Exterior Design: *****
If anything, the Quattroporte has completely re-introduced the field of luxury sedans to sex. Designer Pininfarina apparently micro-scanned the canon of Maserati forms it created back in the 1950s, and issued a voluptuous figure that s both nostalgic and progressive. All those slithery shapes converging in all the right places strike a tuning fork on our species-perpetuation parts.
As long as we were able to reach the gearshift paddles while putting significant pressure on the go-pedal, Maserati could have used the interior out of an early-70s Fiat 124 and we'd likely not have noticed. But there s more to driving than driving. Controls for the dual, electronically adjustable bucket seats, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and ride/transmission buttons are placed intuitively enough. Gauges are clear and well considered, and a central digital info screen (with gear-selection indicator) is easy to read on the fly. Seats are supportive enough and offer lots of posterior grip while taking hard corners. Leggy RAI spokesmodels will find plenty of stretch space, front and back.
(Hey! Who set the steering-wheel askew? Heads will roll!)
Barring an AMG-tuned Mercedes S-Class, there's nothing in its category that can touch the Quattroporte. Its 4.2-liter V8 eats revs for breakfast, and while max torque comes on at 4,500 rpm, there's plenty to go around right from the get-go. Plus, the company's reported zero-to-60 time of five seconds feels conservative, even if it's not.
Big car, big brakes. The four vented discs plus ABS brings the 4300 lbs of fun to a halt on demand. They feel a shade imposing — like the reverse-thrusters on a 767 — in town.
Not as kingly-feeling as a Bentley, and without the magic-carpet slickness of a Mercedes, the Quattroporte is designed such that the driver gets lots of road information — whether he wants it or not. That means forgoing plushness for feedback. Every mode feels somewhat like sport mode. Still, sensory deprevation can be achieved — cruising along in sixth, we were actually startled by the ticking of our Swatch.
With a front/rear weight distribution of 47%/53%, and a good dose of proven suspension mechanicals (e.g., unequal-length control-arms), the Quattroporte handles the curvy bits better than sports coupes half its size. It s taut and fun, and but for a bit of heaviness in the rear, it s easy to forget there's nearly the equivalent of an extra Alfa Romeo hatchback s worth of leather, glass and sheetmetal behind the driver s head.
Paddle shifting the Maserati s electrohydraulic six-speed Maserati DuoSelect (MDS) transmission is the only way to fly. Sure, the system s software will approximate a slushbox if so solicited, but upshifts feel awkward and clunky compared to rivals with true automatics. Considering most luxury sedan buyers believe transmissions should be neither seen nor heard, this kind of conspicuity could be somewhat of a liability. In other words, don t be shy, Minister, grab the paddles and go.
To be honest, we were so entranced by the sound of the engine, we didn t spend much time playing around with the purpose-built Bose stereo, which is designed to cancel out outside noise. Company literature says the music system was designed simultaneously with the car. And that it has some speakers made from something called neodymium iron boron and features the debut of the PowerND woofer. Yeah, the radio works just fine.
We didn't do much playing with the nav system, and our model wasn't decked out with what's available. Read 'em off the a la carte menu: Bosch/Blaupunkt multimedia system including satellite phone, rear-seat TV and DVD player, plus rear-seat recline and massage. A small fridge in the front armrest, separate front and rear climate control, light and rain sensors, etc.
A smallish trunk can mean the death-knell of a sedan. While style-conscious Quattroporte buyers may not care, we're estimating it's about a golf-bag-and-a-half smaller than the Lincoln Town Car's cargo cave.
Overall rating: ****
Tommorrow: the wrap.
Jalopnik Reviews: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte, Part 1, Part 3 [internal]