MASERATI QUATTROPORTE GTS
POWERTRAIN: 3.8-LITER TWIN TURBO-CHARGED V-8, 523 HORSEPOWER, EIGHT-SPEED AUTOMATIC
PERFORMANCE: ZERO TO 60: 4.6 SECONDS, TOP SPEED 191 MPH
BRAKES: BREMBO SIX PISTONS FRONT, FOUR PISTONS REAR
SOUND: OPTIONAL BOWERS AND WILKINS STEREO SYSTEM WITH 1280 WATTS OF POWER AND 15 SPEAKERS
PRICES: $140,500 AS TESTED $159,600

The latest offering from Maserati-its Quattroporte GTS-comes with all the trimmings and more horsepower to boot.

Maserati has some big plans in the super high-end luxury realm. this italian manufacturer wants to leap from the worldwide sales of 6,000 vehicles per year to 50,000. This ambitious target is fueled, in part, by the 2014 redo of Maserati’s highest-end sedan-the Quattroporte. But the real hope is the just-released Ghibli-a smaller four-door with a price just below the $70,000 level to compete with some of the well-known European brands.

The 2014 Quattroporte also is part of the sales program because of a change in equipment with a resulting price drop.

A new twin turbocharged V-6 has been added, but with a stout 404 horsepower tied to an all-wheel drivetrain. With this modification, the base price dropped by over $20,000 to just above $100,000.

The GTS, our test model, has a twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8 with far greater horsepower than last year… this time around there are a stout 523 ponies. Gear shifting is handled by an eight-speed automatic transmission with either setup.

Refinement best describes the exterior changes. The classic large, low and unencumbered grill and side air vents still say Maserati. The headlights are seamlessly and nicely integrated into the fenders. A number of Honolulu residents commented favorably on the looks.

As one would hope and expect, the interior is simply both glamorous and practical. Special Potrona Frau Italian leather covers most of the interior surfaces. Large wood slices are nicely incorporated into the doors, dash and console. Fortunately, the eight-inch video screen in the center of the dash is easy to use and has some back-up dials and buttons. Everything from navigation, entertainment and telephone functions are clearly displayed and manipulated. A second video in the dash provides data on fuel economy, tire pressures and such.

The power front seats have an infinite number of adjustments with high bolstering to hold you in place. There is reason for that. The GTS V-8 is super powerful and with its exhaust bypass system opening up at higher rpms, the sound is infectious. Zero to 60 time is a zippy 4.6 seconds. Shifting can be handled a number of ways from pure automatic to using either paddle shifters behind the steering wheel or with the gearshift lever. Even quicker shifting will take place by punching the sport button on the console.

With its massive wheel and tire combo and reworked suspension, cornering is tight and controlled. Yet the suspension is not so stiff that the ride on bumpy surfaces is uncomfortable.

With the addition of four inches of body length over the previous model, rear legroom has been stretched. For the additional comfort of rear passengers, find a large armrest complete with USB port and cup holders. In the back of the center console are climate controls for the four vents found in the back seat area. Optional are two large videos mounted on the back of the front seat headrests. Trunk space is a non-issue-it is huge and nicely lined.

Clearly with a big price drop, yet still with Italian power and pedigree, this remake of the Quattroporte will surely be a bigger seller than its predecessor. And with the all-new Ghibli being introduced, Maserati could well be on its way to meeting its new sales goal.

ELECTRIC SUCCESS

The push to green, electric propulsion in cars has met with mixed success, but with one bright exception. Besides the major manufacturers of electric cars, some of the independent electric car manufacturers have died an ugly death. But the upstart Tesla has become a big hit.

Starting in 2008, this California-based company took a Lotus sports car, pulled the gas powerplant out, and substituted a powerful electric motor and lots of high-end batteries. The result was a super-swift gas-free silent sports car with a zero-to-60 time in the three-second range.

Realizing that the real market required more room and seats, Tesla decided to design a totally new model four-door electric motivated sedan with long range and scintillating acceleration. Thus, the birth of the Tesla S manufactured in California at a former GM/ Toyota plant.

Besides its low and dramatic styling, the base S model has a charged-up range of 200 miles, yet packs at the equivalent of 235 horsepower and a swift zero-to-60 time of 6.5. Because of the very small electric motor and batteries built into the floor, the interior is both airy and roomy. Fronting the driver and passenger is largest video screen in any car—17 inches. And it is connected to the Internet for your viewing pleasure.

The result has been the highest ratings by the auto testing community-Car of the Year from Motor Trend to the highest rating ever from Consumer Reports. And Tesla not only reported a profit, but has paid off its government loan.

Hawai’i now has more than 125 Teslas and more models are coming. Next year offers the Tesla X—a minivan/ SUV with some height and gull wing doors. And rumor has it that a much less expensive four-door sedan with long range is coming down the pike.