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Click for pictures“Is it a problem to be
  restricted to just
  £75,000 when you lust
  after supercar status?
  Not if you’re looking
  at Maserati’s luscious
  Quattroporte super-
  saloon!”


AFTER THE BEST PART OF A WEEK spent behind the wheel of Maserati's delectable Quattroporte on all our regular and demanding test routes and in all kinds of weather, it had begun to feel even more special than it had when we first slid behind the wheel of the stylish cockpit — and that alone would make it worth every single penny of the 74,550 asking price.

Just a few days' dedicated driving makes you appreciate something else, too. Not only is the Quattroporte something else, but it's effectively in a class of its own. Convincingly straddling the sporting and luxury ends of the market, the Quattroporte owes nothing to the competition and everything to Maserati and trumps most other high-powered sports-luxury saloons without even appearing to compete.

Of one thing you can be absolutely certain. Unlike many of its competitors, the Quattroporte will continue to feel special long after becoming part of your life. And that is a very rare quality indeed.

The first Maserati to be designed by the celebrated Italian styling house of Pininfarina for fifty years, the Quattroporte oozes unashamed pzazz. Seeing one in the flesh for the first time is an interesting experience. Lithe curves clothe what is one of the most attractive 'three-box' four-door bodies around today. From the tip of its thrusting, elegantly-shaped nose to the rear lights that perfectly define its tail, the Quattroporte's flowing lines ingeniously disguise its 5-metre length. The surprise is that it has four very practical doors accessing four ultra-sensible full-sized seats and a no-nonsense 450-litre boot.

Grasp the shapely door handle, gently squeeze the trigger on the back and the door springs open an inch. Brilliant. Allow the reassuringly substantial door to swing open. Now climb aboard. You'll find that the Quattroporte is just as gorgeous and opulently Italianate inside as
it looks from the outside. So much so that doing nothing more than
just sitting in any of the Quattroporte's four sumptuous 'chairs' is an occasion in itself. Detailing is elegant with first class materials and our test car was trimmed in a handsome Navy Blue hide with modern Titanium-style trim that looking stunning.

If you didn't know, you would happily bet your bottom dollar on it being hand-built. Along with top class leatherwork and quality switchgear you'll find attention to detail is evident everywhere you care to look, from the subtle chrome bezels around the instruments that are echoed on the steering-wheel and centre console buttons, the shift-paddles — each almost a work of art in its own right; finished in satin black with a chromed outer bar and a thin padded cushion of the softest suede on the back where your fingertips make contact when you change gear — to the neat fitment of the 5-CD autochanger under the steering column and the classy and meticulously trimmed leather grab handles above the doors. Even the blue-painted ignition key adds to the pleasure.

The roomy cabin majors on space. With an interior over two metres in length there is ample to accommodate four six-foot adults in easy comfort. Seats are upholstered with ribbed kid-glove soft hide that's
a delight to the senses and it's also used to great effect on the door trims and on the instrument cowl. Those in the rear will travel as much 'first class' as those up front, enjoying generous space in which to stretch out and enjoy the journey while relaxing in individually-sculpted electrically-adjustable seats that not only adjust for height but also move fore and aft and recline to perfection.

H
owever much you are prepared to pay, there are few places as welcoming as the Quattroporte's rear passenger compartment.
Access to the back seats presents no problems. The doors — which attractively follow the line of the bodywork — are deep and the openings wide. Should you really need to take a third passenger in the back, there is room — and a proper headrest and three-point belt —
if you can persuade the other two passengers to fold up the wide, padded central armrest. Back seat passengers have their own controls for the rear privacy blind and various other convenience features including 3-stage heated seats, ventilation and seat controls.

Standard equipment is, of course, comprehensive. It includes power seats both front and rear, a powered easy-entry steering column, an automatic climate control system that allows the driver and passengers (including those in the back) to choose separate temperatures between 16 and 32 degrees, auto-locking, auto wipers, auto-lights,
a Bose sound system, SatNav, cruise control, twin Xenon headlights, tinted, double-glazed laminated glass in all windows, auto-dip mirror, auto one-shot electric windows, fold-back electric door mirrors, etc., etc! You get our drift, but let's get on with the driving experience!

The Multi Media system's widescreen colour display has good colours and clear graphics — especially for navigation — and is flanked by eight elegant chrome-rimmed push-push circular switches. The four closest to the driver take care of the shift program (Manual or Auto), Sport mode, Winter mode and MSP (Maserati's stability and traction control system). Those on the passenger's side of the screen operate the rear privacy blind (it works smoothly) and the central locking.

Included as standard with the Multi Media system — which also incorporates its own dedicated single CD — are an on-board computer and satellite navigation. Immediately below the screen are three individual groups of self explanatory switches. The easy-to-use middle group selects the Radio, CD, Trip, Telephone, TV or Navigation. The switches either side are for navigating/selecting from the various function menus. Personalising the system's basic settings is straight-forward, and there is an easy 'escape' button.

