What It’s Like To Drive Every Maserati

AS VALENTINE’S Day goes, the setting couldn’t have been more idyllic.

Profusions of red geranium spilled from terracotta pots set on ancient-looking stone work baking in the morning sun. Vineyards and rows of tall pencil pines provided a picture-perfect backdrop, while grape vines wound their way through a pergola under which chilled water and wine were on offer. Out front, an impressive set of sparkling sports cars was lined up awaiting our attention, all of them Italian and all of them bearing the Maserati trident logo on their grills.

It looked like Italy, it felt like Italy but in fact was a world away from that ancient land of cultural significance – literally and figuratively. This scene was set in the rural hills of the Melbourne suburb of Warrandyte, a beautiful place for sure, but popular mainly for bird watching, bush walking and boating on the Yarra River. A 40-minute drive from Melbourne’s CBD, Warrandyte is gateway to even more beautiful scenery in the nearby Yarra Valley and Yarra Rangers. So our meeting point at Olivigna Restaurant, part of Pietro Galla Estate, was the perfect base from which to road test cars from a brand with a grand touring history.

‘Having the opportunity to experience cars like these in places where they were designed to be driven is worth signing on for.’

Zagame Maserati Richmond had invited Madam Wheels and other car enthusiasts to Warrandyte to experience the full suite of the Maserati range, including the GranTurismo, Ghibli, Quattroporte and SUV Levante. All that was missing, sadly – especially given the Umbrian-like weather that day – was Maserati’s spectacular convertible version of the GT, the GranCabrio. Perhaps another time.

Things started with lunch in what looked like a subterranean cellar. On the menu were antipasti of house-marinated olives, salumi and rare-breed Kurobuta Berkshire capocolto. The food and ambiance were really special but, to the cars! I jumped straight into the GT, preferring to kick things off at the top of the Maserati power range before easing my way back down through the tamer models.

While the engines in each car had been built in Ferrari’s Maranello factory, I knew the GT housed the larger V8 and was capable of a top speed of almost 300 km/h. Not that we were going to get anywhere near that, of course, given these were public roads which, in any case, turned out to be heavily populated by road-work crews. Such interruptions might have annoyed my driving colleagues for the day – an obstetrician and money manager. But I used the stops and go-slow moments as opportunities to explore the in-car technology and swap through different drive modes.

We wound our way through back roads to the Maroondah Hwy, passing Cold stream and Healesville and along the blissfully beautiful run of Black Spur Drive. Each car was equipped with a two-way radio through which instructions on route and obstacles were shared along the way. The good doctor went missing with the Ghibli at one stage but managed to find us again soon enough.

The nice thing about the Ghibli, as I was to find out, is that while it looks like a coupe, it’s also entirely appropriate as an executive sedan. Its eight-speed V6 engine is no slouch, either, and the car comes equipped with a useful array of Advanced Driving Assistance Systems. For example, one keeps the car within its nominated lane, another warns when you’re coming up too hot on a car in front, while a Traffic Sign Assist feature keeps drivers informed of local speed limits.

But particularly helpful in the city – where the explosion of food-delivery scooter riders often display tactics more suited to Bali, frankly – is the blind spot feature which identifies things speeding up your side.

Into the Quattroporte, and an electronic steering wheel control made adjusting it into position a snap. Something that was outstanding in this car – well, all of them, actually – was that the automatic gear changes, up and down, were barely perceptible. Even when the paddles were in play, the smoothness of the shifts was truly amazing.

Having driven the Levante on another occasion (seen also here and here) – and preferring wagons and sedans over SUVs, anyway – I skipped the chance to drive the 2019 version of the Levante and got back behind the wheel of the the GT for the final leg of the drive back to Olivigna (though, if it had been the turbo-charged V8 Levante Trofeo SUV launched at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show – the limited-edition of which is pictured below in Blu Emozione Matte – I might have been persuaded). The way the GT’s sports seats held me in place, the feel of the hand-finished leather trims and the growl of that engine made it a firm favourite for me on the day.

Having the opportunity to experience cars like these in places where they were designed to be driven – safely and with professional guidance on the cars’ features along with plenty of advice on how to use them – is an activity worth signing on for. It’s the best way to try before you buy. Cycling through the full breadth of Maseratis certainly provides an excellent sense of the brand’s DNA, which makes drive days like these a worthwhile exercise. And if it feels like you’re in Italy while you’re doing it, all the better.


New Evoque Shows It’s No ‘Deer In The Headlight’

Land Rover understands modern humans well if a new marketing campaign around its latest baby Range Rover is any guide.

The clever British brand has captured strong themes of art and design and paired them with our natural curiosity to showcase the all-terrain capabilities and smart tech in the 2019 Evoque. Our infatuation with capturing every moment on our mobile phones features strongly, too, in steely-clean footage shot in London’s financial district presenting the Evoque as the ultimate city SUV.

