First Drive: 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S

First Drive: 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S

Chassis

Other Quattroporte models use an adaptive suspension system, supplied by Boge, called Skyhook. The GT S model dumps that setup in favor of single-rate Bilstein dampers and springs that are stiffened some 28% in front and 7% in the rear. Buyers may specify the Skyhook system as a $3200 option on the GT S if they prefer, but we're not sure why you'd want to--the Bilstein system's handling benefits handily outweigh any degradation of ride quality. The standard twenty-inch wheels featured grippy Pirelli P Zero tires (245/35YR-20 in front and 295/30YR-20 in back) on our test car. Maserati also made slight adjustments to the steering system calibration to match the other chassis modifications.

Driving

To get straight to the point, the Quattroporte GT S is brilliant. It carries the extroverted, loud, and fast Italian car stereotype perfectly. To drive a car that is this fast and beautiful-sounding through Italy is a treat that we won't soon forget. Yes, we see cars like the Audi S8 and Mercedes S63 AMG as the logical competition to the GT S model but, to be honest, the German models are hot rod specials compared to the Italian masterpiece. They have good, strong engines and stiff suspension, but they don't come close to the chassis balance and raw emotional appeal of the hottest Quattroporte. Driven quickly on the back roads outside of Modena, you'd never guess the four-door weighs nearly 4400 pounds. The front-end grip is spectacular and the car rotates with extreme precision. Rear grip is plentiful as your rocket out of the corners, surely helped by 51% of the weight sitting over the rear axle. In reality, it's best to think of the GT S as a more expensive (and superior, in many ways) alternative to a BMW M5.

Looking at the performance, the Maserati is very quick. The Sport GT S blasts from 0-62 mph in only 5.1 seconds, according to its manufacturer, and the top speed is 177 mph. We had our test car up to around 170 mph on the Italian Autostrada before coming up on slower traffic, and at those very high speeds, the GT S was very smooth and stable.

Even the best cars in the world have faults, and the Quattroporte is no exception. Most importantly, make sure you take the Maser sedan for a test drive before signing the purchase contract. Other than a few shudders through the chassis and steering wheel, the car worked well on the smooth roads in Italy, but ride quality, especially at low speeds, might be a bit rough on crumbling US tarmac. We've never found the Maser to ride exceptionally well, even with the Skyhook setup, though luckily the impressive performance gains of the Bilstein setup don't seem to make things much worse. We also find the steering slightly dead on center. Luckily, it's wonderfully accurate and, in typical Italian style, perfectly weighted once a bit of lock is dialed in. The brakes, a Brembo setup shared with the Quattroporte S, have a similar story. They're powerful and feel fantastic once they bite, but there is an eerie dead spot at the top of travel. This may be something you get used to when driving a GT S every day, but it's still worth noting and was a beef brought up by other journalists during our trip.

Conclusion

Sure, logic has to come into play when it comes to final thoughts on the Quattroporte Sport GT S. Depreciation and reliability have never been a Maserati strong point, but a dealer friend of the magazine tells us that the durability of the Quattroporte improves with each iteration.

But forget about that for a moment because the Quattroporte offers style and blend of driving dynamics that easily makes up for those potential issues. There is a refreshing lack of gadgets in this luxurious sedan--there is no iDrive or MMI-style interface. The GT S suspension offers no adjustment, resulting in a very involved and focused feel. As you approach and then sit in the driver's seat of the Maser, it feels extremely special. You twist a conventional key in the ignition to fire up the glorious V-8 engine, something that brings a simple reward so lacking in the modern keyless starting system. The chassis balance, powerful engine, and brilliant transmission all combine to make it a near-perfect package in this market.

Still not convinced? We dare anyone who is thinking about an S8 or an S63 to give the Quattroporte a chance. Find a twisty road, pop the transmission selector in manual mode, and just drive. Then find a tunnel, an underpass, a wall, anything that will reverberate that engine note at near ear-bleeding levels. You'll be hooked, just like we are.

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