First Drive: 2017 Maserati Quattroporte

– Palermo, Sicily

Sicily is on fire as I arrive on the island for a first crack at the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte. That’s not a metaphor for the hot-headed stereotypes I’ve been lead to believe about the habitantes of the landmass that’s being kicked by mainland Italy. The combined effect of triple-digit temperatures and double-digit winds are causing fields to burn and a haze to form over the horizon – much like a marine layer, but much less beautiful. Schools are being evacuated. Major thoroughfares are being blocked off by policemen on motorcycles. Against the large, craggy mountains just outside the Palermo airport, the miasma of scorched earth and exhaust fumes is a curious first whiff of life in the simmering aperitif that is life in Italy.

The weather situation hardly seems to bother the legion of drivers in tiny hatchbacks battling it out on the highway leading to the Palermo city center, who have a move-it-or-lose-it approach to driving. A middle-aged woman in a tiny three-door of unknown origin appears to have one hand on the wheel, one hand gesticulating in the air while she screams into her phone, one hand on the shifter, and another holding a bottle of water. She’s doing about 95 mph, or “reasonable and prudent” for the area. The driver of a Fiat Ducato is slowly wobbling between two lanes of traffic. Passing is a maneuver that begins with rabid, sustained tailgating, until the driver ahead can’t take it any longer. There’s very little horn honking, even as the r...