Motoring

Always meet your heroes

Maserati: Our motoring correspondent got to fulfil a lifetime's dream - he’s in car heaven....

David Walshe

Reporter:

David Walshe

Email:

david@netacar.ie

Always meet your heroes

Maseratis are in what’s known as exotic motoring territory and had been an elusive drive for me, alas. If life has taught us anything it is to take nothing for granted and always be open to new ideas and opportunities. Well an opportunity came my way, not to drive a Maserati, but drive all the Maserati’s.

The Maserati name is synonymous with luxury sports cars. The heritage borne out of racing brings a certain cache that other, more popular brands, simply can’t claim or sweat & flex. Owning a Maserati is akin to owning another famous luxury sports car, Ferrari, with all the connotations that that brings too. And it also helps that some Ferrari engines find their way into Maserati cars too.

There are five cars in the Maserati range to choose from with the most recent addition being the Levante. An SUV. Why the need for an SUV becomes very apparent when you realise that approx. 50% percent of all Maserati sales come from the Levante, the new kid in town. Seems Levante drivers first wanted and SUV and then they went looking because 70% of all Levante buyers are new to Maserati. That bodes well for even more future buyers.

I got to drive the entire Maserati range apart from the Gran Cabrio. I started in a Ghibli, then a Quattroporte, next a drive in the phenomenal Gran Turismo finishing off with a long trip in the Levante. Prices start from £54,835, for the least expensive diesel Ghibli You can land a Levante for £60,160. They are sterling prices as the only dealer on the island of Ireland is Charles Hurst in Belfast. Pricing is always relative, but the key stat provided by Maserati is that you will generally pay 10% more for the Maserati badge versus an equivalent sector car. However, there is one key difference in that the Maserati always has a very high level of equipment as standard. Of course, there are options you can specify if you so wish but the deal is that a lot of stuff that is standard on the Maserati will cost you more as optional extras in other cars. If you opt for the Maserati, you get that precious amount of exclusivity and the not inconsequential bragging rights of driving a Maserati.

The Ghibli was my favourite. It is a beautiful way to transport 4 people (it can take 5) at pace, in opulent comfort rewarding all present with the wondrous soundtrack the engine creates. The best is the V6 petrol delivering 350HP, but you can also get a less expensive V6 diesel with 275 HP. That’s a lot of power and the delivery of it is willing and immediate. You could play throttle-blip all day and never get bored. The quality of the materials is superb and the finessing applied by Maserati is truly magical with the standout detailing being the hand stitched leather seats that are also embossed with the Maserati badge.

I had brief spins in the Quattroporte and Gran Turismo. The Quattroporte is the Italian equivalent of an S Class Mercedes. It caters for such demanding client’s requirements but gives them that little bit extra - exclusivity. It will transport you around Europe delivering you polished and refreshed for your next important meeting. I also believe it will send out a message that you are a bit more discerning when it comes to choosing a suitable car and you are not a herd follower.

The Gran Turismo is special, very special. Maserati GT racing driver Jamie Unwin who explained the design principles used in coming up with the final car accompanied me. Forget principles, I wanted to steal it as I have lusted after this car from the moment I first saw it. It is everything a sports car should be. Sleek, sexy, sinuous and sonorous. I adored the sound in the same was as I’d adore a favourite song. Forget fuel consumption, that’s just your entry ticket into a machine that turns petrol into noise, stunning noise. It is a remarkably easy car to drive fast and is equally easy to drive more mundanely. I still believe driving fast cars slowly is a good thing as you are in it longer to enjoy every second. It is an iconic car and driving it did not disappoint.

My final car was the Levante. Maserati needed an SUV to bring more buyers to the brand and the exercise can easily be classified as a success. Heck they are all doing it even Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and Bentley. We took it away from its natural home, the road, and went off-road, to try out what it was designed for. This proved very eye-opening. You’re always a bit hesitant when the surface you drive on is not comprised of best bitumen. When it’s a luxury, exotic brand that trepidation is heightened. I needn’t have worried. Our instructor guided us and pointed out that the car has incredible ability. I scaled steep inclines and declines and went over rutted, mud roads effortlessly.

The Levante coped with everything and provided a bit of a surreal experience merging luxury and muck. The systems provided are comprehensive and the lesson I learned was that once you select the appropriate setting you just let the car get on with it. And it gets on with it a lot better than you could ever do choosing the right amount of power to deliver to each wheel depending on the traction detected. Lots of SUVs do this I know but very few in such luxury. Alas, dare I say it, very few Levantes will ever venture off our darling roads. On good roads the Levante made me forget I was driving an SUV, behaving very car like, I mean luxury car like. I think that’s the reason why they are popular in the luxury brands. They reassure you that you are not missing out on much if you bought a “normal” sports car in terms of driving experience as well as comforting you knowing that if you must venture off-road you can in style, comfort and supreme confidence. You essentially get two cars for the price of one.

The cliché of not meeting your heroes can be hit and miss. In driving these beautiful Maseratis I can safely say it is to be done because, for me, it was a definite hit.