AW Cover Story - 2005 Maserati Quattroporte

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  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Four the Italian Way: Maserati relaunches the Quattroporte, but will your orthodontist buy it?

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    By MAC MORRISON
    (08:01 March 29, 2004)

    We know something is up when our co-driver offers us the key.

    "No, no. You drive first, I insist."

    We'd like to think he's being nice, but it seems unlikely: He grips the igniter to $90,000 worth of Italian flair, horsepower and gadgetry, and we can't imagine why he wants to surrender it. We also can't refuse.

    Sucker.

    As we slowly maneuver a silver Maserati Quattroporte out of our Florentine hotel's parking lot, a horde of motor scooters appears from nowhere. Millimeters away, the riders seem oblivious to their vehicles' mass relative to our executive limo. Judged by their lane "discipline," you imagine these guys play a lot of the old Frogger video game. We ease off the throttle. "After you, Antonio..."

    Uncharacteristically, the scooters don't buzz into the distance. One rider points animatedly toward our car, and we're about to raise a hand in the international sign of apology (we're sure we've broken some unwritten Italian road rule) when we spy a smile beneath his white helmet. With a warm nod of native approval, he and his two-stroke crew hit the gas and speed away.

    The locals' reaction conjures up memories of the previous day. We first saw the Quattroporte at its 2003 Frankfurt auto salon debut and in Detroit, but were less than stunned. Chalk it up to the usual auto show sensory overload and the parking garage atmosphere of fluorescent lights and low ceilings. But this time, as we walked toward Maserati's Modena headquarters, we stopped short of the large glass doors and exhaled deeply. Outside sat two Quattroportes, black and silver paint glinting in the early morning sun. Away from the video screens and crowds of public relations riffraff, the sedan exudes a stately elegance and raw beauty missed in most of today's European luxury flagships.

    Credit the sexiness to Pininfarina, which joins Frua, Bertone, Giugiaro and Gandini on the Quattroporte designers' roll. It's Pininfarina's first Maserati in more than 50 years; the original collaboration ceased when the iconic styling house/coachworks turned its attention to Enzo Ferrari, who would never allow his preferred partner to work with his local rival. Ironically, with Ferrari's relatively newfound command of Maserati, Pininfarina returns with Maranello's blessing-if not at its behest. While we couldn't pry a full-fledged confirmation out of the on-hand corporate contingent, expect Maserati's next Coupe and Spyder to carry the Pininfarina badge, not Italdesign-Giugiaro's, on their flanks.

    APPROACH THE QUATTROPORTE IN an open setting and you first note the long hood and offset bi-xenon headlamps, as well as the open-up-and-say-ahh grille (signatures of Quattroportes past, minus the bi-xenons). The nicely integrated front bumper imparts a sporty flavor, especially when viewed head-on. The same can be argued for the front quarter-panel portholes, although we probably would have gone with the more well-known gill-type; there is a fine line between high-end Italian style and, er, Buick.

    Whatever, at a time when most Mercedes-Benzes look alike, and some can barely stand to look at BMWs, there is no mistaking the Quattroporte for anything but a Maser. The rear end, with its prominent, Trident-badged C-pillar, also recalls previous models. There is none of that big-booty BMW trunk lid nonsense, nothing over the top. There is adequate but not abundant space in the trunk when you open it (15.89 cubic feet where a BMW 7 Series boasts 18.0), but no rear-seat cargo pass-through-although a five-piece custom luggage set is available (natch). Your orthodontist can probably live with that, since the shortcomings compared with other big sedans are attributed to the outrageously comfortable, four-way power adjustable rear seats.

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    Pininfarina hasn't designed a Maserati in more than 50 years, but the Turin-based firm hit a home run with the Quattroporte (we'll overlook the Buick-esque portholes).

    The rest of the interior is typical, hedonistic Maserati. There are the requisite sportsmen's club leather and wood options, and you can order specially tanned Poltrona Frau cowhide if the "standard" stuff isn't exclusive enough. With 15 exterior colors, 10 leather tones, three different types of wood and more, Maserati calculates more than 4 million available Quattroporte combos. With this sort of excess on offer, the good doctor will probably come to you. "Right this way, Billy, I'll adjust your rubber bands in my car. Scuff the seats, though, and I'll wire your mouth shut..."

    OUT OF THE CITY AND ON THE Autostrada, we punch the manual shift button (more on that in a minute), drop down two gears and go full-throttle gonzo. We're sold before the pedal impacts its backstop. The 4.2-liter engine's exhaust note sounds as only an Italian V8 can: impact gun remixed with a chain saw. Allegedly, the tune wasn't finalized until Ferrari/Maserati president Luca di Montezemolo listened and gave the big "fantastico." We have no idea whether that's true, but the story sounds nearly as good as the engine.

