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Maserati S models


Maserati is confident it can survive turbulent times by continuing its recipe of exclusive hoonery in the Quattroporte and GranTurismo S

It's sweetened the deal by updating the cars, and adding a more sporting 'S' variant to the two models on offer.

Our Quattroporte test car featured the new Marrone Corniola leather interior - with lashings of handsome chocolate hide. Otherwise the visible changes are few, with an updated grille, reshaped side mirrors and changes to the lights - most notably the immediately recognisable vertical LEDs for the rear.

Inside the ergonomics are better and there's higher tech under the dash.

But the real news is the S cars. The Ferrari-sourced 4.7-litre V8 is effectively a rebore of the 4.2-litre entry-level powerplant.

In the Quattroporte it offers 317kW at 7000rpm and 490Nm at 4759, put to the rear wheels via a six-speed ZF transmission. This car also gets as standard the electronically controlled, continuously adjustable Skyhook suspension.

It worked impressively well over the heaving tarmac of our rural mountain drive, offering both comfort and an ability to throw the big car around. The 4.2 was soon left behind, struggling to keep up with the S - and no wonder, for at 1990kg these are heavy cars.

But forget the four-door - I'll take the GranTurismo S. After all, it may be a two-door coupe but the generous rear pews will take two adults in comfort - though they won't see much out of the vestigial rear windows. Never mind, our test car had acres of hot red leather to admire instead...

The GranTurismo greets the 4.7-litre engine with open arms - now with 323kW at 7000rpm, plus the 490Nm, and matched to a rear-mounted electro-actuated double-clutch six speed transmission.

This kit's party trick is the sport button. Tap it, and the suspension sharpens, while exhaust gases are routed around the silencer. As you'd imagine, the effect is cataclysmic. The car's signature is a lusty, testosterone-addled bellow punctuated by crisp crackles and bangs on the over-run. It's a sound that thrills the blood and encourages hoonery - or would have, had our test route not been quite so demanding, a tangled often single lane ribbon of frost-heaved tarmac threading the rain-slashed mist of a turbulent Tuscan autumn.

That's not to say we didn't throw it around a bit - the modified springs, bars and dampers offering firm control without losing sight of comfort; the slight rear bias and sporty tune for the stability control allowing you to slide the tail around at will without letting it go too far. This predictability, and the car's facility at keeping power down in atrocious conditions, made it a winner even without the soundtrack.

So charismatic is this car that getting a puncture on the rainy Italian autostrada couldn't completely damp the pleasure of our unforgettable drive, nor could returning to the standard, less anti-social soundtrack.

The Quattroporte starts the Maserati range at $278,500 with the GranTurismo S closing it at $317,000.

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