2007 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GTS

There are very good reasons for a June vacation in Italy's Umbria region: Ancient villas and Roman ruins, fine wine, fantastic food, pungent espresso, beautiful people, spectacular churches and museums, and a heavenly golden light at sunset, to name just a few. Little of this resonated with the four offspring being dragged to Italy by our friends, Tom and Lisa Boniface, from Poland, Ohio. (Yes, you recognize that surname. Brother Bob designed the Chevy Volt.) But to Italian car-besotted Tommy, 18, and Joe, 15, it all came together when the magnanimous Maserati press office delivered a luscious, black 2007 Quattroporte Sport GT S - with a startling red interior - in my name to our hotel in Rome for our holiday.

This was way cooler than the lumbering Renault Trafic their dad had rented to haul them, brother Nick, and sister Annie - against their teenaged wills - to castles and cathedrals. Little did they know of the additional surprise that sympathetic press agent Luca Dal Monte at Maserati had planned for them. Oh, wasn't I just Perfect Aunt Jean?

Jet lag took a back seat to arguing over who got the three available seats in the Quattroporte for the 150-mile trip to our villa near Umbertide, ninety miles southeast of Florence. There was a lot to lose, considering the cramped, steamy quarters of the Trafic, so the arguing, wheedling, whining, and negotiating was particularly fierce. Mom Lisa, more used to the squabbling than Perfect Aunt Jean, focused her attention on the skanky prostitutes hanging out on the ramp to the autostrada.

Actually, the first problem had come and gone a couple of days before the Bonifaces arrived. I'd carefully negotiated my way across rush-hour Rome in the Quattroporte only to pull up to my hotel and slice a tire on a protruding sewer grate. D'oh. I made the gut-wrenching call to Maserati, and the car was whisked away and returned with fresh rubber, but I was determined that no further harm would come its way. This didn't stop me from tapping deeply into the 394-hp, 4.2-liter V-8, searching for that claimed 5.6-second o-to-62-mph time and 168-mph top speed. Italian autostradas are a bit lumpy, which just serves to make you feel more alive at high speed. Snaking along the country two-lanes, though, gave the Boniface boys a great lesson in the Maserati's handling benefits.

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