Sport sedans operate in a gray area where practicality gives way to emotion. A thoroughly rational shopping list of the world's best examples would include the Audi S6, the BMW M5, the Cadillac CTS-V, the Lexus IS-F, and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG. But pragmatism, logic, and good sense are rarely the deciding factors when considering an irrational purchase like a $100K-plus, 150-mph-plus automobile. Instead, right-brain values come to the forefront - style, rarity, sophistication, glamour, equipment, image, and, yes, sex appeal. The aforementioned sedans are undeniably speedy and dynamically impressive - but at the end of the day, the M5 isn't much more than a 528i on steroids, the S6 is an A6 that has undergone a complicated heart transplant via Sant'Agata Bolognese, the CTS-V and the IS-F both have relatively humble genetic backgrounds, and the E63 AMG started life on the same assembly line as 75 percent of the German taxi population.
So, we're left with three truly uncommon four-doors that excite by design, stun through performance, and convince with ability. It's hard to find a sedan that's more luxurious and bigger inside than the Bentley Continental Flying Spur Speed. If you think this car is only a tricked-out Volkswagen Phaeton wearing a Savile Row suit, think again. Consider also its impeccable craftsmanship, supreme road manners, and explosive torque delivery. For a hooligan's delight in a plain wrapper, you need look no further than the Jaguar XFR. Its body may look like the product of a brief love affair between Ford and Lexus, but the handling talent hidden deep inside is true and rare, and the kick provided by the new, direct-injection supercharged V-8 peels tarmac like a dragster. Finally, the Maserati Quattroporte, especially in Sport GT S guise, perfectly fuses an eclectic piece of rolling art and a thoroughbred four-seat race car, and it does so to the accompaniment of some amazing music.
This will not be a cold, clinical, numbers-crunching showdown. For a start, there is simply no fair points scheme for entrants as far apart in price, positioning, and personality as the 600-hp, $204,795 Bentley; the 510-hp, $80,000 Jaguar; and the 433-hp, $138,100 Maserati. That's why we're guided not only by facts but also by controversial, opinionated, and often very personal arguments.
For instance, the Quattroporte Sport GT S makes a visual statement that is impossible to ignore. Like a scantily clad supermodel taking a walk on her day off, the beauty from Modena slices through the crowd with an emphatic swagger, accompanied by a sound track that doesn't seem street-legal. Even before you push the sport button, the 4.7-liter V-8 intones an acoustic italianità that even the late Pavarotti would have been hard-pressed to match. Every blip of the throttle makes windowpanes rattle and birds scatter; any deep accelerator dive toward the firewall threatens to momentarily blur the field of vision; and when the underhood orchestra eventually climaxes at the redline, the phonetic punch becomes almost physical. For a full-strength acoustic earthquake, hit the sport button and relish the staccato of throttle blips that accompany every downshift and pay extra attention to the violent blat-blat as one gear chases the next.