If you are lucky enough to be the driver, a perfect driving position is only seconds away — thanks to 10-way electric adjustment of the seat, 4-way powered lumbar control and electric height-and-reach steering wheel adjustment. And there's also a three-setting personal memory function. Framed by the top semi-circular leather arc of the classy three-spoke multi-function steering wheel are lovely blue-faced dials with crisp white graphics, each sited either side of the good-
sized driver's information screen. Both the 200mph speedometer and the rev-counter each have a smaller dial Siamesed alongside. One for fuel and one for coolant temperature. All switchgear feels substantial and operates fluently, as do all the well-sited major controls.

Steering wheel buttons control audio (source, track, volume) as well
as the telephone, mute function and driver's information. Gracing the top of the central stack is the familiar, welcome, Maserati trademark: an oval analogue clock, dark blue to match the dials. Ahead of the driver is an uninterrupted view, enhanced by the low front wing line, down the clean sweep of the Quattroporte's aluminium bonnet. Just sitting in the driver's seat requires iron will because — even before you fire up the Ferrari-sourced 4.2-litre V8 — the urge to get stuck in and do some serious driving can be a great temptation. Even when you're supposed to be doing something else!

Okay. Nothing that can't wait. Twist the key and the V8 fires up with
a crisp growl laden with a promise of the good things to come, immediately settling to a restrained yet pleasingly vocal tempo. Dab the brake, pull back on the right-hand paddle and squeeze the accelerator pedal. You'll find yourself gliding smoothly into the traffic. It might weigh a couple of tons and encroach on five metres of road, but from behind the wheel the Quattroporte feels sort of compact.

The all-alloy engine weighs just 183kg and is fitted with a dry-sump lubrication system. With twin overhead camshafts for each bank of
the 90-degree 'V' operating four valves per cylinder, the 4,244cc power-plant delivers a mighty 394bhp at 7,000rpm. Better still, 333lb ft of torque at 4,500rpm endows it with massive flexibility. And with
75 per cent of peak torque on tap from 2,500rpm, the Quattroporte pulls purposefully from low revs. En-route to a genuine top speed of 171mph, the Quattroporte's naturally-aspirated quad-cam V8 will power this two-ton, four-door saloon to 62mph in a blink over five seconds.

Maserati's DuoSelect electro-hydraulic transmission provides fully-automatic and clutchless sequential manual gear selection. Its F1-
style paddle-operated six-speed 'box is a fitting partner for the Quattroporte's sporting character. While there is an 'Auto' mode, the gearbox isn't a 'proper' automatic because there's no torque converter and at a standstill it doesn't 'creep' like traditional autos. Happily, it does have a handy 'hill-holder' facility which keeps the brakes engaged for two seconds to give the driver time to move his foot from the
brake to the accelerator without the car rolling backwards. You need to be aware that you don't leave it in Drive when the car is stationary but instead, treat it as you would a regular stick shift manual and flick the 'box into neutral.

Depending on your frame of mind you can opt for fully automatic gear changes — the standard default when you switch on — or clutchless sequential manual shifts via the stylishly-shaped 'paddles' mounted either side of the steering column. If you haven't used a paddle-shift system before it can be a bit daunting because most of us are so used to a standard gear or selector lever. However, it doesn't take long before you are executing perfectly-timed, near-instant manual changes by nothing more arduous than flexing your left and right index fingers.

And so that you're never in any doubt as to what gear or driving mode you're in, the current setting is clearly displayed on the screen between the speedo and rev-counter. The same screen also echoes the navigation direction symbols when you're using guidance. More attention to detail is evident in the number of useful storage areas and the well-lit and damped glovebox that opens electrically at the push
of a button.

Pressing the silver M/A shift button on the centre console — at any time, moving or stationary — puts you in sequential-manual mode. In this mode you pull back gently on the right paddle to go up the gears, and on the left to go down — one ratio for each 'pull'. Immediately beneath the M/A switch is the Sport button. This is linked to the suspension, traction and stability controls, which are all adjusted to make the Quattroporte an even more sporty drive. In Manual (but non-Sport) mode, upward changes are made automatically by the software when the engine reaches the rev-limit. Downshifts are also auto-
matic when DuoSelect senses that the gear is too high for the engine speed (approaching junctions), and it will automatically put you in
First when you stop. In Manual Sport mode the Quattroporte does not automatically change up at the 7,500rpm red line — it saves that decision for the enthusiast in you!

A third button (Low Grip) allows you to move off in second gear to avoid wheelspin on slippery surfaces. The next button (MSP) switches off the stability programme and traction control system. If you are tempted to do this you need to be aware that you really are in total control. So you'd better be sure you're 75,000-worth good enough...

A small T-bar on the centre tunnel is used to select Reverse. Move it forward instead of back and you'll select either Drive (auto mode) or first gear if you're in manual. While reverse gear is engaged you'll hear a discreet, non-intrusive beeping and the nearside door mirror will tilt automatically to make reversing easier.

Work the Quattroporte's free-revving V8 hard and you'll know it.
That's most definitely not a complaint, because it's the kind of glorious spine-tingling snarl any red-blooded driver would cheerfully pay good money for. And what an engine! Pick up in Sport auto is brilliant but
in Sport manual it is incredible. Give the Quattroporte its head and
the speedo's slim red pointer flicks round to 100mph as if by magic.
The Quattroporte is impressively quiet — no wind noise; no tyre noise — and astoundingly stable at high speed.

