Every motoring journalist I know, every car enthusiast friend and apparently, every pizza delivery guy in the UAE has, it seems, driven their favourite sportscar, hot hatch and moped up the sinewy, spectacular road that leads to the top of Jebel Jais. Yet somehow, until now I had contrived to miss out on this automotive ascent, since at no convenient point in time had I had in my possession the type of car that would do justice to the serpentine ribbon of tarmac clinging to the side of Ras Al Khaimah’s outstanding driving road.
So when Maserati offered me the chance to drive its refreshed Quattroporte S, now sporting a twin-turbocharged V6 engine built by technical partners Ferrari no less, I knew immediately which ‘Point of Interest’ to set on the car’s GPS. I set off early one weekday morning — if you are going to tackle such a dazzling driving road, don’t go there on a crowded weekend — and relaxed into the Quattroporte’s welcoming cabin for the brief journey to the foot of the mountain. Maserati’s rapid four-door saloon is as stylish as an afternoon spent sipping espressos on the shores of Lake Como; its svelte outline, punctuated by those distinctive bonnet ports, give it something sadly missing from so many of today’s cars — a unique appearance, hinting at the car’s personality beneath. The grille is perhaps a touch more aggressive these days, but let’s face it, that happens to all of us as we approach middle age, and anyway, it looks good.
There’s a choice of four vehicles in the 2017 Quattroporte range, with the base model, S and all-wheel drive S Q4 now powered by a Maranello-built 3.0-litre V6 twin-turbo motor, replacing the V8 used in previous models — such is the way of the world. In base trim the engine puts out 350bhp while in the S and S Q4 it’s uprated to a very useable 410bhp, but just as important, 90 per cent of its 500Nm torque is available from just 1,600rpm and that means terrific acceleration, even on an uphill climb. The top-of-the-range, rear-wheel drive GTS thankfully still utilises a V8, producing 530bhp and 650Nm of torque from 2,000rpm to 4,000rpm. Maserati’s sales information tells me that maximum torque figure can be “automatically over-boosted to 710Nm from 2,250rpm to 3,500rpm”. Torque is good, over boosted torque — even better.
Step inside the cabin and before you’ve even turned the key, it’s clear that this is a car to be thoroughly enjoyed by the driver. The driving position and visibility along that lengthy bonnet are excellent, the seats the perfect blend of both comfort and support, and the dashboard simply clean, informative and uncluttered, all with a hint of Italian panache, which no gentrified British saloon or brutally efficient German A-bahn cruiser seems quite able to mimic. The Maserati’s subtle stitched leather trim and wood inserts, high end audio system, 8.4in touchscreen infotainment centre and individual air conditioning zones for each occupant help set the mood for the driver, and that mood is definitely one of “let’s go have some fun”.
Far be it from me to deny the Quattroporte that opportunity, so with the suspension and engine management selections set to Sport mode, it was finally time to tackle Jebel Jais. I would be lying to you if I said that I dawdled along the way, stopping to take photos and examining geological formations en route. I did no such thing, but instead, pushed the Maserati to my limits (not the car’s limits), clipping apexes, shortening straights and, perhaps ironically after such a long wait, doing my best to spend as little time as possible climbing the mountain.
The Quattroporte S enjoys perfect 50/50 weight distribution, rear-wheel drive and sticky Pirelli P Zero 245/40 tyres on optional 20in diameter rims. That, coupled with all-aluminium double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension, allowed me to push deeper and deeper into corners as I grew familiar with both the road and the car’s outstanding handling characteristics. The fact that I felt confident enough to drive the car so hard, on a previously unknown, challenging road, speaks volumes for the precision of the suspension and brakes. Those were put further to the test on the steep run back down the hill, and though there was a hint of them fading towards the bottom of the slope, considering the work they’d been asked to perform over the preceding 30 minutes, I forgave them for their slight indiscretion, then set off back up the hill once more.
Fortunately, I had no rear-seat passengers in the car at the time. Had I done so, whilst they’d have been perfectly comfortable and enjoying ample knee room in their plush leather seats, or indeed in child seats, since the Maserati features ISO-FIX fittings, I’d have been obliged to warn them that engaging the Maserati’s Sports settings allows a moderate degree of broken traction at the rear wheels in the tightest corners; it’s just enough to allow the driver to have some fun, but perhaps equally sufficient to unsettle the stomachs of any rear-seat occupants. Four-wheel drive? Not for me Thanks. My intercontinental travel advice would be to drop the family and their luggage off at a plush hotel 90 minutes before sunset, then head for the hills on the pretext that you’re “looking for potential picnic spots for tomorrow”. No-one will believe you… the smoking tyres as you leave the car park will give the game away.
Although my time with the Quatrroporte was brief, it was most certainly memorable. All too often these days it’s possible to step into a car that’s fast to drive, but not fun, and that is so generic you’ve forgotten it 10 minutes after stepping out of the door. But I had no such issues with this Maserati. Distinct styling, agile handling and a stylish, spacious interior, made my first trip to the top of Jebel Jais a truly memorable one.