Before we get into the 2006 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT, we figured we'd tell you a story. We assure you it has a point that pertains to Maserati's latest 393-horsepower super sedan, but if skipping ahead is your thing, now's the time.
It's a story about our wealthy mortgage broker/racecar driver/womanizer buddy. These days he drives a Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG, but back in 1997, he bought a freshly baked Ferrari F355 Spider. Before he even took delivery, we remember he had Beverly Hills Ferrari add an extra audible Tubi exhaust because the Fly Yellow paint just wasn't obnoxious enough.
He had already owned the car a month when we noticed a big drip in the paint above the scoop on the passenger door. The light had to hit it just right if it was to be seen, but it was there. Considering our friend had spent a hundred-and-eighty-something-thousand dollars on the car, we figured we would now get to watch his head explode.
Instead, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "If it were a Porsche I'd be pissed right now. Want to get something to eat?"
And such is life in the exclusive world of Italian supercar ownership. Or so it was.
If you skipped ahead, re-enter here
We're banging down the Italian Autostrada at 143 mph in a 2006 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT, and it's a finely crafted car. Before we left the Maserati factory in downtown Modena about an hour ago, we gave the car a good look over, inside and out. No paint drips or loose trim to be found. Although we wouldn't say its fit and finish is up to lofty BMW or Lexus standards, we do think the Italian sedan's level of assembly is above the last Cadillac STS-V we tested. Problem is, the Quattroporte Sport GT carries a base price of $112,200, so we're not sure that's good enough.
Considering all Maseratis are still essentially hand-built in the Modena factory, it may be unreasonable to expect the 16 Quattroportes built per day to be assembled with Honda precision, but Maserati has recently invested more than $60 million in the plant to improve quality. Each car now receives an extensive visual inspection and a 2-to-3-hour 60-to-100-mile drive through the Italian countryside before it's shipped off.
The in and out
Although the Quattroporte has been around since 2004, the Sport GT is a new iteration that slots between the base version and the top-of-the-line $115,900 Executive GT, which is also new. As its name implies, the Sport GT is the sportiest of the three.
Maserati says the trim level, which is basically a trim and tuning package, further enhances the Quattroporte's rear-drive high-performance spirit and sporty character, and it does. The Sport GT certainly looks more muscular, thanks to 20-inch wheels and tires and the black chrome added to its grille and fender portholes. A Sport GT badge also resides on each B-pillar.
Inside, there's enough carbon-fiber trim to build an IndyCar. It replaces the wood used in the other Quattroporte models, and adds an interesting ambience when mixed with the otherwise old-world charm of the Maser's interior. It isn't every manufacturer that can successfully accessorize the same car with an elegant analog clock, drilled-aluminum pedals, carbon fiber and Poltrona Frau hides, but Maserati pulls it off. Bella. Molto bella!
Every luxury you can think of is standard, from dual-zone climate controls to six airbags, but the absence of proper sport seats is a blemish. Instead, the Sport GT uses the same front buckets as the other Quattroporte models. They're comfortable in the city, but too wide to back up the sedan's handling ability.
Engine by Ferrari
Mechanically, the Sport GT is essentially a twin to the other Quattroporte models; however, Maserati has made a few small changes to improve the car's performance and feel. The double-overhead-cam 4.3-liter V8, which is supplied by Ferrari up the road in Maranello and used in every Maserati, is unchanged. In every Quattroporte it's rated at 393 hp at 7,250 rpm and 333 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm. Redline is a tach-twisting 7,500 rpm.
Despite its long rev range, the V8 has enough bottom end to satisfy. It also revs quickly, so it finds its sweet spot before you begin to wonder where the fun is. The five-speed electrohydraulic Maserati DuoSelect (MDS) transmission is also geared perfectly to keep the beast on boil. In the Sport GT, the transmission has also been programmed for 35-percent-quicker gearchanges. Pound on the paddle shifters and the system even matches revs for you on every downshift. When used in anger, it's all quite satisfying.
There is an automatic mode for the worst traffic jams, but using the MDS still isn't as straightforward as a regular automatic transmission. There's no "Park," while "Reverse" is engaged by a small lever on the console. Maserati does realize the market limitations of its complicated gearbox and is working on a true automatic transmission.
Although the Sport GT is 100 hp shy of the BMW M5, this 4,400-pound sedan is no slug. Blasting through its gears is well a blast. Maserati says zero to 60 mph takes 5.1 seconds and the sedan can reach 171 mph. The last M5 we tested hit 60 mph in 4.8 seconds.
Aside from the larger wheels and tires, the Sport GT uses the same adjustable four-wheel independent suspension as other Quattroportes. In "Normal," its ride is firm but comfortable, just as it should be in a high-end high-performance sedan. In "Sport" mode, which is activated by a button on the dashboard, it tightens up noticeably, but remains more compliant than the suspension of an M5. High-speed stability is excellent in either setting.
So is the handling. Steering is properly weighted and quick, body roll is minimal, and the car's balance is as good as it gets. Maserati mounts the engine behind the front-axle centerline and places the transmission in the rear of the car to achieve a 47/53 weight distribution. This results in a car eager to change direction. On a mountain road north of Modena, the Sport GT feels half its size.
Drilled brake rotors and braided steel brake lines are also unique to the Sport GT. Although squeaky, they work wonderfully, with awesome fade resistance and exceptional pedal feel.
A sound investment
Maserati says Sport GT buyers want to hear the V8's wail, so it has fitted the model with a unique exhaust system that makes the engine more loudmouthed at high engine speeds. The difference is noticeable, and not only during drag races. At a buck forty, the V8's song can still be heard, even over the increasing wind noise around the sedan's sizable side mirrors. At this speed in a non-Sport Quattroporte, the wind noise drowned out the engine's note.
Although that car still felt good, hearing the mechanical cry of the Sport's Ferrari V8 adds a whole new dimension of enjoyment to breaking several Italian traffic laws at the same time.
And if you don't understand that, well then, maybe the 2006 Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT just isn't for you. Surely our mortgage broker buddy gets it.