Since its introduction in 2004, the fifth gen Maserati Quattroporte has been a sedan poised on the brink of greatness. Its fatal flaw: a clunky automated manual transmission ill-suited to the model’s luxury mission. Unlike some propeller-badged Germans we could name, Maserati’s Italian parent heeded the catcalls directed at its high tech gearbox. FIAT sourced a ZF six speed fully automatic transmission to cure the problem, subito. So, are we there yet?
Some reviewers hereabouts consider the QP the last word in Euro-slink. I just can’t get past those Buick-like portholes. That said, Maserati’s vaguely sinister corporate symbol adds a welcome touch of glamor to an otherwise pedestrian exterior, and careful customization can dramatically enhance the car’s visual appeal.
To my eye, the ideal recipe combines the Executive GT’s 19” wheels, red brake calipers and chrome mesh portholes with the Sport GT’s front grill (flat black mesh). It’s the best amalgamation of pace and grace since the supercharged Jaguar XJR first whined its way onto the American automotive stage.
I feel silly admitting how much I enjoyed opening the QP’s doors. There are two buttons; one works electronically, the other mechanically. Both operate with with perfect synchronicity and a sound not unlike a hi-tech safe door clicking open.
When I confessed this portal pleasure to my wife, she dismissed the duality as nothing more than Maserati’s engineers realizing the limitations of their dubious mechanical heritage. Even so, this small but endearing quirk helps give the big Maser a sense of occasion.
Once inside, the interior is more expansive than expected; the rear seats are tight in some dimensions, but legroom is not one of them. The middle armrest reveals yet another unexpected delight: a button that glides the passenger seat forward.
The quality of the QP’s cabin materials is beyond reproach. The lustrous wood, fragrant leather, plush carpet and elegant liners are superior to those found in any German car you can name– unless you cite Bentley, and even then the sumptuousness quotient is virtually identical. As long as you tailor your QP using a dark palette– the light colored interiors approximate a modern bordello– you couldn’t ask for a more luxurious carcoon.
That is, as long as you don’t mind packing light. The QP’s trunk is hardly large enough to fit a weekend’s supply of the wife/girlfriend/mistress' Manolo Blahniks, never mind a full wardrobe.
While the QP’s gauges, HVAC and switchgear are mostly understandable, the controls and toy count seems a generation or so behind the competition. Drivers are Bluetoothless, I-Pod deficient, satellite radio bereft and keyless ignition deprived. At least there isn’t an iDrive, COMAND or MMI to make your life unnecessarily complex.
Even though the QP is nearly 200 inches long, it drives like a vehicle half its size. Its 4.2-liter V8 deploys 400 horsepower and 339 lb. ft. of torque against 4400 pounds of imported metal with considerable success. Any normally aspirated luxury sedan that can sprint from zero to sixty in 5.6 seconds is praiseworthy– although the nine mpg I induced is not.
While the QP’s acceleration is bracing, the aural stimulation emanating from the engine bay is positively hallucinogenic. Even when driving the QP like a stoner, the F-1 soundtrack says Warp 3. The headers are heady stuff indeed; the exhaust note alone is worth the price of admission.
Once you’ve punched your ticket, there are no more dynamic regrets. The new automatic transmission has completely transformed the Maserati Quattroporte. There's no more Addams family effect (i.e, Lurch is gone). You can now play the QP’s deeply sonorous powerplant like a symphony conductor, transitioning between sotto voce and multo forte with seamless satisfaction. The QP wafts and blasts with equal aplomb.
Yes, well, our Executive GT tester’s handling was a mixed bag. The sedan turned in enthusiastically and felt as balanced as the 49-51 weight distribution implied. But the spring rates were too soft. The steering delivered excellent chassis feedback and the cornering attitude was Kansas flat. But there was too much bobble and float to inspire confidence. There is certainly enough compliance in the suspension to argue for the Sport GT’s larger wheels.
Even so, the QP can now make a compelling case against the Mercedes S550, BMW 750 or Audi A8. One problem: the Maserati’s $140k-ish price pits it against the equally spirited Audi S8, BMW Alpina B7 and Mercedes S600. Among this rarefied company, the QP seems inadequate; the gizmo count is low, the reliability [still] slightly worrying and the Buick portholes dubious.
To make matters worse, the QP’s epic depreciation makes leasing an unattractive option, despite Maserati's valiant effort to prop up residuals. But if you can afford to set such “mundane” matters aside (or simply add the Maserati to your stable and call it buono), the QP is an ideal choice for luxury sedan drivers seeking a more charismatic– and enigmatic– choice.