Modena, Italy - In the little town of Modena (pronounced Mow-duh-na) life moves slowly. The stores are closed from 1-4pm, so that people can relax, siesta time if you will. The people of Modena, a town in northeast Italy's Emilia Romagna region, seem to be born with design and art running through their blood.
Balsamic Vinegar originated in Modena. Not the type of Balsamic vinegar that we know, but the thick, sweet stuff called Aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena. Modena's vinegar is as thick as oil and created from grapes in barrels made from seven different types of wood. Those barrels, of increasing size, are called batteries. The batteries are passed down from generation to generation and are the heart of producing a good bottle of vinegar. A bottle of the good stuff can take 12 or 25 years to make and range in price from $150-$400 for a 100ml bottle.
In the heart of the city on a little street we are told to look up at a building. All I see are windows closed. On this unassuming street, in this little apartment, I am told, lived the Maestro Luciano Pavarotti.
Round another corner and feast your eyes on Modena's 12th Century cathedral with its Gothic belltower, the Torre della Ghirlandina. The cathdral is under construction, but we're getting a private tour. As the doors open our senses come alive to the smell of must and the voice of the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti singing Ave Maria. It is lightly lit, and one strolls cautiously over the stone floor, around the wooden pews, listening all the while to Pavarotti's great voice booming down from the heavens.
We exited the mysterious door of the Cathedral where the souls leave to another world and walked around another corner to the Plaza Duomo where a woman is sitting on the stoop. Her long dark beautiful hair is flowing down the front of her crisp white fitted blouse. Her gray silk skirt hugs her long thin leg and falls around her calf, showing off her brown leather stiletto boots. She takes a drag off her cigarette, and cocks her head playfully at the tall Italian boy next to her.
Maserati started in Bologna, Italy by the Maserati brothers. History has it that the logo was taken from the bronze statue that sits in the Piazza Nettuno in Bologna. The statue is of Neptune, God of the Sea, holding his trident. The fountain was constructed, with its cherubs, and mermaids spouting water from their breasts, in the mid-16th century. The night I was in Bologna the Neptune, and its trident, were being used as some sort of Pagan ritual by college students in renaissance drag.
The Maserati brothers sold their business in the mid-30s to the Orsi family and the company was relocated to Modena. Today, the company is owned by Fiat, but collaborates with Ferrari, also owned by Fiat.
From its Viale Ciro Menotti headquarters and factory in Modena, one exits onto a bustling street. The NAV system is programmed to take us to Cremona, a city about 60 miles away. We throw away the road book and let the NAV system guide us as we speed through the Italian countryside, sprinkled with red poppies.
It takes no time to settle into the 2009 Gran Turismo S. The 0-62 is a mere 4.9 seconds, but the 490 lb-ft of torque is what throws you back in your seat. Some would think it is the 433 horsepower that drives this baby, but just like the brown leather boots and stiletto heels on an Italian woman, torque is the driving factor.
There are two driving modes for the Gran Turismo: normal and sport. If you're in sport mode you wouldn't want the music on, the car is the music. The throaty sound of the V-8 engine languishes at the apex of your cochlea. Clicking the sport button again is like having noise canceling headphones on and your cochlea reverts back to being just the auditory portion of your inner ear.
My riding partner is having a hard time staying awake. The seats hold one like a baby in a basket that is lined with Italian Poltrona Frau leather with Alcantara leather in the center. There is plenty of room for the passenger to sit back and relax, right arm resting on the door handle, knees to the left, head cocked to the side, left arm on the center console.
I'm having no problem staying awake. The front mid-engine car with a 47/53 split takes curves smoothly, with no swish from side to side. The new brakes, designed in collaboration with Brembo, were first shown on the Quattroporte GTS. The brakes have the same weight as a production car. They use aluminum on the inside of the brakes, while cast iron is used on the outside. This exclusive product is made only for Maserati and is only used on the front brakes.
A surprise in Cremona is awaiting us. We park in the plaza amid a growing group of Italian teenagers. We go up a multitude of stairs to the Di Cremona Sistem Museale, known to us as the Museum Stradivariano. The conservatore, Andrea Mosconi, waits for us. We are late. Seventy-five year old Mosconi is holding "The Cremonese 1715", built by Antonio Stradivari in 1715. He plays three songs on it, and carefully puts it back in its glass case.
At Cremona we hijack Vince Piarulli, Product Manager, Maserati North America to ride with us part of the way and none of us lacked for room or for great conversation. Usually a two-door sportscar is lacking in the back, even though most manufacturers say they fit four people.
Fuel economy is about nine percent better in the 4.7 Gran Turismo S than it was in the 4.2 Gran Sport.
With the 2009 Gran Turismo S you will get 13 city/19 highway miles per gallon. Maserati has accomplished this, even with a larger engine and a bigger car. They have also decreased the CO2 emissions.
Maserati has been around for 94 years. They have been, and will continue to be, a very exclusive brand. They have been, and will continue to be, a sporty car with a bent on racing style. They have been, and will continue to be, Italian, Modena style.
There will only be 300 cars made for 2009. Maserati used the same strategy for the Quattroporte GTS and it worked well for them. The car starts at $135,000 plus a gas guzzler tax, it will go on sale in November, 2008.