Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
"My Maserati does 185/I lost my license, now I don't drive."
So sang Joe Walsh in his 1978 classic, "Life's Been Good." Should Mr. Walsh find himself in a 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S, he might be losing his license all over again, because the Quattroporte S is the most powerful four-door Maserati ever.
It'd just be a shame riding in the back of a limo instead of commanding the helm of the new 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S. In terms of exclusivity and driving enjoyment, this is the best big luxury sedan an aging rock star can buy.
"S" Is for Sport
The fourth-generation Quattroporte debuted in 2005. For the North American market, it was the second model of Maserati's rebirth following the now-discontinued Spyder/Coupe/Gransport. In our First Drive, we noted our enthusiasm for the car's sensuous Pininfarina-designed bodywork and the car's sporty character.
The 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S represents a new version of the luxury sedan, one that extends the car's capabilities beyond mere gorgeous transportation. A more powerful engine, stronger brakes and recalibrated suspension tuning are part of the plan. There are also a decent number of detail changes for 2009, including updated exterior styling and a revised interior design. Pricing has yet to be announced, but we'd guess Quattroporte S will end up in the $130,000 range.
If you're a rock star, it's totally affordable.
No Exaggeration Here — 174 mph
The Quattroporte S gets this Italian automaker's new 4.7-liter V8. This is the same engine that Maserati will be using for the new Gran Turismo S, and it's rated in this application at a maximum of 425 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 361 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm. The standard '09 Quattroporte will continue to be equipped with the carryover 400-hp 4.2-liter V8.
While 25 hp and 31 lb-ft aren't going to make a huge difference for a 4,375-pound sedan, they are both certainly welcome. The 4.7-liter V8's torque curve is much stronger and flatter from about 2,500 rpm to 4,000 rpm, and this pays dividends when driving around town. (Even rock stars have to go to the supermarket.) The Quattroporte S's alert responses and easy-going tractability meet the expectations of typical luxury-sedan buyers.
The Quattroporte S has mojo when the hammer's down as well. The V8 lets out a sublime Italian yowl at full throttle as it wraps up to a 7,500-rpm redline. Maserati claims a 0-60 time of 5.3 seconds (two-tenths quicker than the base 4.2) and a top speed of 174 mph, which measures up to Joe Walsh's expectations as well as our own.
The first Quattroportes came with a DuoSelect automated manual transmission. While this rear-mounted transaxle offered the quick throttle response of a manual transmission, the slow, clunky shift action proved to be a distraction while puttering around town, especially for those who expected a refined ride. So last year, Maserati adapted a ZF-built six-speed automatic transmission (located right behind the engine) to this platform as standard equipment.
Though it might seem odd to not offer DuoSelect for the Quattroporte S, the automatic is still better for almost all driving situations. Manual shift control is available via the gear selector or steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles. Shift response times don't rise much above adequate, but the ZF has the ability to deliver quick, rev-matching downshifts for fast driving. And if you really want the manual transmission capability of the DuoSelect, you should be in the sporting Maserati Gran Turimso S anyway.
The best place to utilize the manual-shift function is on a mountain road — in the Italian Alps, for example. And conveniently, this is where the 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S stands out from the pack of mundane luxury sedans. To begin with, the Quattroporte platform positions the V8 behind the front axle for optimized weight balance (49 percent front and 51 percent rear), and this makes the nose of the car more willing to change direction. More important, the Quattroporte S's adaptive Maserati Skyhook suspension system has been retuned to deliver firmer overall damping as well as quicker reaction times to inputs from the wheels and tires.
When you select Sport mode, the suspension damping gets more aggressive and the shift schedule for the transmission optimizes performance. And you'll be able to call upon some serious brakes, because the Quattroporte S has new Brembo-engineered brakes with large 14.2-inch rotors (featuring partial aluminum construction to reduce unsprung weight), plus six-piston calipers. Though the Quattroporte S's tires are no wider than the standard model's, the new 19-inch tires deliver sharper steering response than the former 18s.
Compared to other large luxury sedans, which often drive like they've got too much starch in their tighty-whiteys, the Quattroporte S flexes its muscles in a loose linen shirt. The S-model special steering wheel feels natural in your hands, and the car easily communicates what's going on underneath your backside. Even the electronic safety nets stay out of your way until they're really needed. If there's a downside, it might be that the ride quality is a little firm if you're driving over broken pavement or well-used motorways, in which case the standard Quattroporte with its non-Skyhook suspension would be the better choice.
Dolce & Gabbana
Inside the passenger cabin, the S is pretty much identical to the regular Quattroporte, but there are a few notable changes for 2009. The center stack's controls are more logically arranged and the passenger-side airbag is more cleanly integrated into the dashboard. As before, the interior looks classy, and Maserati will customize the car to meet each individual buyer's needs. Want a hideous combo of Cuiuo Burnt Orange and Bordeaux Red? Maserati will set you up, although the word stupido may be overheard during production in Maserati's factory in Modena.
For us, the most significant interior upgrade is the new Bose multimedia system, Maserati's answer to BMW's iDrive, Mercedes' COMAND and Audi's MMI. It comes as standard equipment and includes hard-drive-based satellite navigation, a CD/MP3/DVD player, satellite radio, digital music storage, iPod integration, Bluetooth and voice activation. The head unit has a traditional look to it, with a dual-mode dial on each side of the display screen and buttons lining the top and bottom.
One interesting feature of the Bose system is its infrared proximity sensor. Move your fingers close to the right-side knob and the system will automatically bring up the proper audio or navigation menu on the screen. Based on our initial impressions, we didn't find the system to be immediately intuitive, so some actual reading of the owner's manual will still be needed. (Can rock stars read?) The Bose system isn't as cumbersome to operate as iDrive, but it doesn't seem to offer as much customization possibility, either.
For us, the 2009 Maserati Quattroporte S's lack of geek-fest technology is just fine. Rather, this is a luxury sedan that provides driving enjoyment beyond just acceleration and horsepower. Spot a BMW 7 Series going down the road (if you notice it at all), and you'll think, "Oh, a 7 Series." Spy a Quattroporte S as it trumpets past, and you'll think, "Sweet, a Maserati."
Who knows, it might even be Joe Walsh driving it.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
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