    This is the all-aluminum Coupe/Spyder dry-sump powerplant, revised for the Quattroporte's higher weight (4253 pounds of steel unibody with aluminum hood and trunk) and luxury intent. The 394-hp peak comes at a stratospheric 7000 rpm, but there is more torque available throughout the rev range compared with the Coupe/Spyder application (max output is unchanged from 333 lb-ft at 4500 rpm). New intake cams and tracts help to provide at least 221 lb-ft at any rpm, as does a new exhaust with backpressure-controlling butterfly valve, as seen before in Ferraris. We never want for more torque as we play with the electronic throttle, though it's most fun to keep the tach above 4000 rpm. Above 5000 is even better as you gun for the 7600-rpm redline. Maserati says the Quattroporte will reach 60 mph from a standstill in 5.1 seconds (a 745i needs 5.9, a Mercedes S500 6.1), and top speed at 170 mph.

    When it comes to front-engine cars, the Quattroporte's 47/53 front/rear weight distribution represents the engineering philosophy that has taken hold at Ferrari/ Maserati. Technical director Roberto Corradi identifies 42/58 distribution as ideal, and the Quattroporte nearly matches the similarly laid-out Ferrari 612 Scaglietti's 46/54 balance. The engine sits behind the front axle line, which combined with the transaxle architecture gives the car a relatively tail-heavy stance. The intent, says Maserati, is to replicate the handling characteristics of small, mid-engine sports cars like Ferrari's 360 Modena. Improved rear traction and efficient tire use are the notable alleged benefits of this layout. With an unequal weight split, it's natural to use different-size front and rear tires. This means the front rubber (245/45ZR-18) is better suited for turning, the rear (285/40ZR-18) for acceleration.

    Maserati knows what you're thinking. We've been beaten over the head for so long with "perfect 50/50 weight distribution," the Quattroporte's design seems counterintuitive. Corradi, of course, insists Maserati's way is best.

    "In no condition is 50/50 better than 42/58," he says. "[Where you end up] depends on the compromises you have to do in designing a car. If you must compromise, 50/50 is a good solution. But each tire's grip level depends on the weight on the tire itself. If you have more weight on the rear tires, you can develop more grip that can be used longitudinally or laterally like you want."

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    WE LEAVE THE HIGHWAY TO TACKLE part of the Mille Miglia route made famous by Fangio, Moss and Ascari. Conveniently (for him, not us), the first of several mandated driver switches means our scheming partner is on deck to enjoy the twisty, rewarding path. This guy is quickly becoming our personal nemesis, but we get our chance soon enough.

    These are at times difficult two-lane roads that initially seem inappropriate for a 198.9-inch-long car. We wouldn't, for example, be much inclined to drive Jaguar's new, 200-inch-long XJ through these mountains, and certainly not at sporting speed. But the Quattroporte's tossability surprises us; it feels like a nimble, midsize sport sedan rath- er than an Autostrada frigate with a 120.6-inch wheelbase (a 745i's wheelbase measures 117.7, an S-Class' 121.5). The steering actually feels better than that in the Spyder we tested; it's still a bit numb on-center, but feedback is improved and the range of speed- sensitive adjustment is just about perfect.

    As we push the chassis harder, the weight distribution techno-babble seems much more relevant than it did when Corradi briefed us. Turn the wheel and the Quattroporte sings in fine, operatic style. The aluminum double-wishbone suspension and Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires provide ample, predictable grip, and the chassis is surprisingly responsive for a large luxury car. The rear suspension features a toe-control link that allows some passive rear-steer, and Modena's electro-boffins updated the standard Skyhook damping control system. Besides the original version's assortment of wheel speed, brake and dynamic acceleration sensors, the latest Skyhook now employs steering and throttle angle monitors to anticipate adjustments before they become necessary. With MSP skid protection also onboard, we're never aware of the car's rear-weight bias, at least not in a bad way.

    There is no electronic roll control as used by BMW and Mercedes-the Quattroporte uses standard, fixed antiroll bars front and rear-but you don't miss it. Activate sport mode and you sense the chassis' reactions sharpen, but with a virtually imperceptible reduction in ride comfort. With either setting, the car handles most road surfaces well. The overall ride quality is good, though it has some ground to make up to the class leaders. The tuning leans toward the stiff side of the performance/comfort equation, and you feel some impact harshness, notably when making lateral transitions over bumps and broken road. The large (12.99-inch front, 12.44-inch rear) Brembo brakes could also be improved; there is too much pedal travel before the real bite arrives. Stopping power is more than sufficient, but the ABS is a tad touchy. We were surprised to set it off twice on damp pavement.

