Best Of The Best 2006: Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT
Choosing this year’s Best of the Best sedan was a prickly task. With great marques introducing so many fresh, fine models, the decision as to which four-door offered the most seductive combination of performance, luxury, build quality, and style ultimately came down to personal values. But one car among our lofty quintet—the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT—stood apart as the most beautiful and engaging, and the most fun to drive.
Somnambulists in search of a cloudlike ride undoubtedly will be chagrined by a sedan that acts like a sports car. But the $112,000 Quattroporte Sport is exactly that. Maserati’s 400 hp V-8 is the same precision mill shared with the GranSport coupe, and is, for all intents and purposes, a Ferrari engine. The Q-porte’s priority is performance, and what distinguishes the Sport GT from the standard Quattroporte or the Executive GT version is a magic Sport button on the dash. Push it and you receive instant access to quicker acceleration, a remapped transmission that delivers 35 percent quicker shifts, and an exhaust bypass that turns Jekyll into Hyde. Larger, 20-inch wheels, modified brakes, a stiffer suspension, and lots of fine carbon-fiber accents in the interior complete the package.
Handling dynamics are in league with those of the best sports GTs, with a sporting but compliant suspension and steering that telegraphs maximum feedback to the driver. Additionally, the engine is situated aft of the front wheels (front-midship), with the transaxle (transmission and differential) over the rear wheels, resulting in near-perfect weight distribution and neutral handling overall.
Shifting is by way of paddles, and it is the car’s lightning-fast, clutchless transmission that defines the character of the Sport GT. Once accustomed to the machinations of the paddle shifter, you will find it difficult to imagine a more entertaining way to transport yourself and four companions—or a more luxurious means of transportation. Acres of leather (in some really interesting colors) and that inimitable Italian flair offer an interior that is at once comfortable and seductive. And the Maserati is a refreshing exception in an automotive world replete with overengineered gizmos such as iDrive, transmissions with countless shift programs, seats that squeeze your fat, and climate-control systems operable only by their designers. The Maserati gives up nothing in the way of amenities and, like a classic blue blazer, remains aloof from trendy excess.
Just like that blazer, the Quattroporte is a styling masterpiece. Bereft of Ford Focus fender blisters, a caboose-sized rump, or flame-broiled style lines, the unpretentious Pininfarina shape will continue to turn heads when other sedans have become yesterday’s styling fad. It is these concours-winning looks, underpinned by performance and fit and finish that are world-class, that make the Quattroporte Sport GT our favorite new sedan.