Range Rover

A familiar road sign is used as a frame for the vehicle in the video as it negotiates a series of unlikely urban obstacles to demonstrate the Evoque’s “optimum ride and handling” capabilities coupled with its smooth drive.

The River Thames is a backdrop as the compact SUV mounts a 40-degree ramp (representing a “steep hill”, as these tests go) to demonstrate how its short overhang, 25-degree approach angle and use of Land Rover’s Hill Descent Control system enable it to go where it needs to go and do what it needs to

‘New rear-view mirror technology allows the driver to see past objects blocking the view of the road behind.’

A clever take on the proverbial deer in the headlight is used to close the action by showcasing new rear-view mirror technology which allows the driver to see past objects blocking the view of the road behind with the flick of a switch.

Land Rover’s Evoque has been a top seller for the marque in Australia since it launched here in 2011. This second-generation version is scheduled to arrive here mid-way through this year.

It won’t be electric, though Land Rover says the new architecture in the car will accommodate a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle power train, which is due to be added to the range later this year.


Women Take Pole Position at Australian Grand Prix

WOMEN will be invited trackside on the opening day of this year’s Australian Grand Prix as part of a new business-focused event designed to showcase how thrilling and addictive this pinnacle sporting event can be.

Madam Wheels, an Australian-based resource for women who love luxury cars, has partnered with the Australian Grand Prix Corporation (AGPC) for the “Women Driving Leadership” event designed to entice more corporate and entrepreneurial women into the exciting world of motor sports. Formula One is attracting increasing numbers of women into senior leadership roles and they have been instrumental in lifting the popularity of the sport. The Women Driving Leadership event seeks to celebrate those successes, with the AGPC bringing in some of the heaviest hitters from its global Formula One team.

luxury car-jaccqe hayees

They will form part of a strong lineup of women participating in a panel discussion on the business of fast cars which Hayes will moderate. “I’m humbled to have been invited to be part of this AGPC event which is all about promoting women in their efforts to make an impact in whatever field they’re working,” Hayes says.

Located at the Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit, Women Driving Leadership will include a breakfast and part- or full-day program options, featuring the following keynote speakers:

Ellie Norman – Global Director of Marketing and Communications, Formula 1
Chloe Targett-Adams – Global Director of Promotors and Business Relations,
Formula 1
Jessica Dane – Commercial Operations Officer and Team Co-Owner, Triple Eight Racing Engineering
Kate Peck – Network 10 reporter and media personality
* Jacquie Hayes – Founder and Director, Madam Wheels

“Many women have strong misconceptions around Formula One, believing it couldn’t be enjoyable because it’s only about loud cars,” Hayes says. “It can be quite the opposite, actually, and we want them to experience that.” The AGPC’s general manager of commercial, sales and marketing, Corina Black, says the corporation has been focused on engaging a broader audience to the sport, particularly females. “Events like Women Driving Leadership provide a unique way for women and men to engage with the sport and the opportunity to network with driven, business masterminds all in a premium and intimate setting,” Black says.

‘This event will introduce women to a memorable, fun and insightful experience which, we hope, they and their business colleagues will want to return to year after year.’

It also provides a platform from which to encourage and inspire females into motor sports careers via their studies of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. Representatives of insirnon-profit association Dare to Be Different will be on hand to promote its goal of increasing female participation in motor sport.Hayes says that just as women may feel intimidated when they’re on the car-showroom floor trying to buy themselves a car, the Grand Prix may seem too overwhelming to face for some.”This event will introduce those women to a memorable, fun and insightful experience which, we hope, they and their business colleagues will want to return to year after year,” she says. For more information, or to register for the event, click here.

It’s a tough job: travel the world as a ‘luxury-tester’

WE’VE all heard of dream jobs before, but this one takes things to new levels.


New online luxury marketplace Hush Hush has got the feelers out across the globe in search of a full-time luxury-tester who’ll be tasked with jetting about testing luxury goods and experiences before they’re deemed appropriate for presentation to the world’s wealthiest people.


The paltry pay packet of £75,000 ($A136,234) hardly matters given the job will supply the successful candidate with access to endless money-can’t-buy experiences. Luxury waits for no woman, after all.

Hush Hush is a new London-based e-commerce platform which has dubbed itself the “Amazon for millionaires”. The online marketplace aims to provide VIP access to more than 200,000 of “the finest luxury items across all categories” ranging from fine art, jewellery and handbags to jets, yachts, supercars and even private islands.


‘We wanted to create the leading destination for millionaires and billionaires to buy the finest things in life, all conveniently on one website.’


