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Maserati Quattroporte

The Maserati Quattroporte is a rare entry in the top tier of large luxury sedans that runs from the top of the Jaguar XF and Mercedes-Benz S Class through to far pricier contenders like the Bentley Flying Spur and the Rolls-Royce Ghost. Other competitors include the Aston Martin Rapide and the Porsche Panamera.

And with an all-new model for 2014, the Maserati team hopes its luxury four-door will become more familiar among the highest tier of car buyers. The 2014 Maserati Quattroporte offers a fresh new look that still cleaves to the shapes and passions of its predecessors--and it aims to triple sales of the previous model.

Powered by either a 410-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 engine or a 530-horsepower, twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-8 engine, the Quattroporte is quick. With the V-6, it accelerates to 60 mph in about five seconds, shaving the time to 4.7 seconds with the V-8. Top speeds are 177 and 191 mph, respectively. Both engines are paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. All-wheel drive is available, with rear-wheel drive standard.

Literally translated from the Italian as "four doors," the Quattroporte name goes back to the 1960s. Although Quattroporte models of the 1970s, '80s, and even '90s were more status symbols than driver's cars, that began to change in the late 1990s when Ferrari took charge of Maserati. From 2004 on, the Quattroporte--designed by famed Italian styling house Pininfarina--has blended the sense of exclusivity and lavish feel found in a low-volume model with the passion of an Italian sports car.

With a sharklike front end, aggressively raked windshield, and classic, elegant roofline and long hood, the Quattroporte's styling also strikes a middle ground between sports-car athleticism and sedan elegance. Almost no two Quattroportes are the same. Most are built to order, with many upholstery, paint, trim, and interior possibilities.

The more savage, sonorous character of the Quattroporte is one of its most desirable aspects. It packs a Ferrari-designed 400-hp, 4.2-liter dry-sump V-8 under its hood, and the engine seldom goes quietly. That's fine, as it rumbles authoritatively in gentle driving yet emits a tuneful wail by the time it reaches its 7,500-rpm redline. The Quattroporte rumbles much like a Ferrari.

The Quattroporte feels surprisingly more like a sports coupe than a sedan from the driver's seat, thanks to the combination of excellent sport seats and quite narrow footwells. The cowl and instrument panel also are curved more like the front of a sports car, and a thick, smaller-diameter steering wheel with large paddle-shifters sets the right mood. The six-speed ZF automatic transmission that's been the only option in the U.S. from 2008, with the original model termed the Quattroporte America, delivers shifts that are a little more abrupt than a typical luxury-car automatic but befitting the sporty character. Comfort isn't really a strong point for the Quattroporte; the trunk is surprisingly tight, though there is enough back-seat space for two adults.

Among Quattroporte models, the Quattroporte S upgrades to a 425-horsepower, 4.7-liter V-8 and the Sport GT S has a 434-hp version of the 4.7-liter. Earlier on, Sport GT and Sport GT S models got various performance upgrades, while the Executive GT model upgraded to the sort of interior luxury equipment you'd find in a Rolls-Royce (including wood rear tables and back curtains). By 2013 the Quattroporte was only offered in S and GT S models, making 434 hp and 444 hp respectively.

The QP models to avoid are those with the Duo-Select system; it's one of the worst-calibrated automated manual gearboxes we've tested—delivering snappy shifts at full throttle but excessive hesitation and lurching when driving leisurely or with traffic. It even delivers a throttle blip for downshifts. All the while, the 4,400-pound sedan feels well balanced and big Brembo brakes have an exotic-car-firm pedal feel. The Skyhook air suspension is recommended and aids comfort, but even as such the Quattroporte's ride quality also might not be to the liking of all luxury buyers; it can be a bit busy on rough pavement surfaces.


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