Review: 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S

  • A slightly longer nose, restyled bumpers, slatted grille, reshaped headlamps and new side-view mirrors make this car look like the sporty GranTurismo coupe. - 0
  • The taillights have also been updated and feature LED lights for better visibility. - 1
  • The S features larger 19-inch wheels and tires, along with a magnetically controlled shock system called Skyhook that allows it to handle the twisties with aplomb. - 2
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Fresh styling, features and power for Italy’s sexiest sport sedan.

When Maserati came to market with the Quattroporte in 2004, it was the first step on the path to profitability for the Italian marque. Now in the black for the first time in many years, the company is building on its success with a redesigned version for the new model year. After five years on the market, the Quattroporte adds appeal with fresh styling, updated features and a more powerful engine.

Part of the key to the car’s success is its exclusivity. Buyers in market for a $100,000-plus luxury sedan are often looking to set themselves apart from the neighbors. Given the Quattroportes’s small production numbers — just 15,000 units have been sold worldwide in the last five years — the odds of seeing another Pininfarina-designed sport sedan parked on your street are pretty low.

Model Lineup
When the redesigned Quattroporte arrives in the U.S. the fall of 2008, it will be available in standard configuration and for the first time as the more powerful Quattroporte S. Maserati uses the S designation to denote higher-performance versions of its vehicles.

The latest Quattroporte is easily distinguished with new headlights highlighted by LED turn signals, a revised front bumper, a larger grille (similar to that on the Gran Turismo, and updated taillights that also feature LEDs to give them a diamond-like look, especially in the sun. But even with these changes, the Italian styling remains such that the car is unlikely to be mistaken for anything other than a Maserati.

New wheels also add a more aggressive look — the standard Quattroporte gets 18-inch wheels with optional 19-inch wheels as part of the sport package. The Quattroporte S comes with 19-inch wheels as standard equipment, with the option of new 20-inchers that incorporates the Maserati Trident in the design.

Under the Hood
One of the most significant changes to the Quattroporte lineup is the addition of a larger V8 engine powering the new S version. A tuned-down version of the powerplant first introduced in the GranTurismo S, the Ferrari-built 4.7-liter V8 puts out 425 horsepower. The 4.2-liter 400-hp V8 engine in the standard Quattroporte remains unchanged, since it was revised last year. Both engines are built by Ferrari to exact Maserati specifications — the 4.2-liter engine features a blue cylinder-head cover; the 4.7 liter’s head is red.

Handling the gear shifting for both engines is a 6-speed automatic transmission created through collaboration between Maserati and ZF. The transmission can be set to normal, icy, or sport mode, or the driver can play F1 racer and shift manually using paddles mounted on the steering column. While the transmission is the same for both engines, the software has been revised on the Quattroporte S with the aim of better acceleration and performance.

Inner Space
No one could ever accuse Maserati of skimping on the interior of the Quattroporte. Surfaces are covered in soft Italian Poltrona Frau leather, and are offset by a variety of exotic wood choices such as Polished Wengè, Vavona or Black Piano. A new chocolate-brown shade of leather —Marrone Corniola — is introduced for new Quattroporte. Gauges have also been updated to match those found in the GranTurismo.

The seats are supportive, with bolsters to help hold occupants in place during spirited driving. Although most owners of this car would rather be behind the wheel, the rear seat is not such a bad place to ride. With laminated glass and a new suspension, Quattroporte passengers are treated to spacious, comfortable seats and a smooth, quiet ride.

The Quattroporte can also be equipped with an Executive GT package that adds power-adjustable rear seats featuring heating, ventilation and massage. Rear side blinds, an Alcantara leather headliner and retractable wooden tables complete the luxurious surroundings.

For in-car entertainment, Bose has teamed with Maserati to create a multi-function media system. With a large, easy-to-read display, the Bose system provides a 40 GB hard drive to store a music library, XM Satellite Radio, a DVD player, Bluetooth connectivity and USB reader function. A great improvement over the system in the previous models, it can still be somewhat difficult to decipher. Bose engineers have also designed and produced the 11-speaker surround sound audio system for the new Quattroporte, tailored specifically to work with the car’s acoustics.

On the Road
We drove the new Quattroporte S on a variety of roads around the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy, and found the Italian marque has truly brought this sport sedan up a level. (Note: We drove a European-spec version, but there should be few differences from the North American model.)

While the Quattroporte was powerful before, additional horsepower is always welcome. Step down with your right foot and power comes on strongly, with the smooth-shifting automatic transmission reacting quickly. And as rpm quickly climbs, so does the accompanying V8 roar. The throaty V8 exhaust note is much more pronounced in the new Quattroporte S, and it sounds wonderful.

Speeds build quickly on long, straight roads, and in the curves it seems as if the Quattroporte shrinks in size. The big sedan is surprisingly nimble, with very little body lean. At the same time, the Quattroporte rides more like a luxury car, not like a stiff sports car. Well balanced, the Quattroporte is a joy to drive.

Right for You?
If you’re in the market for a $100,000-plus high-powered luxury sport sedan, there are a number of choices on the market. But the Quattroporte, and now Quattroporte S, can provide performance and exclusivity for a price less than that of its European competition.

With its Pininfarina-designed body, Italian leather trim and Ferrari-built engine under the hood, the hand-built Quattroporte is the perfect choice for the luxury-car buyer looking for impressive performance and a car that will stand out from the crowd.

Perry Stern is the senior editor at MSN Autos. His automotive career began as an advisor at a vehicle consulting firm in Seattle 17 years ago. One of the original staff members of CarPoint, Microsoft’s automotive information website that launched in 1995, he became editor of MSN Autos (formerly named CarPoint) in 2002 and has also contributed to various MSN properties in Canada, Japan and Europe, as well as to MSNBC.

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