First Drive: 2009 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S

Exterior Design

All Quattroporte models received a light facelift for the 2009 model year, giving the car a closer resemblance to the two-door Gran Turismo. Not that this Italian sedan needed an update--it was still one of the most gorgeous four-door cars on the planet. The changes included a new grille and front bumper as well as larger headlights with a strip of LEDs. Additionally, new taillights were fitted along with beefier side sills. The GT S model builds on these changes and focuses on a more sporty appearance. The ride height is lowered by just over a half an inch in front and just under a half an inch in the rear. The front grille is now concave and finished in black. The headlights gain black detailing as well. Twenty-inch, eighteen-spoke wheels are also fitted along with large oval exhaust pipes instead of the twin-tips found on each side of other Quattroporte models. Overall, the changes make the car look even more aggressive, though the seven-spoke wheels from the old 4.2-liter GT S model are more befitting of the overall design theme of the sedan than the new alloys. Luckily, the old style wheels are offered as a $775 option.

Interior Design

Inside, an Alcantara and leather mix is used on the steering wheel and on the more aggressive seats. Larger shift paddles, still attached to the column, are fitted as well. The GT S also utilizes the Bose Multimedia System like other 2009 Quattroporte models. This setup was first seen in the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti and offers an impressive interface for the integrated radio, digital media, navigation, and telephone functions. The interior works well overall, though some of the plastics--and especially those on the shift paddles--aren't quite as high-quality as we'd like for a car costing nearly $140,000. Buyers expect an aluminum or magnesium paddle setup with leather trim in a car in this price range. The Quattroporte may not offer the vast interior space of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, but other than lamenting the size of the trunk, four adult passengers won't be complaining about room.

Powertrain

The big news from the powertrain isn't the slight bump in horsepower, it's the sound. Yes, the Ferrari-supplied 4.7-liter engine gains 8 hp compared to the Quattroporte S for a total of 433 hp and now redlines at 7200 rpm (up 200 revs), but a push of the sport button on the dash unleashes an exotic engine note straight from the gods. Sure, the Mercedes S63 AMG and Audi S8 sound good--really good--but flooring the Maserati is like turning the volume up to eleven. In normal mode, the exhaust gases are routed through a longer track in the rear mufflers. The Maser sedan still emits beautiful music in this setting but it's pretty quiet and, most importantly, comfortable for normal driving. The sport mode dumps the exhaust through a more direct, less restrictive channel. The resulting sound is among the best of any production car on the road. The V-8 song echoing off the historic buildings is perfect for the car-crazy country like Italy, but be prepared for angry neighbors back in the States if you leave it in sport mode. In typical (and glorious) Italian fashion, if you had the car in sport mode when you shut the car off, it defaults back to that mode upon restart. You just have to love the Italians.

All this southern European madness is still hitched to one of the best automatic transmissions in the business. Those who preach the brilliance of the dual-clutch transmission haven't spent enough time in car equipped with ZF's six-speed automatic. It combines the smoothness of a torque converter in low-speed driving with positive, ultra-quick shifts when driven briskly. In the Quattroporte Sport GT S, this gearbox is also tuned--if both sport and manual mode is selected--to never upshift automatically. You can bang the engine against its rev limiter at will. Additionally, it won't downshift automatically when you bury the throttle pedal to the floor. It's a setup obviously engineered by a proper group of enthusiasts.

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