This is the most driver-orientated Quattroporte yet, but the visual clues are restrained. This is a good thing. Subtle yet imposing, elegant yet athletic, Maserati’s saloon is one of those cars that deserves to live its life unmolested by the revisionist stylist’s pen. That said, other areas have offered scope for improvement and, happily, it’s these that the Sport GT S addresses.
We tried Maserati’s first stab at a sportier Quattroporte, the Sport GT, back in issue 092 and concluded that ‘Skyhook’ adaptive damping doesn’t combine well with 20in wheels and lower profile tyres. It’s absent on the Sport GT S, replaced by conventional, single-rate Bilstein dampers, but the 20s remain – now with even wider, 295-section rear tyres – and are combined with shorter and stiffer springs that lower the car by 10mm at the front and 25mm at the rear. Visually the set-up works a treat, especially in combination with the black-chrome side-window surrounds and tailpipes, body-colour door handles and smoke-chrome alloys.
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You’d think the GT S would be perfectly suited to the ‘DuoSelect’ paddle-shift automated manual gearbox, but Maserati knows which way the wind is blowing. It finally gave the Quattroporte a proper automatic gearbox early in 2007 (evo 103), and this, exclusively, is what the GT S comes with. In less than a year the conventional ZF six-speed auto has marginalised DuoSelect – currently more than 70 per cent of Quattroporte buyers specify the ZF, and that figure is still rising. Maserati predicts that next year only one in five Quattroportes will be DuoSelects.
The final dynamic element of the GT S package is new Brembo front brakes with six-piston callipers (up from four) and 360mm diameter discs that weigh the same as the previous 330mm items, something that has been achieved by having a cast iron disc ‘dual-cast’ with a hub carrier of aluminium alloy – a first for a road car.
Given that the Sport GT S is lower and has 25 per cent stiffer springs, the expectation is that the ride will feel a little resilient around town, yet this isn’t the case. Yes, there’s firm wheel control, but never to the point of harshness. The further you drive, the more impressive it is, the GT S feeling taut and alert for a car of its size but with just the right degree of suppleness too.
Inside it’s as welcoming and stylish as ever, this interpretation of the theme defined by carbonfibre fillets and Alcantara for the steering-wheel, gear selector and the centres of the ‘sportier’ seats, which still feel a size too big for sub-plutocrats.
As we’ve reported before, the auto ’box makes city work the doddle it always ought to have been and responds keenly to downshift demands via the throttle or the tactile paddles (standard on the GT S). In its programming it’s perhaps not as intuitive as the ZF in the Jaguar XK, and in this sporty setting it would be good if opting for manual selection via the paddles meant you got only that, so you could find the limiter at the red line rather than an upshift.
With 339lb ft and 396bhp up against almost 2000kg, it’s a quick car but not strikingly so. You really want a bit more grunt, too, not so much to deal more decisively with turbodiesels on the autostrada but to more fully exploit the chassis on a twisty road.
The steering feels a fraction light about the straight-ahead, requiring a bit more concentration at motorway speeds than expected, but guiding the Quattroporte into inviting corners it feels nicely weighty, smooth and direct. Indeed, there’s a satisfying poise and quality to the GT S’s demeanour, a consistency that encourages you to press on. A little more steering feel would be welcome, but when you do find a corner where you can push really hard, the GT S slips gently through cautioning mild understeer into progressive, catchable and gatherable oversteer.
It would have been great to have had the opportunity to interrogate the chassis more fully, and get the new brakes up to temperature, but the test route (alongside Lake Garda – beautiful, but slow) didn’t allow it. Even so, I’m pretty confident that for the keener driver, the Sport GT S offers the best Quattroporte chassis yet, a set-up that doesn’t so much trade comfort for precision as offer big, satisfying chunks of both. More than ever, what Maserati needs now is a bigger, brawnier version of the characterful V8, or maybe a compact V12…
|Max power||396bhp @ 7000rpm|
|Max torque||339lb ft @ 4250rpm|
|Top speed||167mph (claimed)|