Spy Shots: ’05 Maserati Coupe/Spyder by Hans Lehmann/Hidden Image (10/13/2003)
A shot in the styling arm for an Italian semi-exotic.
A stress buster by virtue of its behavior, Maserati’s brand new four-door, five-seater sedan is a glamorous, alluring machine built to knock the socks off its closest competitors, the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. Designed by Italy’s Pininfarina, the most famous international car designer in a couple of centuries if you discount Henry Ford, the $90,000 Quattroporte is the only production model, aside from Maserati’s own Spyder and Coupe, coming to America with a Formula One shifter and gearbox borrowed from Ferrari.
Part of a transmission system called DuoSelect with a shift-on-the-fly electro-hydraulic six-speed gearbox, the F1 innovation is hidden behind the steering wheel. Twin curved T-shaped gear levers are activated by stretching one’s fingers past the wheel and tapping left to shift down and right to shift up. This, of course, should preclude cellphone use but probably won’t. The sedan also has an automatic transmission for those who can’t bear to hang up. Another innovation for those who tend to roll backwards on a hill, the car’s Hill Holder brakes for you for a couple of seconds while you move your foot from brake to accelerator. Then there’s a Low Grip mode for slippery surfaces, and a Sport mode for faster gear changes and higher rpm.
Racing by air
Marco Mattiacci, vice president of marketing for Ferrari Maserati, North America, displayed the Quattroporte at Santa Monica airport. This spawned rumors that we’d be racing a 747 or at least, a Saber jet. Or maybe Maserati was closing down the runways for the afternoon so we could test the car’s 400 horsepower. After all, some years back Gilles Villeneuve raced a Ferrari against a plane and won. Until liftoff.