For yacht owners, buyers and enthusiasts, the Cannes Yachting Festival is just that: an annual gathering of the world’s biggest shipyards, in the luxurious surroundings of one of France’s most glamorous locations, Cannes is renowned for being Europe’s leading in-water event, where potential buyers get a chance to sea trail yachts out on the Golfe de la Napoule. To be associated with the glitz and glamour of the festival with its Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (who will quite happily spend 10 million Euros before lunch) is priceless for similarly ultra exclusive brands, and that’s why Maserati is the official car of the show.
Based on the Jetée Albert Édouard, Maserati had its own exclusive VIP lounge where the 2019 range could be viewed along with lifestyle offerings from partners Ermenegildo Zegna and Bowers & Wilkins, with Bulgari exhibiting two versions of the Octo Maserati watch, the GranLusso and GranSport.
The Italian brand entertained yachting’s elite by bringing in a full team from its Modena HQ. Head of Design, Klaus Busse was on hand to explain the intricate detailing of the 2019 range and to shed light on some of the classic traits, such as the Maserati trident. We learned that this iconic badge dates back to 1920 and is based on the Fountain of Neptune in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, hometown of the the Maserati Brothers, Alfieri, Bindo, Carlo, Ettore, and Ernesto, who back then, built racing cars designed for the Targa Florio.
We spent a good time chatting to Klaus about yacht design (you can see his yacht concept on page 114), as we joined him on the Custom Line 120 sea trial, but we were eager to test drive the Maserati range, so we took a couple of days off at the end of the Festival to put the Ghibli, Quattroporte and the Levante through their respective places around the boulevards, autoroutes and mountain roads of the Côte D’azur.
Winding our way down towards Antibes we are in no real rush, but it would be rude not to up the tempo a bit and see how the Ferrari manufactured twin turbo performs...
For the first of our drives, we met up with the Maserati team at the Le Mas Candille Hotel on the outskirts of Cannes. Our steed for the day was the Ghibli in its Gran Lusso designation: a more subtle and luxury-oriented model, compared to the more aggressive Ghibli Gran Sport. Both however feature the twin turbo V6, but for our planned drive down to Antibes we’re more interested how the luxury saloon can cope with a number of tight Riviera roads. Sitting in the supportive Peino Fiore 12-way power leather seats, the blue dials, analogue clock and the large trident in the chunky sport steering wheel remind you of exactly what you’re piloting. The Ghibli entered the premium segment in 2013 boasting tangibly superior cabin craftsmanship and it’s been evolved ever since. Now we have a 8.4” Maserati Touch Control Plus display with a 7” TFT display nestled in between the tach and speedo. There’s a redesigned gearshift lever, a revised button cluster for the driving modes and the ‘American size’ cup holders – perfect for those ‘Big Gulps’. This is a Maserati however, so even in our Gran Lusso, the driving position is low and purposeful and as we inch out onto some narrow roads, the long, sweeping bonnet shortens visually, leaving you confident to squeeze between a pair of Fiat Pandas.
At relaxed speeds, the V6 is totally docile; you just accelerate, brake and point the steering wheel where you want to go. There’s no engine or exhaust noise at low revs, which allows you to just enjoy the experience.
Winding our way down towards Antibes, we are in no real rush, but it would be rude not to up the tempo a bit and see how the Ferrari manufactured twin turbo performs. A quiet stretch of winding road becomes our testing ground and as we switch to Sport mode, the exhaust valves open (they’re closed up to 3000rpm in Normal mode) and the Ghibli’s voice turns from Barry White to Axl Rose. The V6 roars with a tone only the Italians appear to be able to perfect, making driving with the windows down a necessity. It’s a glorious sound and one that’s backed up with seat of the pants performance. Don’t be fooled by the four door layout; the Ghibli is an all out sports car in a gran turismo body. Floor the throttle and you’re launched forward with the four wheel drive system and Limited-Slip Differential putting the power down smoothly and efficiently. As we let it cool down on the run into Antibes, we’ve already bonded with the Ghibli, but now it’s time for the Quattroporte.
With our Ghibli parked next to the Quattroporte, our first observation is how similar they look. Both have four doors, a long bonnet ending in a shark-like grille and even the rears are similar with four exhausts and clear lenses with red surrounds. However, the Quattroporte is wider and significantly longer, with the big four door sneaking an extra side window in to its silhouette.Figures have the Ghibli at 4971mm in length with a wheelbase of 2998mm and the Quattroporte at 5262mm with a 3171mm wheelbase. That’s almost a foot longer and with it a considerable increase in rear seat room. The Quattroporte looks and feels the size it is. Imposing to onlookers and luxuriously spacious for its inhabitants, it is perhaps more likely to get driven in the big four door as it is to actually driving it. Engine options include the twin turbo V6, but Middle East buyers will be relieved to find it’s also available with a 530bhp twin turbo V8. We again drove the V6 (we’ll be testing the V8 on home turf soon) and performance is still brisk, but we’d prefer to order our Quattroporte in GranLusso trim over the GranSport and just waft about enjoying the extra space.
Our base is now Le Palais Bulles – Pierre Cardin’s very own Bond Lair. Designed by the Hungarian architect Antti Lovag the 1200 square metre ‘Palace of Bubbles’ dominates the exclusive Théoule-sur-Mer hillside and features 10-bedrooms, various swimming pools and a 500-seat open-air amphitheater. On a slightly smaller scale, our five door Levante is awaiting us, which is of particular interest, as I’ve never driven it before. The now familiar twin turbo V6 was powering us, but within seconds of setting off the experience was totally different to both the Ghibli and Quattroporte.
The view from the driver’s seat is similar, with the 8.4” Maserati Touch Control Plus display and redesigned switchgear; basically, it’s the same Maserati driving experience, just higher up. Looking out over the bonnet, the Levante feels twice as high as the Ghibli, with the elevated driving position giving you a commanding view, that ultimately made driving around the tight roads of the Alpes Maritimes easier, smoother and safer. Being able to see over and around the cars in front allowed us to push harder, resulting in a faster overall drive than the four doors. And yes, the Levante really goes, with the benchmark 0-100km/h sprint dispatched in 5.2 seconds with a 264km/h top speed. The performance is matched by the sound, with an ‘emergency start’ resulting in instant acceleration, combined with a banshee-like howl that will send tingles down the spine of any petrolhead. It’s addictive and will not help you achieve the stated fuel efficiency of 11.8 l/100 km. Although we stayed firmly on road, the Levante can venture into the rough without any problems. It has plenty of torque (with torque vectoring), an intelligent four wheel drive system and a selectable off-road mode, which increases the ride height by 25mm. The Levante’s a genuine all-rounder and fills the gap in the Maserati range for a family friendly, fun and rather swift SUV. It slides snugly between the sporty Ghibli and the bigger super luxury Quattroporte, offering a completely new and unique entry into Maserati ownership; practicality, functionality and the ability to venture off road.