The path to motoring glory is paved with national stereotypes. It may be contentious in an age of global ownership when Lamborghini, Audi and Bentley share more parts than anyone likes to admit, but nationality matters.
We want the Brits to offer walnut heritage and the Germans to create meisterwerks of safe, effcient driving. We need Americans to make big, brash muscle machines and the Japanese to do what they do, with an occasional curveball. As for Italians? They bring flair and style. And while Alfa Romeo has made two nice cars in recent years, Ferrari and Lamborghini have this covered.
Which leaves Maserati. In recent years, it has focused on sporty-but-practical end of the market notably big, sports sedans. While it can lay claim to having created the blueprint for these with the 1963 Quattroporte, this doesn’t fi t the national stereotype.
So hats off to the German running the company at the moment. He’s recognized the value of collaboration with ever-so-Italian fashion house Ermenegildo Zegna. And while major new models aren’t due until 2017 (apart from the admittedly more Italian Alfi eri), the 2016 range offers seats made from 100% silk with a personalized tailor’s label on back of the driver’s sunshade. It’s a masterpiece of “nationality marketing” and it made perfect sense at the launch, as the two immaculate CEOs sat in the Grand Hotel de Iles Borromees’s Hemingway Suite on the banks of Lago Maggiore, explaining why this project marks the start of an innovative business partnership (and not a marriage of brand convenience). There was much mutual brand love in the air as the two talked of years of testing to develop silk tough enough for the wear and tear faced by a car seat.
So what of the 2016 Quattroporte? This upgrade of the sixth incarnation, which arrived in 2013, comes with engines tweaked to be cleaner and more e_ cient. The top-of-the-range GTS boasts a thumping 530bhp, 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 (from Ferrari), which delivers more sporty agility on winding Italian mountain roads than a car with this much girth has the right to. Inside the cabin, there is plenty of new tech, from a premium 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins surround sound stereo (with a function called Clari-Fi, which takes compressed audio fi les and plays back music at near-studio quality) to better phone connectivity (with voice control via Siri) and a touch screen that controls much of the car, but which fl ummoxed me. Above all, in cars with the Zegna option, there is lots of sober grey silk. Each car uses roughly 13 yards of silk – four times the amount needed for a Zegna two-piece suit. And here it all starts to sound so very Italian – and it becomes clear why the world needs Maserati. Quattroporte GTS with Zegna interior 0-60mph: 4.7 seconds Top speed: 191 mph