Maserati has been guilty of mixed messaging lately about the kind of car maker it wants to be.
With the memory of the Ferrari Enzo-based MC12 hypercar still fresh in our minds at the end of the noughties, it elected to spread its wings as a luxury brand. Once a kind of sharp-suited Italian answer to the BMW M5, the Quattroporte became an S-Class-fighting limousine. The Ghibli, which many will remember as a 1990s coupé (possibly even as a stylish 1960s GT), became a mid- sized executive saloon with all of the mechanical necessities to take on Mercedes, BMW and Audi – and one of them was quite an ordinary diesel engine. And then there was the firm’s debutant SUV, of course: the Levante.
The cars were part of a bold plan to transform Maserati’s global business; and although it has subsequently fallen some way short of its volume ambitions, it has certainly given the firm a more noticeable presence in our daily motoring lives than it has had before. But they were all more conventional, mid-market luxury models than the marque has tended to offer over the decades; cars with lots of leather and chrome and other luxury flavourings, but fewer technical points of differentiation about which to get excited.
But now, having done so little for years to build the sporting reputation of its brand, Maserati is evidently looking to restore some really interested drivers to its customer base. The MC20 supercar, which is due to arrive in the UK later this year, should certainly do that, but so might the subject of this week’s road test.