Like international screen siren Sophia Loren, the 2005 Maserati Quattroporte’s timeless Italian beauty speaks volumes about its culture and class. Across the parking lot, our Quattroporte awaited a test drive, cloaked in gorgeous sheetmetal draped ever so skillfully over its voluptuous curves, making instantly clear to any onlooker that this is no ordinary car. In a confirmed enthusiast, just the sight of the Quattroporte can make the heart race, perspiration bead, and muscles quiver with anticipation. With the keys to the ignition in hand, the effect is quadrupled. Emblazoned with a dominant trident badge in the center of the massive grille, the Quattroporte’s appearance and pedigree intoxicate, casting a spell even before the big V8 engine under the hood roars to life. Driving the Quattroporte, caressing the soft leather steering wheel rim while goosing its Ferrari-sourced engine through the accelerator pedal, is like a triple-shot dose of espresso, setting every nerve on full alert.
Indeed, the Maserati Quattroporte is not just about looks. This is one wonderful sedan that is just as pleasurable to drive as it is to view through star-crossed eyes.
In typical Italian fashion, the 2005 Maserati Quattroporte comes one way, but with a wide range of optional features to personalize the car to your liking. There isn’t an entry-level model, or an up-level model. There’s one engine offering, with one transmission delivering power to the rear wheels. And thanks to bespoke tailoring through a wide range of colors, interiors, and options, the plethora of resulting variants virtually assures that every one of the 1,500 Quattroportes coming to North America is certainly one of a kind.
Our test car was covered with a gorgeous burgundy mica paint that appeared coated with Teflon, so shiny and luminescent was its finish. This is just one of numerous deep, classic colors offered as standard equipment, and with the Maserati Personalization Program you are literally offered four million color and interior material combinations.
When it comes to the interior, we wouldn’t mess with the fashion sensibilities of the designers at Maserati. Supple leather covers everything you touch, and what isn’t upholstered in leather is trimmed with the most exquisite woodwork we have seen in a modern motorcar. Our Quattroporte’s luscious mahogany wood trim was to die for, coating the center console and making it resemble a fine piece of furniture complete with jointed corners. Turning thin layers of wood into art is difficult for most, but not so for the craftsmen at Maserati.
Nuts and Bolts
Under the 2005 Maserati Quattroporte’s long, stylish hood sits a Ferrari-sourced V8 engine that not only looks the part, it acts like the kind of powerplant you expect in such a fine, Italian automobile. Lightweight yet powerful, this 4.2-liter V8 has the acceleration and responsiveness to make merging into freeway traffic effortlessly entertaining. Thanks to 395 horsepower and 326 lb.-ft. of torque, the Quattroporte boasts performance that equates to a smaller, lighter sports car. And with 75 percent of that torque available at just 2,500 rpm, the car launches from stops like a lion. To contributing to the Quattroporte’s superb handling balance, the engine is placed rearward in the engine compartment to create what Maserati calls a front mid-engine design.
Part of the Quattroporte’s enthralling driving experience can be credited to the rear mounted six-speed transmission that has both automatic and manual modes. Each time the Maserati is started, the transmission defaults to automatic shifting. Push a switch on the control panel and manual control is available through the shifter paddles mounted on the steering wheel. Developed in Formula 1 racing, this system takes awhile to become familiar with, but once accustomed it’s easy to imagine yourself sitting on the starting grid at Monaco.
Big brakes are a must for a vehicle of this magnitude and Maserati gave the Quattroporte a set of powerful Brembo binders. Equipped with large ventilated discs and equally massive calipers at all four corners, our Quattroporte stopped with sureness every time we asked. After a number of extremely hard braking exercises it was easy to believe Maserati’s claimed 60-to-0 mph stopping distance of 120 feet.
A combination of Maserati’s Skyhook suspension, Pirelli P-Zero tires and sublime steering deliver commendable handling and ride comfort. The Maserati Quattroporte is well outfitted with a rack-and-pinion steering system that provides excellent feedback from the road yet doesn’t send jarring messages to the driver’s hands. Maserati’s Skyhook suspension consists of front and rear double A-arms in conjunction with a fast-acting adaptive damping system. Despite its two selectable modes, normal and sport, the Skyhook setup seemed to have an infinite degree of automatic adaptation, switching seamlessly from soft ride to controlled handling at all times. The optional 19-inch Pirelli P-Zero performance tires on our test car added the grip needed to help keep the entire Quattroporte package glued to the road.
Having driven the Maserati Coupe and Spyder, most of the 2005 Quattroporte’s controls and systems were familiar to us. So it didn’t take long to get acclimated, and then it was off to northern California’s serpentine coastal roads to give the Quattroporte it a chance to run at its limits.
