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Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT Car Review | May 4, 2006

Driven May 2006

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When you go on a car launch, you don't expect to end up at a funeral. There we were, appraising the road manners of Maserati's Quattroporte Sport GT, when a police officer waved us off the road onto a narrow dirt track. At the end was a church, plus several hundred mourners as surprised to see us as we were to be there.

If we'd bowled up in a scarlet Ferrari, our funereal diversion would probably never have occurred. But Maserati's Quattroporte saloon has always possessed a more restrained image and even in its new Sport GT guise, with 20in wheels, carbon interior and ultra-low profile Pirelli P Zero Rosso Corsa tyres, it retains a certain vaguely menacing dignity.

The big difference, apart from an extra £6,000 on the asking price, between the Sport GT and the boggo Quattroporte model is an end to the clunky gearshifts which afflict the standard car.

Maserati claims the new transmission is 35 per cent quicker (in manual sport mode anyway, the auto's still lumpy) and let loose on the sweeping roads of northern Italy, it feels fine. It's still not the slickest paddle-shift, mind, and keeping upchanges smooth demands a touch of finesse.

This is a big, heavy car, nudging two tonnes, yet it is remarkably balanced. Maserati's engineers claim the car's transaxle design, with the gearbox and diff lumped together at the back, gives a slight (53 per cent) rearward weight bias.

Various tweaks to the Skyhook adaptive damping system don't appear to have done any harm, either. Steering is light but precise and the brakes, upgraded with cross-drilled discs and braided hoses, perform well.

Although the two marques are now divorced, the Maser's 400bhp 4,244cc V8 engine is based around the Ferrari F430 powerplant and built on a parallel production line at Maranello. It feels and sounds like a Ferrari engine too, especially when the revs climb and a tough, metallic edge creeps into the exhaust note.

The Sport GT is what the Quattroporte should have been all along: a less expensive Ferrari alternative with real performance and a character all of its own. Even build and finish, the traditional concerns of those weighing up the merits of Italian supercars against safer German options, seem sound.

Of course, for some people, only a Ferrari will do. If you're one of them, well... it's your funeral.

Price £80,550
Performance 0-60mph in 5.2secs, 171mph max speed, 20.6mpg

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