First Drive: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte maserati first drives
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Review and photos by Tony Whitney

There’s nothing quite like an Italian nameplate to set a car lover’s heart beating faster. Legendary makes like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and, of course, Maserati, have always been cars of elegance and passion – Italians never did lean too heavily on practicality and performance for its own sake. The emphasis was always on a combination of emotion and style that few auto-making nations have ever matched.

It’s sad to contemplate that many of these great names might well have disappeared by now, but for the intervention of larger auto corporations. Thankfully, all of the above named are thriving now – Ferrari, Maserati and Alfa Romeo under the wing of the giant Fiat group and Lamborghini as part of Volkswagen Audi. Thanks to this type of consolidation, we’re beginning to see a resurgence of some of these makes in Canada and the latest Italian legend to join the performance luxury market here is Maserati.

Maserati was founded in 1926 and has long been famed for its racing and grand touring cars. The company boasts a long list of successful and always aesthetically beautiful road and race cars, including the 250F Grand Prix car of the 1950s and fabled road-going GT cars like the 3500 (1956), Mistral (1964), Ghibli (1966), Bora (1971) and Merak (1972). Racing successes over the years would fill a book (and has done many times over) but victories have been chalked up in all kinds of auto racing from Formula One to the challenging Targa Florio in Sicily. In 1939-40, Maserati even won the Indy 500.

Back in the mid sixties, Maserati tackled a class left virtually alone by rival “supercar” builders – four-door sedans. The long and low-slung 1964 Quattroporte developed quite a following at the time. I can remember once in London seeing distinguished Oscar-winning actor, humourist and sometime diplomat Peter Ustinov driving one and the car was certainly a favourite among the rich and famous. You’ll still see the occasional Quattroporte, lovingly preserved, at Italian car meets across the country.

First Drive: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte maserati first drives
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The 2005 Quattroporte is an exceptionally handsome automobile from any angle. It is a large car, but that’s exactly the point. It’s a worthy competitor to high-performance versions of such rivals as the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series. Jaguar XJ8 and Audi A8. The nose treatment is very well done and with its famed Maserati trident logo to set it off, everyone who sees the car knows that it’s something very special. The trunk is huge and could easily accommodate luggage for a seriously lengthy “grand touring” trip. Incidentally, buyers can opt for a set of fitted leather luggage, which would be a wonderful adjunct to a great car.

First Drive: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte maserati first drives
Click image to enlarge

To my surprise, I found that rear seat room was very accommodating indeed – even for six-foot-plus people like me. There’s lots of head and shoulder room, so this car is no “token” four-door sedan. It’s certainly as roomy as an equivalent sedan from the major German competitors. It’s worth mentioning that fit and finish was flawless throughout the car – not always the case with supercars of the past and even the present.

Of course, many would say that style and interior appointments alone don’t make a supercar – there has to be something worthwhile under the hood. In this department, Maserati certainly delivers. Power comes from a V-8 of just over 4.2-litres and it develops a very healthy 400 horsepower at 7,000 rpm.

First Drive: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte maserati first drives
Click image to enlarge

Transmission is a fascinating Maserati DuoSelect mechanical “transaxle architecture” gearbox with electronically controlled electro-hydraulic operation. What this means is that the car can be driven in full automatic mode or the driver can select gears using a couple of Formula One style paddles located on the steering wheel column. Even in automatic mode, shifts can be provoked by judicious use of the gas pedal, but most enthusiastic drivers will make full use of the very speedy paddle shifters. It takes a little getting used to, but once the driver is acclimatized, the system is superb and much faster than any full manual box could be.

Of course, the car has a full array of equipment under the “performance dynamics” heading, including huge Brembo disc brakes with Bosch ABS, fully independent suspension, stability control, continuously variable dampers using the Maserati Skyhook system, electronic brake force distribution and many other performance/safety benefits. My test car had the optional 19-inch wheels shod with wide Pirelli P-Zero tires – probably the best rubber in the industry for a car like this.

First Drive: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte maserati first drives
Click image to enlarge

The cockpit is a delight and the instrument array, impressive to say the least. My test car was fitted with an easy-to-use navigation system and all kinds of state-of-the-art accessories and comfort items. This might be a limited production automobile, but it comes with a full roster of all the latest electronic aids and that’s where Fiat’s huge research and development resources come into play. The leather seats were very comfortable – front and back – and everything from the steering wheel to the basic controls proved intelligently designed and executed.

My biggest surprise came when I checked out the price of this car, which proved to be tens of thousands of dollars under what I expected. A base Quattroporte – if “base” is a word that can be applied to a car like this – is $139,300, so it is right in the hunt with its Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Jaguar rivals.

There’s certainly a very lengthy options list that can be exploited by the buyer who must have everything, but even in basic form, the Quattroporte is exceptionally well equipped. Buyers can seriously customize their car with different woods and leathers, retractable rear tables, a rear seat DVD system, run-flat tires and all kinds of other neat stuff.

My best advice to anyone shopping in the Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7-Series market is to take a close look at this new Maserati before they make a final decision.

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