The Quattroporte’s bulk disappears when exercising its capabilities on the open road. While it offers an expansive and accommodating passenger compartment, the Quattroporte handles like a much smaller sports sedan thanks to its potent V8 engine combined with the six-speed transmission and the Skyhook suspension system. And once you’re familiar with the shifter paddles, the Quattroporte’s responsiveness and power are clearly evident.
The best way to become fluent with the paddle shifters is through practice. And because the paddle shifters operate through an automatic clutch that is connected to a real manual transmission, the Quattroporte delivers a genuine sports sedan feel. The positive upshifts and downshifts gave us the control we wanted and needed when pushing through quick turns.
Maserati’s Skyhook suspension system contributes to a neutral handling character. Through electronic sensors, the Skyhook suspension tracks the Quattroporte’s motion, monitoring acceleration, braking and driving conditions, then adjusting for ride control when cruising and handling when quick, fast turns are detected. Drive easy and you get the luxury version – more aggressive driving nets a firmer setting.
As we pushed the Quattroporte along winding roads, the car reacted to our every request with astonishing responsiveness thanks to the merit of the Skyhook system. Not once did the car throw us into an unexpected predicament. And the superior handling does not come at the sacrifice of ride comfort – after all this is a luxury sedan. With the help of the Skyhook suspension’s “sport” button, the driver has control over how the dampers react, as well as how a number of other systems respond to driver inputs and road conditions. The sport mode also increases the stability control’s threshold of engagement so that it doesn’t spoil spirited driving.
The zenith of our test drive came when we entered into a friendly little contest with a new BMW 7 Series that appeared in the Quattroporte’s rear view mirror. Challenge accepted, the Quattroporte thundered down the highway, and as the BMW grew smaller in our mirrors we became quite thrilled by this excellent Maserati sedan. Suffice it to say that when we came to a refreshment stop, overlooking the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves, the BMW driver came over (once he caught up) to find out what had just humiliated him. He was shocked to discover it was the Maserati Quattroporte that just ran away from him on the twisty back country road, though we’re not sure if his surprised reaction came because it is such a rare automobile or that an Italian sedan embarrassed him.
The 2005 Maserati Quattroporte isn’t one to stand out in crowd. This is a classic design of sensual, flowing lines created by one of the world’s most celebrated designers, Sergio Pininfarina. The ultimate in subtlety, the Maserati glides into a parking lot or valet station with an elegance and poise common to European luxury cars – particularly those from Italy.
The large oval-shaped grille is dominated by a prominent trident emblem, creating potential trauma in any fellow motorist looking at the Quattroporte through a rearview mirror. Surely, any driver of such an ill-positioned vehicle is expecting to be swallowed up by the beast.
Looking longer and lower than it really is, the Quattroporte’s long wheelbase is accentuated by the short front and rear overhangs, while the long slim hood melds into the steep rake of the windscreen as the body flows back into a GT fastback finale.
The interior offers plenty of comfortable space for five occupants, with doors that open wide for easy entry and exit. The seats are supportively firm, yet offer the comfort of your favorite leather chair, and the fat leather-wrapped steering wheel rim rests comfortably in the driver’s hands for optimum vehicle control.
Many luxury automobiles try to be more complicated then need be, hiding switches and controls in places you wouldn’t expect or easily find. In the Quattroporte, however, every control is easy to reach and operate. The one caveat to this rule was the compact disc player, which is mounted under the steering column. You nearly have to stand on your head to insert discs. But then, listening to the big V8’s swan might be all the music you need.
Wrap-Up and Specs
Words, at times, do not substitute for experience. Yet, like catching a glimpse of a favorite celebrity, such as Sophia Loren, spotting this slinky Italian rolling down the road is sometimes a reasonable consolation for a seat behind the wheel because if metal, wood and leather can be a substitute for flesh, blood and bone, the 2005 Maserati Quattroporte is it.
Test Vehicle: 2005 Maserati Quattroporte
Price of Test Vehicle: $119,700 (includes $1,350 destination charge and $3,700 gas guzzler tax)
Engine Size and Type: 4.2-liter V8
Engine Horsepower: 395 at 7,000 rpm
Engine Torque: 326 at 4,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed sequential manual
Curb weight, lbs.: 4,253
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 12/15 mpg
Length: 198.9 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Wheelbase: 120.6 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 42.5/NA
Head room (front/rear): 36.5/35.0 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Five
Max. Cargo Volume: 8 cubic feet
Competitors: Audi A8 L, Bentley Continental Flying Spur, BMW 7 Series, Jaguar XJ Super V8 Portfolio, Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Photos courtesy of Maserati