He was a former London bus driver – and one of our greatest balladeers. You know, Matt Munro’s sensual rendition of ‘On Days Like These’ still sends a shiver down my spine as I mentally picture the fate of the Lamborghini Miura in the memorable cult classic, ‘The Italian Job’.
Translated, the song’s languid opening lines mean literally: ‘On days like these, when it’s sunny and beautiful’ but ‘Questi giorni quando vieni il bel sole’ sounds so much better, don’t you agree?
And it got me thinking – ever noticed how even the most mundane words sound so sensual in Italian? Flick through an Italian dictionary and you’ll see what I mean – you really can savour even the most everyday words as they roll around your mouth…
And what the Italians do for language, they do for cars too; is there another four door grand tourer quite as sensual as Maserati’s Quattroporte, I wonder?
Take time to read ‘And the revs keep rising’ by Mel Nichols and you’ll get a flavour of the car back in the eighties when it was still a pacesetter in the European prestige market, 20 or so years after its introduction as the original four door GT.
Spool forward to 2015, and I discovered the latest iteration of the car – which can count among its rivals respected machines from Porsche, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes – offers both style and substance as a refreshing alternative to the marques which now dominate the UK luxury marketplace.
Some might have scoffed a few years ago when it announced plans to target the UK with a new range of right hand drive models but so far its audacious plan seems to be working with year on year sales in the ascendant, many of them conquests from the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar.
There’s no denying that the Quattroporte is a good looking car with its muscular lines and instantly recognisable grille, but beauty is more than skin deep in this imposing four door super saloon has a good deal more of the wow factor than the ‘usual suspects’ from Germany and the UK.
Driven recently was the covetable diesel model; at a shade over £88,000, its base price of £69,000 was supplemented with almost £19,000 worth of desirable options showcasing how you can customise ‘your’ car.
As with all luxury marques you get what you pay for which in the case of the Quattroporte is a compelling mix of heritage, style and the best of Italian workmanship in a refined and beautifully crafted car which in this case was finished in a delicate shade of Nero Ribelle.
With the original Quattroporte in 1963 – a favourite of mine from the latter day ‘Observer Book of Cars’ – Maserati invented the concept of the luxury sports saloon and the new Quattroporte Diesel delivers sustainability and eco-friendliness into a package that its makers claim continues to set the benchmarks for high quality engineering, supercar performance and peerless comfort.
The diesel model – supplements the twin-turbo V6 and V8 power of the petrol-engine variants with incredible range and the lowest fuel economy in the model’s history, its 3.0-litre, V6, turbocharged diesel engine delivering an official combined fuel economy figure of around 40mpg, making it by far the most economical Quattroporte.
And yet it retains all the performance qualities of a Maserati, with a 0-62 time of only 6.4 seconds and a top speed of over 150mph.
It’s all combined with rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, all wrapped up in a long wheelbase saloon with a balanced weight distribution and a sophisticated five-link rear suspension system.
Inside it’s a world away from the ‘sterile’ interiors of competing German marques with dashes of inspiration from the instrumentation, leather seating and gorgeous colourways all lending the car a real sense of occasion for every journey.
A busy test weekend saw the car pile on the miles with trips to Lancaster and around west Lancashire along with a memorable early morning dash to Harrogate where my 10-year-old nephew had a school run to die for…
And my return trip via the A59 took me past the home Northern Soul in Lancashire, Bowker’s new showroom with the Samlesbury garage now the county’s official dealer, after being awarded the coveted franchise a year or so ago.