_I DROVE _across the rolling country surrounding the Snowy Mountains, the auto wipers slapping across the screen to clear the driving rain.
The cruise control was set at 110km/h and the engine burbled along at a mere 1500rpm. The smell of leather, the glint of chrome trim highlights and a beautiful leather-bound steering wheel made me think it could be either an S-Class Merc, a 7-Series BMW or the LS Lexus.
But with the click of the button marked Sport, I dialled up "Maserati" mode. The twin-turbo V6 instantly came alive, exhaust flaps opened up to snarl at the scenery, the adaptive dampers turned on their race-tuned heritage and the gearbox dropped two cogs.
Instantly, I was in enthusiast country.
The new Maserati Quattroporte S has a multi-faceted character that belies the pure racing heritage surrounding the brand's birth.
It became clear when I rode in the back, relaxing in acres of leg, shoulder and headroom, luxurious leather seats, individual climate controls, an on-board wi-fi WLAN hotspot and the comforting thought that two sets of golf clubs (if I could play) would fit in the boot.
Individual, ventilated electric recliners are available for the back, as well as tables, power rear and side sunblinds and 26cm LCD displays that can play anything, including the latest for news junkies if the driver selects ABC News24 from the Tune-In app via the car's built-in SIM card.
But back to the package.
The new S variant is (almost) the cheapest Maserati, at a paltry $240,000. The V8 GTS version is another $89,000. But apart from missing the aural reward of an Italian twin-turbo V8 on full song, the superb twin-turbo 301kW 550Nm V6 engine rewards with surges of mostly lag-free power on demand.
The eight-speed ZF transmission is a masterpiece, with the first six gears ideally set for super sports-sedan mode and the seventh and eighth overdrive ratios delivering the longest
legs of any grand touring car.
Moving away from the back seat, drivers will appreciate the blend of buttons, knobs and touch-screen controls.
This Maserati is no video game on wheels, as driving tasks are in familiar, easy-to-reach places that won't take eyes off the road.
The aforementioned steering wheel includes functions that help rather than complicate and invites anyone with a whiff of petrol in their veins to take the long way home.
Outside, the Maserati is bigger than one of its key competitors, and this is evident when you do a walk-around. From some angles, the S appears bland but close up the car is low, sleek and highly aggressive. Muscular front fenders and squat, bulging wheel arches at the rear make it look
as if it's been poured on to the road.
The Quattroporte S offers a select few a unique blend of practicality, performance and passion. Not only will an owner enjoy driving again, their passengers will become new best friends.
As for the limo set, they can have everything the S-Class, 7-Series and LS can provide but faster and with an extra twist - the mystique of Maserati.
A luxury car, a high- performance sports sedan, or an indulgent reward? Truth is, it's all three.
A unique blend of practicality, performance and passion.