A number of high-performance saloons give the impression of a four-seater car with the power boosted to make it go very quickly. Behind the wheel of the Quattroporte the feeling is quite the opposite — more of a supercar fitted with four plush seats. Happily it's an impression borne out on the move, when the Quattroporte feels fast and wieldy — particularly for a car this big. And there are more pleasant surprises
in store.

For a start, ride quality is amazingly good. Our test car was fitted with the 3,055 Sport Package which offers firmer settings for the adaptive dampers and lower profile tyres (245/40 front; 285/35 rear) riding on smart 9-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels. The Sport package also gets you titanium colour callipers and tyre-pressure monitoring. Waft around town and the ride is compliant and well-fettled. Ramp up the speed
and you'll be surprised to discover that the faster you go the better it gets.

Freed from the constraints of the urban jungle, the Quattroporte is quick to cast off its genteel metropolitan manners. As quick, in fact,
as your finger can push the buttons for manual changes and Sport mode. This firms up the Skyhook electronically-controlled adaptive damping, quickens up the gearchange speeds and increases the sensitivity of the accelerator as well as rolling back the level at which the stability control system will step in.

Bury the throttle pedal in the luxurious carpet and the result is spec-tacular and addictive. Two tons of saloon lunges forward, attacking the blacktop with sure-footed grip and outstanding composure. But that's just the beginning. Because this Maserati doesn't just do straight-line fast. Aim its nose at a hairpin or high-speed kink and you'll find yourself grinning from ear to ear at the spirited poise and body control conferred by its front-mid-engined chassis set-up. Courtesy of its transaxle gearbox, the Quattroporte's front-mid-mounted V8 sits back behind the front axle line and the result is the kind of dynamic balance you'd expect of a mid-engined sports car. Good visibility to the front and sides is another plus point, making it easy to place the Quattroporte precisely on the road.

Driven hard and in spite of its roomy proportions, the Quattroporte feels exceptionally well balanced, exhibiting outstanding body control and tiptoe handling responses that reward the lucky driver with an adrenaline shot like no other super-saloon. The near-perfect 47:53 front-rear weight split with drive fed through the back wheels via
the rear-mounted gearbox is an important factor of the Quattroporte driving experience, as is the crisp turn-in and well-weighted steering that's consistently informative, and which reacts immediately with precision to the driver's inputs.

The manner in which the Quattroporte scrubs off speed is equally impressive. The Brembo brakes — cross-drilled ventilated discs at each corner with four-piston callipers up front and two-pot at the rear — offer reassuring retardation, coping admirably with repeated abuse from high speed without the least hint of fade. Braked hard from 62mph on
a dry surface, the Quattroporte will stop in just 36.9 metres.

It takes very few miles of committed and spirited driving to appreciate just how impressive Maserati's achievement is with the Quattroporte. It's a rare treat to find a car today that's so involving and so beguiling — any car, let alone a true-blue sporting saloon. More impressive still, we found it to be good enough to use every day, all year round and it begs to be driven constantly.

As you'd expect, the Quattroporte is equipped with a comprehensive array of both active and passive safety aids, including an electronic stability control system and a traction control system, along with ABS and EBD and six airbags: driver and passenger, side (in both front seats) and full side curtains. Double-skinned, shatterproof penetration-resistant laminated glass is used for all windows. No surprise then, that the Quattroporte's protection systems exceed the toughest European and American crash test standards. A tracking system is also fitted as standard and there's an ample 19.8-gallon fuel tank.

Considering the Quattroporte's sizzling performance and size, our overall test average of 16.6mpg was remarkably good. One trip from Kent to Slough took almost seven hours in stop-start traffic after a lorry overturned and gridlocked most of the M25, but the Quattroporte didn't miss a beat and the paddle-shift gearbox coped admirably.
The only cloud on the horizon was the 10mpg showing on the trip computer. Official fuel consumption figures are 10.13, 14.95 and 20.77mpg respectively for urban, combined and touring, so given the horrendous traffic we encountered on the M25 that day, 10mpg was par for the course.

Maserati's Quattroporte is far more than a seriously-focused, high-performance machine that's fabulous to drive. Proudly mounted on the Quattroporte's mesh grille and distinctive C-pillars, the legendary Maserati Trident symbolizes a unique blend of engineering brio, Italian style and pedigree sporting ability that represents a genuine alternative to the more commonplace models from BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.

With only about 150 Quattroportes available every year in the UK they'll always be enticingly exclusive. That said, the Quattroporte's 74,550 asking price seems a bargain, especially as it comes with
three years' complimentary servicing inclusive of roadside assistance and the loan of a replacement vehicle. We thought it was difficult enough giving back the Ferrari 612 but it was just as hard to say
Ciao to the Maserati. Perhaps that says it all.

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Maserati Quattroporte | 74,550
Maximum speed: 171mph | 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Overall test MPG: 16.6mpg | Power: 394bhp | Torque: 333lb ft

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---------------------------------------------------------- Maserati Quattroporte