October 1, 2007
North Vancouver, British Columbia – For most of us, the closest weâ€™ll ever get to a Maserati is singing that classic Joe Walsh line from Lifeâ€™s Been Good. Thatâ€™s probably a good thing, because if you or I ever jumped behind the wheel of one of Modenaâ€™s most exquisite exports, weâ€™d quickly realize Walsh nailed it when he linked the Italian cars to losing your driverâ€™s license.
With just three anointed dealerships across Canada â€” in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal â€” Maserati and its beautiful cars are the very definition of a niche market. In 2006, for example, just 5,700 Quattroportes were produced for worldwide consumption. Compare that to the 100,000 2008 XFs Jaguar plans to build, and itâ€™s not difficult to see why you donâ€™t see many Maseratis prowling the provinceâ€™s roadways.
The 2007 Maserati stable includes six models: the Coupe, the GranSport Spyder, the GranSport, the GranTurismo, the Quattroporte and the MC12 Corsa. With a sticker price north of $1.5 million, a top speed of 330 km/h and an extremely limited production run, donâ€™t expect to see any of the 12-cylinder MC12s around these parts.
If you live in one of the three privileged urban areas that have a Maserati dealer though, you should expect to see that distinctive three-point crown badge darting through business district traffic. Thatâ€™s because the Maserati Quattroporte, back from the ashes once again, is muscling in on an executive saloon market long dominated by German and Japanese luxury sedan makers.
Resurrected in 2004, the 2007 Maserati Quattroporte (literally â€˜four doorsâ€™ in Italian) is the fifth generation of the one-time groundbreaking automotive design. Back in 1963, Pietro Frua penned the first Quattroporte, and the luxury sport saloon was born. The Tipo 107 took the grand touring concept to a new level, offering a spacious and very comfortable cabin for up to five adults, yet with the soul of a sports car. That first Quattroporte had a 4.1-litre V8 producing 256 hp and a top speed of 230 km-h (143 mph).
Move ahead a quarter of a century and the basic premise behind the rear-wheel drive Quattroporte hasnâ€™t changed. The 2007 modelâ€™s unique, aerodynamic and slippery shape is designed by an Italian master (Pininfarina); the large cabin is an almost over-the-top tribute to fine luxury touring (Poltona Frau leather everywhere, and a choice of rosewood, mahogany or burled walnut wood trim); and a 400-hp 4.2-litre V8 that weighs just 183 kilograms and propels the sedan from zero to 100 km/h in very civilized 5.6 seconds. Fuel consumption is a combined 14.7 L/100km in city/highway driving.
Weight is in fact a critical factor in the engineering design of the fifth generation Quattroporte. With a 47 percent front, 53 percent rear weight distribution, the 5052 mm (198.9-in.) sedan handles with the kind of fluid grace associated with much smaller cars. Once you get the Quattroporte up to speed, the true nature of its remarkable engineering features come to life, with the sedan displaying a surprising extroverted personality and an eager willingness to go even quicker (hence Walshâ€™s infamous â€œI lost my license, now I donâ€™t driveâ€ line).
Aiding this responsive character is the engineâ€™s placement further back in the chassis than most front-engined sedans â€” actually behind the centreline of the front axle â€” and the clever combination of the gearbox and the rear differential into one unit, placing all the weight of this transaxle over the rear wheels. Such subtle engineering solutions give the Quattroporte a much higher sports car DNA count than your average luxury sport sedan. The Quattroporte is offered with a DuoSelect six-speed F1-type clutchless transmission with paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, or a conventional six-speed automatic transmission with a sequential manual mode. The standard Brembo brakes with ventilated discs and Bosch anti-lock braking are also right off the racing car template.
To further cut down on weight, an aluminum hood and an aluminum trunk lid are used in conjunction with the steel body.
As much as the Quattroporte maintains many of the tenets of its basic heritage, its computer-operated underpinnings are 100 percent 21st Century. A â€˜drive-by-wireâ€™ throttle, a â€œSkyhookâ€ suspension system with Normal and Sport settings, and the Maserati Stability Programme (MSP) are state-of-the-art automotive technologies that not only add to the driving pleasure of the sport sedan, but also to its safer operation. The Quattroporte is also outfitted with front, side and side-curtain airbag SRS systems.
The MPS system integrates the anti-lock brakes and the traction control system, and in the event of a skid on a slippery surface will manipulate brake application and engine power to keep the car under control. Like the suspension system, MPS has a Normal and Sport setting.
The exterior of the Pininfarina-penned Quattroporte is spectacular from most every angle. I say â€˜mostâ€™ as in my opinion those rear taillights are really out of place: too big and too much red.
That slight styling faux pas is quickly overlooked however, as the front end and side view make the German and Japanese competition seem almost pedestrian in comparison. True to the Italian motor car mantra, the styling of the Quattroporte is sexy and supple. Its long wheelbase, short front and rear overhangs and rearward positioning of the cabin create an appearance that reflects the dynamic driving character of the car. The chunky C-pillar is also reminiscent of the original Quattroportes, giving the 2007 model a distinctive and historical look.
As much as I like the appearance of the Quattroporte, I liked driving it much more than looking at it. Every bit as much a performance sedan as the BMW and Mercedes uber saloons, the Maserati handles like a car of this calibre should – meaning, the faster you go, the more the car’s true nature reveals itself. In the case of the Quattroporte, the soul of a sports car shines through at the higher rpms, punctuated by an exhaust note that would turn the head of an F1 driver, and an overall sense of car control that would make a Grand Prix pilot envious. The six-speed automatic transaxle performed flawlessly, with sequential manual shifts available by flipping the shifter over to the left gate, and tapping it forward and back for upshifts and downshifts. The Brembo brakes lived up to their reputation, though in all honesty I really didn’t give them a very thorough thrashing. Maybe if I ever get a Quattroporte on a track, but then they’ll be the bigger problem with trying to get me off.
Simply put, the more you drive this Maserati, well, the more you want to drive it some more.
As to the interior of the Quattroporte, six words say it all: the Officine Alfieri Maserati Personalization Program. Individual customization has always been a hallmark of the Quattroporte, and the 2007 model is no exception. You can create your car from a catalog that offers, according to Maserati press notes, â€œliterally four million colour and material combinations.â€ There are 15 exterior paint hues to choose from, 10 interior colours, 10 instrument panel and steering wheel colours, 13 hues for the leather stitching and three for the headliner. For further cosmetic and comfort enhancements, a Sport and an Executive Package are available.
Swing a Gucci shopping bag on the Howe, Bay and St. Catherine streets of Canadaâ€™s biggest cities, and youâ€™re sure to hit dozens of big BMW L Series, Mercedes S-Class, Audi A8 and Lexus LS460 sedans.
The exclusivity of the Quattroporte is its biggest appeal, though with Jaguarâ€™s XF set to storm Canadian showrooms in 2008 followed by the highly anticipated Porsche Panamera and Aston Martin Rapide in 2009, the high-end luxury sedan market is about to get fairly crowded.
Even still, the 2007 Maserati Quattroporte is one elegant and exciting way to stand out from the crowd. Just be careful about that driverâ€™s license.
At a glance: 2007 Maserati Quattroporte
Base price: $139,900
Manufacturerâ€™s web site