range-top­ping MC ver­sions of the four-seater GranTurismo and GranCabrio scor­ing visual flair which I reckon even ‘ol Al­fieri would be proud of.

Power, as be­fore, is cour­tesy of a 338kW/520Nm 4.7-litre nat­u­rally-snort­ing V8 – while Cen­te­nary tweaks in­clude new body colours, wheels with cen­te­nary lo­gos, specif­i­cally-toned in­te­ri­ors with spe­cial em­broi­der­ing, and lash­ings of car- bon­fi­bre across the cabin. And here’s a lit­tle tip; go for the Magma Red or In­chiostro Blue paint – they rep­re­sent the colours in the Maserati badge and the colours of Bologna.

The blue GranCabrio Cen­te­nary I bul­leted through the golden moun­tain­sides of Mus­cat was both one of the sex­i­est and most cel­e­brated cars I’ve yet driven. That Fer­rari hand­built V8 – good for a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds and a top-end of 289km/h – is a pearler, es­pe­cially at sea-level where its nat­u­rally-breath­ing lungs are meant to ex­hale. With the roof down and ev­ery­thing har­dened and sharp­ened, this is a spe­cial car with a front-mid lay­out, sports ex­haust roar, and some spe­cial han­dling thanks to rear-bi­ased weight and a limited-slip diff.

Hav­ing said that, when you get into newer ma­chin­ery like the lat­est-gen Qu­at­tro­porte and all-new Ghi­bli, it quickly be­comes ap­par­ent how much the coupé and cabrio sportscars have aged – with things like switchgear and di­als look­ing par­tic­u­larly out­dated.

From the out­side, though, they are still Monaco-spec red-car­pet head-turn­ers, and like Clint East­wood they pack enough fire­power to de­mand re­spect.

With the Ghi­bli be­ing the most highly-an­tic­i­pated car and its launch in SA im­mi­nent, I spent a fair amount of time get­ting up close and per­sonal with this BMW 5 Se­ries/Mercedes E-Class sized (but not priced) sports sedan. And let me tell you, this car, which now ac­counts for half of Maserati’s sales num­bers on the planet, has a lot go­ing for it both in terms of looks and un­der the skin.

The all-wheel-drive Ghi­bli S I drove was fam­ily-man nir­vana, pow­ered by a mod­ern 3-litre twin­turbo V6 (de­signed by Maserati and man­u­fac­tured by Fer­rari) mated to a silky eight-speed auto box. The 301kW/550Nm may not sound su­per­car slay­ing, but like most twin-tur­bos out there this thing builds power like a tor­nado, and when I first hit the loud pedal I ac­tu­ally com­mented to my co-pi­lot that it felt quicker than the su­per-duper GranCabrio we drove ear­lier.

With a 4.8 sec­ond 0-100km/h sprint time my seat-of-the-pants im­pres­sion was spot on, and I’d go as far as to say this en­gine in-gear will carve up that Cen­te­nary hairdryer too. Be­ing all-wheel drive means that the Ghi­bli S Q4 has prodi­gious lev­els of grip, but my side­ways slide hoofing it into an in­ter­sec­tion laid claim to the power-to-the-rear bias (moved up­front only when needed). Sadly all-wheel drive won’t come to SA, but the rear-wheel drive S gets the same en­gine/gear­box and power out­put, and a limited-slip diff for ex­tra trac­tion. Keep an eye out for this one.

I also had a quick spin in the Ghi­bli tur­bod­iesel, mainly be­cause it’s the first-ever diesel-pow­ered Maserati pro­duced – and I sus­pect it may be popular with lo­cal buy­ers. And be­fore you get all snarky, the en­gi­neers have gone to great lengths to give it some au­ral en­ter­tain­ment.

This 202kW 3-litre diesel V6 will get to 100km/h from stand­still in 6.3 seconds, but it’s the 600Nm of grunt which makes for healthy over­tak­ing and very-pro­fi­cient dis­tance munch­ing.

This thing is the A380 in Maserati’s range in terms of long­haul lux­ury and re­fine­ment, but still gets the nec­es­sary gear­box and sus­pen­sion Sport modes and limited-slip diff to en­sure its Maser­ati­ness.

It’s ex­cit­ing times then for the Ital­ian brand, es­pe­cially when you con­sider that there’s both an all­new SUV (the Le­vante) and twodoor coupé (the Al­fieri) con­firmed for pro­duc­tion.

Happy birth­day Maserati, keep ’em com­ing ...

A limited num­ber of GranTurismo and GranCabrio Cen­ten­nial Edi­tion mod­els have been built to hon­our Maserati’s 100th an­niver­sary.

Ghi­bli re­vives a fa­mous name and it’s due to ar­rive in SA in the near fu­ture.

Maserati A6 was the company’s first-ever pro­duc­tion road car.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.