Settling into the driver's seat, I appreciated the cavity in the driver's door that held my cell phone and a couple other small items. The two cup holders in the center console accommodated our insulated mugs fine, but the lid for the console storage compartment was very difficult to open, and I kept wondering if I was breaking it when I pried it open. We discovered an iPod connector in the glove compartment that linked easily to the superb stereo.
From the driver's seat, the ergonomics are pretty good. The shift paddles are positioned in exactly the right place and are clearly labeled "down" on the left and "up" on the right. They are delicate little things that feel great in your grasp. The steering wheel itself is rich looking and has redundant volume controls. It took me a while to figure out the cruise control, which is operated via the turn-signal stalk, but once I did, it worked great. The stereo and navigation screen interface is not particularly intuitive to use, although I'm sure an owner would figure it out soon enough. The whole interior ambience is appropriately rich and Italian; you would never mistake the QP's cabin for, say, a German car's.
We both found the front seats to be very comfortable over several hours, and rear-seat passengers discovered that their thrones had a power recline function. One friend who rode back there also found controls in the center rear armrest that enabled him to move the front passenger's seat forward, a neat trick for people who will be chauffeured in the QP.
But you won't want to be chauffeured in this car; you'll want to drive it yourself. The steering, the handling, the braking, and the body control are all exemplary. Dig deep into the accelerator pedal, and you're rewarded with the wonderful high-pitched scream of this high-revving V-8, which has auditory characteristics that are far sportier than any of the QP's German competition. To make the most of the V-8, you push the gearshifter into its side slot and either shift it manually in that gate or use the paddles; either way, there's nothing like being in third gear in this car at 70 or 80 mph. It might not be as fast or as powerful as a Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG, but it's got more soul.
Although most of my time in the Quattroporte was spent on Michigan freeways, I was able to have some fun on Leelanau County's back roads, reaching three-digit speeds and giving my three passengers a bit of a thrill. Everyone who encountered this car, among them friends who have seen me in all manner of expensive automobiles, went ga-ga for the Maserati. Our hosts, flying in from California, were absolutely delighted to be picked up at the Traverse City airport in it and tried to convince me to leave it with them for the duration of their vacation. This car is really still a rare sight in Michigan, and especially in Northern Michigan. Lots of people who wouldn't have given an S-class or a 7-series a second glance were craning their necks and doing double takes.
There's a simple reason for this, other than the Maserati's relative rarity: it's absolutely gorgeous. And it's amazing that, more than five years after it went on sale, it looks as fresh and sexy and hot and Italian as ever. The fact that it's an absolute blast to drive is just icing.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor