Starting in the heart of Palermo, Italy, the restyled 2017 Maserati Quattroporte gobbles up the 62 miles of Sicily’s northwestern coast standing between it and Erice, roaring like an infuriated Pavarotti while passing faded Fiats.
Ninety years ago, Alfieri Maserati raced over similar routes in the Targa Florio, the singular road race first held on the island in 1906. Maserati and his co-driver, Guerino Bertocchi, won the 1,500 cc class in their Tipo 26, establishing a tradition that grew with consecutive overall victories from 1937 to 1940.
All Maserati cars are imbued with this heritage, of course, but the updated Quattroporte is the big, comfortable, well-equipped flagship that Maserati and Bertocchi could never have imagined. Its accurate steering and assured handling showcase its sporting character, yet the cabin can be a place of refuge if the mood dictates.
Besides the redesigned bumper and grille for 2017, there is an optional package of driver assistance features that give the sedan a semi-autonomous nature. The dashboard now incorporates an 8.4-inch infotainment screen for use with a system that includes smartphone mirroring, and the center console has a rotary controller for audio volume and interior systems. The cabin is the essence of elegance and simplicity.
Our little trip had begun at the Palazzina Cinese (“Chinese Palace”). More than 200 years old, this shabby curiosity was developed after King Ferdinand IV’s exile from Naples. Creating gardens and hunting grounds, the Bourbon monarch, also known as King Big-Nose, expanded the project by gussying up an existing Chinese-style building on the property.
In its flattering dark-blue coat, the Quattroporte stood in highest contrast to the pale palace. Maserati’s automotive mission is aerodynamic efficiency, but the designers’ tasteful restraint still allows for bold body creases and vivid ornamentation.
As before, the big sedan is available with a twin-turbocharged V-6 or twin-turbo V-8 engine, which produce 410 hp and 530 hp, respectively. A smooth 8-speed transmission is paired with either engine. Rear-wheel drive is the standard configuration, but all-wheel drive is available with the V-6 for sure traction in snowy climes.
There are Quattroporte, Quattroporte S and Quattroporte GTS models. The GTS includes either the GranSport or GranLusso trim levels as standard equipment. Our test car, a GranLusso, has a lovely dashboard trimmed with Radica wood. The leather-wrapped steering wheel also features wood inserts. With seats, door panels, headliners, and sun visors tailored in various quantities of silk, the optional Ermenegildo Zegna Edition package is every bit as sumptuous as expected.
On this June day, with sea clouds licking the coast, our destination is Erice, a mountaintop city surrounding ancient castles. All-wheel drive would be useful in this climb to 2,400 feet above sea level—snow is not uncommon in Erice. In fact, the cable car that climbs here from Trapani ceases operation during winter. Even though the Quattroporte is 207.2 inches long, the sedan nonchalantly negotiates the twisting road. “Handling is always a strong point for us,” Davide Danesin, the Maserati executive who oversees this model, had said at dinner the previous evening.
Production of the 2017 Quattroporte has already commenced and the models are being shipped to 72 countries. Pricing will be announced later this summer. (maseratiusa.com)