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Maserati Quattroporte Car Review | April 6, 2004

Driven April 2004

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Manual shifting with the paddles improves things quite a bit, though still not by enough. With 'Sport' selected, the suspension is firmer and the gearchanges are speeded up. So why would you ever want them slower? The implication from the boffins was that they would be smoother on the regular setting, but I found Sport to be smoother on the way up and 'regular' to be smoother on the way down. Surely the electronics should be able to sort this out.

Much as I like the idea of clutchless fingertip changing, it has to be acknowledged that since the advent of Audi's twin-clutch DSG system, every other semi-automatic should be consigned to the scrapheap of automotive history. They don't really work.

And yet (and I'm suffering an internal conflict here) there's a certain satisfaction to be gained from learning the quirks and foibles of DuoSelect - when to back off during a change, when not to, precisely when to flick the paddles and so on. This is a specialist's car, a car for someone who will presumably enjoy taking time to master the machine and will find it satisfying for longer as a result. I enjoy it, the sense that the man/machine interface is a personal one.

Joining one of the motorways that inspired the original, I find more to admire in the new Quattroporte. The engine is noisy enough to titillate without being intrusive, the ride improves with speed, the steering remains nice and weighty and stability at 120mph is terrific. It's bloody quick getting there too; quick like an XJR, but somehow more dramatic in its delivery. As long as you're on a foreign motorway and in top gear, the Quattroporte is a superb place to be and spoiled only by an excess of wind noise.

It's on the curve pericolose of the Tuscan hills that I finally get my head around the biggest Maserati. It is not, like the '63 car, a luxurious four-seater fitted with a supercar engine; it's more like a supercar fitted with four luxurious seats. The difference is important.

On the winding stuff, I discover massive grip and superb composure in corners, and enjoy them so much that the clunky gearchanges barely register. At one point, and in complete contravention of my self-imposed code of motoring conduct, I even get it slightly sideways, although 'ajar' might be a better word for it. It feels like an Italian exotic - fast, feisty, and much smaller than it actually is. You need reminding that this is a five-metre-plus car with ample space for four.

Thinking of the competition for a moment: the Jaguar XJR, as an example, is a luxury car with perfect mechanical manners, in which huge performance feels like a happy side-effect. The Maserati Quattroporte is more a focused high-performance machine, but one in which the requirements of comfort sit less... well, less comfortably. Both are to some extent compromises, but the former solution is less compromised more of the time. If I were being honest, I'd probably choose the Jaguar.

I can easily see a case for the Quattroporte, though. It's a thing of loveliness, a curiosity, and a genuine alternative to the usual hegemony of Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar. It feels strangely magical and, even at £69,995, that doesn't happen nearly often enough.

James May

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