Soaked from head to toe while desperately clutching a small post at the back of the boat to maintain stability, it occurred to me this was not really the scenario I had imagined when I paired together in my head "Maserati" and "sailing experience." But notions of sunshine, ocean breezes, and leisure done the Italian way had gone overboard long ago. At that point, I decided if I made it back to shore with everything I had brought abroad—both in terms of equipment and appendages—I would consider this outing a success.
I suppose it serves me right for skipping the fine print; although the Maserati Multi 70 Trimaran is indeed motivated by wind, this is no typical pleasure craft. Made primarily from carbon fiber and titanium, the Multi 70 was purpose-built for high-speed competition, not cruising.
Led by skipper Giovanni Soldini, the boat's crew was preparing to embark on the 50th running of Transpacific Yacht Race from California to Hawaii. It's a journey that takes most boats several weeks, but the Multi 70 can complete the race in roughly four days. This crew seemed keen on showing some land-loving journalists what competitive sailing is all about, and at times hitting close to forty knots over choppy waters, they definitely had our full attention.
Activities earlier in the day were a bit more in my wheelhouse, though. Before heading out to sea, we got some seat time behind the wheel of the key players in Maserati's current lineup, which consist of the Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans, the Levante sport-utility, and the GranTurismo Convertible. While each has its own charms, there's an underlying theme that carries throughout, and it was perhaps best exemplified by our experience aboard the Multi70: They're all a little more intense than you might expect.
We started off the day in the Levante, Maserati's mid-sized crossover. Here in Trofeo specification, there's a 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 providing the thrust, a mill which is sourced directly from Ferrari's factory. Packing 590 horsepower, the Trofeo will dispatch the 60mph sprint in a sports car-like 3.8 seconds on its way to a top speed of 187 miles per hour.
But those expecting a Ferrari-like soundtrack are in for a surprise. While Prancing Horse exotics utilize a flat-plane crankshaft, the Maserati's power plant is equipped with a more conventional cross-plane piece. In turn, it also employs a more conventional V8 firing order and thus sounds more like a V8 out of Detroit rather than Maranello. Nevertheless, the Levante Trofeo is a potent machine indeed. Gobs of mid-range torque are always at the ready to propel this 4,800-pound SUV with some serious haste, and the ZF-sourced 8-speed transmission never seems out of sorts, whether it's being issued commands from the shift paddles or left to its own devices.
When things settle down, the Levante's throttle response, exhaust note and adjustable suspension are willing to relax a little. The top-spec Trofeo includes two performance-focused drive modes —Sport and the Trofeo-exclusive Corsa mode—along with Normal, I.C.E. (Increased Control & Efficiency), and Off-Road.
The interior's appropriately posh for the occasion, though the liberal use of bits and pieces from the FCA parts bin is hard to ignore. That's perhaps most evident in the infotainment system, which is ostensibly a re-skinned version of Chrysler's Uconnect system. Still, although it lacks some of the visual refinement of systems found in rival vehicles, this 8.4-inch touchscreen unit offers fast response combined with an intuitive interface and near-flawless implementations of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. And in the realm of infotainment systems, I'll take function over form every single time.
QUATTROPORTE & GHIBLI
Next up were the Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans. While Quattroporte is the car that helped to reestablish Maserati as a player in the luxury market back in 2003, it's the Ghibli that really captured my interest. Riding on a shortened version of the Quattroporte's platform, our Ghibli S tester was outfitted with a 3.0-liter 424 horsepower twin-turbocharged V6. Like the Levante, it's a power plant that starts life in a Ferrari engine assembly plant and, as such, is full of character and pairs well with the sedan's sculpted look.
The interior doesn't fair quite as well, however, as the switchgear and electronics borrowed from other brands in the Fiat-Chrysler portfolio just don't add up to a cabin with the refinement found in cars like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Audi A6. As with the rest of the lineup, the 8.4-inch display handles infotainment duties, offering both inputs by way of the touchscreen as well as a dual rotary knob setup on the center console.
GRANTURISMO CONVERTIBLE SPORT
The star of the show was undoubtedly the GranTurismo Convertible Sport. Maserati's two-door received a refresh for 2018, but it's still decidedly a throwback, and that's a sword which cuts both ways. For instance, the grid of buttons that comprise the HVAC controls look like they've been yanked out of an economy car built in the '90s. The gauge cluster's low-resolution center display and the lack of a push-button ignition don't do much to shake that sense of datedness, either.
Turn that ignition key, though, and the retro vibe starts to make a strong case for itself. Under the hood is a 454 horsepower, 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V8, making this the only car you can still buy new with a Ferrari-built V8 that isn't equipped with forced induction. With a free-flowing exhaust system and no turbochargers to muddle the proceedings, the powerplant absolutely sings to its 7,500rpm redline in Sport mode, encouraging high-revving antics whenever possible.
The gearbox is a blast from the past as well—a ZF-sourced six-speed automatic that's fairly lackadaisical about shift speeds but isn't preoccupied with shifting into higher gears to improve fuel economy at the cost of overall response.
The hydraulically-assisted steering rack is another artifact from a different era, a time when communicative steering was still a thing. But despite the GranTurismo's racy look and admirable steering feel, the name befits this car's mission. This is a grand tourer, not an apex hunter, and it definitely feels more at home cruising with the top down than when being pushed to its dynamic limits.
In many ways the GranTurismo feels like a car that's been encased in amber since its 2007 debut. A lot has changed in the industry since then, and some would say that it hasn't all been for the better. But with efficiency becoming a greater and greater concern, this design's days are undoubtedly numbered. It also doesn't help that the GranTurismo Convertible Sport starts at just over $150,000, a healthy chunk of change that puts the Maserati in league with a number of more technologically sophisticated machines.
Still, there's a certain charm that lies beyond the specifications. Emotions often aren't dictated by logic, and despite what might seem like evidence to the contrary, that doesn't make them "wrong."
With seawater dripping from his face, a colleague turned to me during one of the most turbulent moments during our outing on the water. "Remember that time Maserati tried to kill us?" he joked.
I cocked my head back and belted out a guttural "yee-haw" in response.