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    WHEN THE DUST CLEARS FROM the final set of driver changes, we're back behind the wheel-predictably, just as it is time to return to Florence. It's rush hour again, but this time we couldn't care less. We're more concerned about the transmission and whether heeled shoppers will live with it. Maserati's six-speed DuoSelect gearbox is similar to the Cambiocorsa version (already revised for the '04 model year) available in the Coupe and Spyder, but uses model-specific software and different gear ratios. With comfort and refinement as top priorities-especially for America-full-automatic mode is DuoSelect's default setting. If you prefer human control, you can flick a steering column-mounted paddle to override the computer for short bursts, or press a dash-mounted button for full-time manual. The same sport mode button that tightens the chassis also increases shift speed; with this setting, there is no computer intervention to spoil your fun, no manual mode auto upshifts at elevated revs.

    While our enthusiasm compels us to shift for ourselves, Maserati expects most Quattroporte owners to rely on the computer more often than not. Unfortunately, that is when the system is at its worst. In mixed conditions, it is relatively easy to confound the virtual brain. Accelerate slowly, give it some stick, then lift to avoid rear-ending the Lancia in front. You feel the transmission hesitate as it attempts to decode your intentions; your apparent uncertainty can lead to driveline lurches. Likewise, partial- throttle auto upshifts, while relatively comfortable, might remind you of a rookie stick-and-clutch driver: Accelerate. Clutch in. Gear in. Clutch out. Accelerate...

    DuoSelect is, however, much improved over the Cambiocorsa we experienced in the Spyder (AW, Dec. 8, 2003), especially once you figure out its little quirks and how to avoid them. Gone is the parking lot jerkiness we felt in the convertible, and no-lift manual upshifts are much improved, too. We could live with this gearbox, but luxury shoppers might be put off by any system that comes with a learning curve. As of now, Maserati has no plans to offer a true automatic; Corradi says it would be difficult to maintain the car's transaxle layout and the chassis balance it helps to provide. Corradi acknowledges a double-clutch gearbox (like Audi's DSG) is ideal, but says such a transmission is years away from the Maserati lineup.

    Or is it? Thanks to a technology-sharing arrangement with Audi, this Maserati M139 platform will likely spawn not only the company's next Coupe and Spyder, but also an all-new, rear-drive car from Ingolstadt. In return, Maserati gets access to various Audi technologies, including aluminum space-frame know-how, quattro all-wheel drive and DSG. A version of the smooth-shifting gearbox could work wonders for the Quattroporte if customers shun DuoSelect. Don't even think about quattro, though. It won't fit in the sedan unless Maserati moves the engine forward, which would obviously destroy the precious chassis balance.

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    The Quattroporte's 47/53 front/rear weight bias may seem like a recipe for oversteering disaster, but the car's chassis is remarkably stable. The idea, says Maserati, is to mimic the handling traits of small, mid-engined sports cars.

    THE QUATTROPORTE IS CLEARLY not of the same ilk as other European luxury liners, but that is just fine with Maserati. With Ferrari's financial support, it neither needs nor wants to sell large volumes. Ferrari/Maserati North America president Maurizio Parlato says the company has approximately 600 down payments from U.S. customers, virtually the entire first-year shipment. Maserati will build about 4000 Quattroportes per year once production hits full song in 2005, with roughly 1800 to 2000 earmarked for our market. Combined 2003 U.S. sales of the 7 Series, S-Class, XJ and Audi A8 totaled nearly 58,000 vehicles. Assuming no drastic market change, the Quattroporte represents less than 4 percent of this exclusive luxury world. Surely there should be enough takers, at least for two or three years. If you're still not convinced the newest Maserati is worth the estimated $10,000 premium over an S500 (Maserati hasn't set the final price), test drives are available this summer before deliveries begin in September. After your shakedown run, you'll crave more seat time. Just ask our co-driver: A side effect of his drive route machinations is that he's piloted far fewer miles than we have, just so as to avoid the scary traffic.

    Talk about big-time backfires...

    2005 MASERATI QUATTROPORTE
    ON SALE: September
    BASE PRICE: $90,000 (est.)
    POWERTRAIN: 4.2-liter, 394-hp, 333-lb-ft V8; rwd, six-speed electrohydraulic manual
    CURB WEIGHT: 4253 pounds
    0 TO 60 MPH: 5.1 seconds (mfr.)


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  2. TheRemains

    TheRemains If I sound disrespectful, it's only because you're

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    i like it
     
  3. jrmcm

    jrmcm Actriz Porno

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    I've been seeing the new Maserati coupes all over the damn place lately. I see probably 2 a week now. I don't get it, they're ugly as hell.
     
  4. vex

    vex Guest

    not bad
     
  5. EPMD

    EPMD I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. A

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    I like it.

    "My Masarati does 185..........I lost my license now I don't drive....."
     
  6. DMClark

    DMClark Active Member

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  7. P-chan

    P-chan New Member

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    I :love: TriShield - that thing is beautiful :wtc:



    :love:
     
  8. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    I like it as well.
     

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