Someone once told me that it’s best to be the second fastest driver on the road — you can quench your need for speed while the cop’s radar settles on the faster bloke blowing by you. Such nuggets of wisdom, however, were quickly gnawed up and spit out by the 2019 Maserati Ghibli S GranLusso, whose gas pedal I delicately squashed for seven glorious days in early April.
When you find yourself behind the wheel of the fastest car on the road, there’s an inherent obligation to embrace the opportunity, not squander your pole position. I’d never encourage dangerous driving, but eclipsing 100 before reaching the end of the empty freeway on-ramp is a g-force sensation that’s both thrilling to all ages and rather innocuous. While the Maserati’s speedometer topped out at 190 mph, such potential isn’t just for going fast — it crowns you master of the road, able to pass anything with a brief roar of the engine or silently slip away onto a sudden side street with grace.
I’ve driven pickups my whole life, but I’m no stranger to fast or fancy cars. I passed my driving test in my dad’s 1987 Ford Mustang, then got to whip from San Jose and Santa Cruz in that convertible during high school. I wrote about driving the first line of the retro-design Thunderbirds, turning many heads in Montecito back in 2002, and I once jammed East Camino Cielo in a Lotus.
My Masi experience, though, was another level. Unlike American muscle cars, which can feel fast at a grumbling 25 mph, this modern Euro sports car felt normal at 90, and pulsing to 110 didn’t feel much different. Its power is wrapped in subtlety — a creamy white in color, it was far from a flashy spectacle. Comfort is key (though the back seats are pretty tight), and the tech is top of the line. Indeed, the best protection against speeding was using the cruise control and driver’s assist systems. The former adjusts to the traffic flow, and the latter can take complete control when on the freeway, though the dashboard beeps with anger if you take your hands off the wheel for five seconds.
Though the base model is $84,000, my model was $96,000, due in part to the $5,000 Bowers & Wilkins stereo system. While scrolling the digital radio, I stumbled upon the new Billie Eilish album — soon I was convinced that she dropped the album that week just for me and my Maserati. As her bass-heavy, sonically twisted sounds vibrated my inner core, the countryside flew by as I crested the Cuesta Grade at 100 mph on my way to appointments in Monterey.
Then there was the way people perceived me as a Maserati man. Nods of approval came from young Chicanos outside of Salinas and old white men in Montecito, homeless guys at Carrillo Street bus stops and teenage Sikh tourists on Cannery Row. There was special attention from valets at the Bacara and Miramar; unexpected deference from parking lot attendants, pedestrians, and drivers; and a sense of acceptance while cruising past the Pebble Beach mansions of 17-Mile Drive.
My wife wondered if I’d be sad to see it go when it was pickup day. “Nah, it’s just a car,” I replied. But then my Maserati did roll away, and a touch of remorse set in. I finally did what I’d avoided all week, throwing that Joe Walsh song “Life’s Been Good” on my radio. “My Maserati does 185,” we sang together. “I lost my license and now I don’t drive….”
Price as driven: $96,000
Maserati of Santa Barbara is located at 300 Hitchcock Way. Call (866) 979-9830 or see maseratiofsantabarbara.com.