Last week our mates from parent-site Autoblog.it received an invitation to attend this year’s Maserati Master Ice & Snow in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and quite obviously they didn’t need to be asked twice. The event is basically an advanced snow driving course that the Italian carmaker organizes every year on the Swiss Alps, but it is also a unique opportunity to drive almost all of the models from the current Maserati’s line-up. Here is an overview of what happened.
With the meeting point set at 6 pm in the so called Maserati Igloo, our friends from Autoblog.it had all the time they needed to enjoy their trip from Milan to the suggestive Engadine Valley - including a fun-filled stint on the twisty roads of the Maloya Pass - before checking in at the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains and being greeted by the impeccable staff of the event, who led them to the Maserati Igloo for the welcome cocktail.
Drinks aside, the attendees also received the first briefing of the event hosted by former WRC driver Alex Fiorio, who also provided a few tips on how to be fast and safe when driving on the snow. Fiorio explained that the grip rate of the rubber might vary from 0.9 (dry tarmac) to 0.1 (ice), a condition that requires some adjustment to everyone’s usual driving style, especially as far as acceleration and braking distance are concerned. Read on after the jump.
View the full Maserati Master Ice & Snow in St.Moritz photo gallery
Once done with the briefing, the whole gang moved to a nearby mountain shelter to have dinner with some of Maserati’s representatives. While at the table, a few hints about the next moves of the luxury carmaker just slipped out, and it seems that the upcoming sedan model from Maserati will really give the Mercedes E-Class and the BMW 5-Series a run for their money, just wait and see.
The following morning our buddies are welcomed by a blizzard and a temperature of about zero degrees, which provided for a heavy frost in the whole area. As a result, all the driving sessions of the day took place in the worst possible conditions, with almost no grip whatsoever. The snowmobile did all it could to keep the track clean and tidy, trying to grind down the black ice at every pause, but the weather was just too harsh.
The demo fleet brought by Maserati to the event included a few Granturismo S, Quattroporte, Quattroporte Sport GTS and - last but not least - Granturismo MC Stradale. It is a pity that the adverse weather conditions did not allow the drivers to fully exploit the potential of these magnificent cars, but the day turned out to be very instructive anyway.
All the professional drivers that Maserati employed as stand-in teachers for the day proved to be very kind and patient, providing valuable pieces of advise to all those participants who were not too familiar with driving on ice. While in the morning everyone had all the electronic aids of the vehicle activated, as the day unfolded a few people gained enough confidence to switch ASR and ESP off, which allowed for more spinning, more drifting and more slews too. It goes without saying that having the electronic aids disabled adds up to the overall fun of the thing, but sooner or later a sheet of ice would come across to put an end to it.
One of the most illuminating moments of the day was the three-lap stint with Alex Fiorio behind the steering wheel: after a few hours wondering on how to better approach a certain corner - and coming to the realization that doing it dead slow is the obvious answer - you find out that pros are just from another planet. Alex Fiorio was able to point the car in the right direction before entering the corner itself, and then he smoothly gets out of it by carefully balancing acceleration and counter-steering. Obviously that’s not the kind of experience that can come in handy on dry tarmac, but it has been a pretty teaching one anyway.
The last part of the day is dedicated to a few hot laps on the challenge circuit, a rectangular track with rounded corners that had to be completed in the fastest possible time and - not surprisingly - the first three spots got clinched by three Scandinavian drivers.
Here is a quick review of the cars from our friends from Autoblog.com:
- Granturismo S - Possibly the one car with the most captivating design, the model boasts an excellent engine sound too. The paddle-shifters at the wheel allow for a quick and enjoyable gear shifting, but the lack of grip makes it harder for the traction control to deliver the desired amount of power to the wheels. No doubt it would work way better on a dry surface, it would be interesting to give it a go on a normal track.
- Quattroporte - A true classic whose lines still look fresh and modern, the Quattroporte proved to be pretty reactive on the snow in spite of its considerable weight. Its ‘traditional’ manual gearbox as well as the electronic aids made it the easiest car to drive of the lot in the prohibitive circumstances of this test. However, even though the car couldn’t be exploited in full, it surely made everyone aware of the sort of performance it is capable of.
- Quattroporte Sport GTS - unfortunately, the tough conditions in which this test was held did not allow our testers to appreciate the differences in terms of setting and sheer power that this version boasts over its ‘regular’ counterpart. On ice and snow, this car was just as responsive as the other.
- Granturismo MC Stradale - This is a whole different story as this car is considerably different from the regular Granturismo it basically derives from. To start with it is 110 kg lighter, which is something that definitely makes a difference on this kind of surface, especially in terms of handling. In comparison to other Maseratis that were made available for this test, the MC Stradale makes it easier for the drivers to control the unexpected reactions of the car, and it surely makes the most of the little power that can be used on a snowy road. Then again, considering the beauty of its the design, the might of its roar and the luxury of its passenger compartment, you just cannot help but love this awesome car.
Our colleagues from Autoblog.it would like to thank Mr. Alessandro Sacco from Maserati as well as the whole staff of the Maserati Master Ice & Snow for their outstanding work.