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.
2004 Maserati Quattroporte
But we had no such luck. Instead, the sparkling, lethal-looking Quattroporte was parked inside Hangar 8. I asked if we could at least turn the key in the ignition and listen. Sorry. Was there even an engine inside this first arrival, then? Indeed. And what a beauty it is: a lightweight, racing-derived compact 90-degree, normally aspirated 4.2-liter V-8. Chain-driven overhead cams per cylinder bank command four valves per cylinder with hydraulic tappets. The steel crankshaft is balanced individually on five main bearings. Teamed with the DuoSelect transmission, it is reputedly one of the fastest sedans on the market, with 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Not bad for a 4000-pound motor car.
Sitting low to the ground, the weight distribution in this rear-wheel drive demon is 47 percent front, 53 percent rear, which, along with a stability control system, is calculated to provide unique handling. Top speed: 171 mph — fast enough for Indy. Maximum power: 400 horsepower at 7000 rpm. Standard wheels are 18-inch, 11-spoke alloy. The main body is steel except for the aluminum hood and trunk lid. The front and rear suspension boasts double wishbone geometry and anti-dive, anti-squat features. Brakes are the powerful top-of-the line Brembo with a Bosch ABS system.
Clothing this elegantly aggressive saloon is Pininfarina’s superb, unmatchable styling. The first time in 50 years that he has returned to style a Maserati, he’s lost none of his touch, even in his late seventies. The sculpted sides, the unobtrusive door handles, the smoothly integrated three-point headlights, the combative but graceful stance, the raked windshield, and the flowing lines from bumper to bumper reflect the artistry of Italy’s design genius.
Time to inspect the interior. Invited to sit and talk in the front passenger seat of the motionless sedan as I fiddled with the F1 paddles (as Maserati ungraciously describes them) Mattiacci told me how everyone is “falling instantly in love with the new car.” Of course, no red-blooded Italian can open his mouth without getting deliciously amorous but in this case, the paeans he paid to the Quattroporte were right on target.
2004 Maserati Quattroporte
2004 Maserati Quattroporte
Long overshadowed by the flamboyant Ferraris, Maserati has traditionally retained a more understated style, both in design and marketing, with its trident trademark rather discreetly displayed. But on the 2004 Quattroporte Neptune’s three-pronged staff is prominent in chrome front and rear. And there’s also a third trident under the hood, stamped onto the engine. But unless you’re familiar with Maserati’s racing record, the Quattroporte’s only hint of this heritage are the three circular vents on both front side fenders.
The first Quattroporte was built in 1963 as “the fastest four-door of the ’60s” and improved through several generations that included the 4900 model, the II model with a French flair, a Citroen drivetrain, and the 2800. Owners have included Prince Rainier III, Anthony Quinn, Pavarotti, Malcolm Forbes, and a mysterious “someone” at the Vatican. On these shores Maserati’s Quattroporte was absent for thirteen years before re-entering the market.
Hand-built to custom order at 322 viale Ciro Menotti in Modena, a Quattroporte can be delivered here six months after ordering and selecting your options. There are fifteen paint colors, ten leather hides from home-grown Italian cows in limitless color combinations (during the tanning process, of course), several exotic woods and inlays, and thousands of other options that give buyers a breathtaking four million different choices. “These are mathematically computed,” said Mattiacci. “No, there’s no printed list available.” I’d be long gone before I’d be able to figure out what I wanted. You can choose from thirteen spools of color threads and the size of their stitching on the seats, as well as the stitching on your five matching Maserati suitcases that fit neatly into the trunk.
The interior furnishings are by Italy’s top master craftsmen at Poltrana Frau in Italy. Bose specially re-engineered its audio system to fit into the Maserati, working with the designers as the car was developed, as did Bosch-Blaupunkt with its multi-media system. No off-the-shelf bin parts here. In addition, there are massage, heating and ventilation seat options, seat paddings that automatically adapt to the occupant’s movements, three different roof linings to select, and four varieties of interior floor mats. And we haven’t even gotten into the fourteen power seat positions, the memory controls, performance dynamics you might prefer, and, well, that’s two million decisions right there.
Only 600 of the 2004 models are coming to the U.S. and most have already been sold through Maserati’s 40 US dealers. But Mattiacci expects buyers will be willing to wait until 2005 for an additional 1000 of these sumptuous, sensuous, symbols of opulence. After 8000 Quattroportes have been snatched up by eager enthusiasts, Maserati will shut down sales to retain their exclusivity.
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