Power and passion
WHEN YOU'RE LENT a Maserati Quattroporte for the day, you're entitled to daydream a little of brisk flits on Route Twisk, or slow cruises in Central, just to catch the eye of everyone you know. But when a friend told me he was getting married that day, I thought the top-of-the-range Maserati was a potentially fitting set of wheels for newlyweds. And I became the bride and groom's official chauffeur.
The Quattroporte's gleam would make a bridesmaid glow, and who wouldn't say 'I do' to those lovely, sweet-smelling tan leather seats. I particularly like the inlaid carpentry on the satellite-navigation screen and climate-control panels, and the traditional blue and silver Maserati clock between the vents. There's plenty of room in the front if you're 1.77 metres tall like me, and enough lolling space in the back for the groom and the bride in her gown.
The Quattroporte's switchgear seems more ergonomic than most Italian cars, and I like the simplicity of its drive. You don't have to mess about with systems such as Multi Media Interface, i-Drive or Comand, because the Maserati gives you one switch per function. Arrows also move a cursor on a screen that changes hue when the lights are on, so it doesn't distract too much if you're driving at night.
Thanks to software upgrades, the Quattroporte's Cambiocorsa gearbox is now much smoother in full-automatic mode, but I still prefer to do what little dirty work is left. The sole silver button in the cockpit toggles between auto and manual modes, cog-swapping offered by gorgeous chromed slivers behind the steering wheel. The Sport switch quickens the shifts and tightens the revised Skyhook adaptive suspension system.
The big Maserati offers more than just ground-shaking acceleration and thunderous speed. With a smaller-than-usual steering wheel and a perfectly judged steering ratio, you grab its thick rim and guide the missile with precision through slower-moving road blocks on Gloucester Road.
The highly tuned V8 sings so sweetly it's worth holding it in a lower gear than usual just to hear an almost American burble at first, as it growls to the red line when you take off. It's when you realise that the speedometer is marked in 30km/h increments that you decide it's better to slow down.
My alarm is set for an early start on Sunday, but with $1.5 million of beautiful Italian craftsmanship in my garage, I wake even earlier just to cruise a little before meeting the groom, Ian Lee. On the Tolo Harbour Highway I chase a swarm of exotic cars through the mist to Tai Po Industrial Estate. Equally at home on narrow lanes, the Quattroporte climbs crests and leans into corners on its huge 19-inch Pirelli Corsas. With a rare directness its steering seems raw compared with German counterparts.
The Quattroporte looks sleek among other luxury cars. Its long, chrome-tipped nose contrasts with the muscular tail, ending in a tiny lip spoiler on the boot. The cabin's streamlined silhouette and the side vents scream grand touring speed. The Maserati seems rock solid on the road, thanks to its 47:53 front-rear weight ratio.
But duty calls at the Conrad hotel. When we put a bouquet of roses on the bonnet and door handles, the Maserati looks almost as radiant as Winnie the bride. We settle her in and she holds the ceiling leather handles from the back seat as up to 400 Italian stallions get her to the church on time.
Turning into the driveway of St Margaret's, in Happy Valley, I'm almost blinded by the flash of cameras from the stairway. And that's even before the bride steps out.
When the couple have said their vows, I take the Lees on their first journey as man and wife. The schedule is tight and the evening celebrations are about to start, so we race back to the hotel.
The groom is enjoying his first ride in a Quattroporte, and tells me to give it some stick as the floral ornaments are no longer needed. Flicking the 'down' gear-paddle a couple of times, I'm soon as besotted with the Maserati as Ian is with Winnie. And I can't wait to take the Maserati home after dinner.
Even trundling at one-tenth of its speed potential in Hong Kong, the Quattroporte impresses with its presence alone. Push it harder, and it'll lift you to the pinnacle of modern motoring. Near the limit, the sheer grunt of the engine, the howl of the exhaust, and the unimaginable body-control blend into the embodiment of sheer indulgence at the wheel.
The hard part is handing the Maserati back on Monday morning. According to the on-board computer, I've covered almost 280km during the weekend and used just half a tank of petrol, which was quite acceptable, given that at least three or four people were aboard, with a wedding eye on the clock.
Blame the Bose system, with Jamiroquai's Black Devil Car blasting from speakers all around. How fitting - the silver trident in the nose would have suited Satan perfectly.
Driving a Quattroporte in Hong Kong isn't just about converting fuel into motion, or symphonic exhausts, but how much glamour you can get per litre of petrol. And memories of a Maserati wedding can last a lifetime. Ask Winnie and Ian.