Perhaps you could see yourself getting around in some of things which feature on the site at the moment, such as a $US2.9 million ($A4.1m) 2018 Bugatti Chiron, $US3.6m yellow diamond necklace or a $US62m chateau on the French Riviera. It wouldn’t be a bad life.


Hush Hush is the brainchild of entrepreneur Aaron Harpin, 29, who likes to flit between London and Monaco, according to The Telegraph.


“We wanted to create the leading destination for millionaires and billionaires to buy the finest things in life, all conveniently on one website,” Harpin says.


Incredibly, everything can be shipped internationally the next working day, is offered with “hassle-free” returns within two weeks days of delivery, and the whole transaction is supported by SSL-enabled secure checkout and a 24/7 concierge service.


“The VIP concierge sector has grown massively in recent years,” Harpin says, “and the world’s most affluent consumers are increasingly turning to online marketplaces to source the goods they want.”

And they do want them, apparently, with Harpin saying he’s already sold a £100,000 ($181,646) hovercraft and is aiming for an average shopping cart price of £10,000 or about $18,161.

“We really do offer everything our customers might enjoy; and our commitment to customer satisfaction and confidentiality is absolutely paramount,” he says,

His successful applicant will have to trial and review all sorts of opulent delights before they make the grade for the site. But we’re not sure what the requisite qualifications and experience would be in the ideal candidate. An appreciation of the finer things in life goes without saying, and we’d suggest long-term exposure to sycophants and hanger-oners wouldn’t go astray, either.


Land Rover Gives Velar A Good Dressing-Up

ANY reference to “special operations” in the automotive world brings to mind the creation of clever in-car gadgets and options akin to those produced in the James Bond film franchise’s Q Branch which kitted out the British spy’s array of impressive vehicles.

‘For the rest of us, whose car-finance prospects might be hanging in the balance in light of this week’s Banking Royal Commission report, more readily accessible offerings may be required.’

While Bond’s brand of firepower may not be on offer in today’s version of car manufacturer’s personalisation divisions, outfits such as McLaren Special Operations (MSO) and Rolls-Royce Bespoke are producing cars which combine the pinnacle of technology and performance with uber levels of luxury and comfort.

The MSO could be catering to customers keen on personalizing a track-capable set of wheels while Rolls-Royce may be fitting out, say, a Phantom, to function as a rolling art space, office and entertainment suite. Clearly here, we’re talking about people whose discretionary-spend capabilities leave them without a financial care in the world.


For the rest of us – whose car-finance prospects might be hanging in the balance in light of the fallout from this week’s Banking Royal Commission report – more readily accessible offerings may be required.

Which is why it is nice to know that Land Rover has come through with the goods in the popular SUV market, applying the bespoke touch to its Velar, a car last year judged the world’s most beautiful mid-size SUV. The new Range Rover Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition sports a more refined look and drive feel, along with across-the-board bespoke settings from how the vehicle is powered to its raft of safety features. More responsive suspension should improve the overall ride feel, while the brakes are bigger and better – and designed to cool down more quickly for those who like to put some punch into their acceleration and braking.

The extra stopping power is well dressed, too, with distinctive forged aluminium wheels decorated with Land-Rover stamped red callipers. Even larger 22-inch rims can be optioned in for further personalisation, featuring a unique “Silver Sparkle” finish and diamond-turned edging. Black callipers can replace the red ones for those who’d prefer to tone things down.


The Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition looks more composed than its predecessor thanks to a range of revised trim finishes and improved aerodynamics. The most outstanding changes are the new front bumper – with larger, air-sucking intakes to cool the V8 supercharged petrol engine – to a very pretty exhaust set-up at the rear.

The result gives the vehicle a more purposeful appearance and distinctive silhouette. Inside, a twin-stitched, perforated and quilted Windsor leather unique to this Velar comes in four colour ways. The front seats offer heating and cooling as well as memory and massage functions as standard.

Other special touches in the cabin include a unique sports steering wheel and tactile aluminium gear shift paddles. The metal extends to sports pedals and tread plates illuminated with Range Rover script. In terms of the ride (which is yet to be tested), Land Rover says electronic tuning coupled with upgraded anti-roll bars reduce body roll during hard cornering, while a revised damper set-up delivers more composure and comfort.

At rear, the bespoke exhaust sounds as good as it looks, apparently, utilizing some sort of valve technology to optimize the exhaust note into a V8 rumble. A 82-litre fuel tank is reportedly capable of a range in excess of 483 km. The Velar SV Autobiography Dynamic Edition is available in six colours – including a metallic Satin Byron Blue finish from Special Vehicle Operations’ Premium Palette range – with a contrasting Narvik Black roof included as standard.

Over all, Land Rover says Special Vehicle Operations has produced in the Velar a car with performance personality and go-anywhere capability – which is what you want in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The new model be available in a limited run – and for this year only – priced from $A175,322 before on-road costs.