The picturesque town of Modena, located right in the heart of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is known for its local food legends. Those are balsamic vinegar, Parmesan cheese, Modena prosciutto (“Not the stuff from anywhere else!” says one earnest restaurateur). But in the heart of the heart sits the Maserati automobile factory, itself a legend, and these days the scene of exciting new developments. So driving one of these magnificent cars around the proximate countryside for a few days is a pleasure of the highest order.
A new factory has been built just outside Torino for two new versions of the Maserati: a smaller, sport-style car called the Ghibli and a luxurious, powerful sedan called Quattroporte. Which, as you might suspect, does have four doors. But this sedan also boasts all-wheel drive in its twin turbo V6 version, making it an ideal candidate for driving enthusiasts in Canada. In traditional Maserati form, the vehicle is beautiful, inside and out. Style exudes from every detail, including the most gorgeous leather interior you could conjure up in a leather-laced dream world.
Near the town of Balocco sits the Fiat test track, where all kinds of vehicles, nearing full production or still in the concept phase, are put through their various paces every day. To drive the Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 on this track, unencumbered by anything except your own inhibitions as they pertain to speed, is a rush, no doubt about it. The car surges past 200 kilometres an hour in the straightaway almost without, as it were, blinking. It can be taken down to less than half of that speed in two or three seconds, without any sway or pitch at all. Just a nice smooth deceleration.
There are ample good reasons why this is such a marvellous machine. Things like the 1,920 kilogram weight, distributed in a 50:50 ratio, for an engine that hits 100 km/h in 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 283 km/h. Some styling touches from the older version of the Quattroporte have been retained, such as the radiator grill, three outlets on the guard, and the triangular C-pillar. The new version still boasts that distinctive low engine growl, thanks to pneumatic valves in the pipes of each bank of exhaust tubes, passing through the Maserati Sound Tank to create that rich sound. It is longer, more spacious, and much more economic on fuel. A ZF AT8-HP 70 eight-speed automatic transmission, and an engine algorithm unique to Maserati oversees an almost infinite number of vehicle parameters, including steering, braking, tire grip, and the list goes on. It all adds up to flawless, exhilarating performance on the road.
The new Q4 all-wheel drive is itself enough reason to get excited about this vehicle. The system leaves the front wheels passive, unless they are needed to help with traction. They are instantly engaged when that moment arrives, and the system controls how much rear-wheel bias is used. The norm is 70:30 at 80 km/h, but by the time the car is travelling at 130 km/h, that number reduces almost to zero. The multilink rear suspension delivers so much traction that the car will rarely send more than 35 per cent of the drive to the front wheels. Not that you need to concern yourself with that. It is all, of course, seamless, automatic.
On the Autostrade, drivers must be aware of the rear view at all times, especially in the far left lane. You can be travelling at 150 km/h, but as sure as the sun sets in the west, a vehicle will roar up behind you, seemingly in an instant, at a far greater speed than North Americans could ever get used to. So giving way is vital to survival. But in the Quattroporte, travelling at, say, 140 km/h, when you see a car closing distance in the rear view, it is nice to know you can simply tap the gas pedal, ever so lightly, and you are now going 210 km/h, leaving that other driver in the dust. It is a wonderful thing, to be travelling 130km/h, tap the gas, and create G-force in the cabin as you accelerate. You certainly, unassailably, feel alive. And with all the safety features built in, you are going to stay that way.