Maserati Quattroporte Automatica:

The Trident has made its point — and points — again.

The Maserati Quattroporte Automatic, the latest from the Maserati factory in Modena, Italy, slickly unites luxury with speed, functionality with the pleasure of the road, everyday four doors with weekend zoom. An authoritative mark of command on all of the vehicles, the company signature is the trident — symbol of the Roman god of the seas, Neptune.

Roman gods these cars are — with a heritage in racing and the open road. While some await the arrival of the Sergio Pininfarina-designed Maserati GrandTurismo, scheduled for a late October U.S. arrival, the six-speed automatic Quattroporte is available today at Scottsdale Maserati, 6825 E. McDowell Road.

Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show at the end of last year, the four-door grand touring sedan will not disappoint. Called “Best Car” by automotive periodicals in German, Switzerland, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Great Britain, — and “Best of the Best” in the United States — the Quattroporte delivers, indeed, perhaps the finest integration of comfort, handling, craftsmanship, performance, and style on Earth.

The automatic is available in all three models: the standard (but still remarkable) Quattroporte; Quattroporte Sport GT; and the Quattroporte Executive GT. The base MSRP, with no options: Quattroporte ($116,500); Quattroporte Sport GT ($125,350); and Quattroporte Executive GT ($126,650).

The Quattroporte is targeted just above the Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and below the Bentley, explains Gary Simon, sales manager for Scottsdale Ferrari. “Maserati is looking for a customer who wants a more exclusive and distinctive car that is more sporting to drive. It is a sports car experience for the person who has to have four doors.”

The Quattroporte customer is almost always a “capture customer” from one of the above makes, Simon notes. “While he likes and admires sports cars, his lifestyle does not make such a car practical. He generally drives the Maserati every day.”

But What a Daily Driver!

Since its debut in 2003, the Quattroporte has impressed both the public and the international press — receiving some 30 awards for stylish luxury and performance. In fact, it may be driving a new market niche for luxury sports sedans — with other companies apparently eager to follow.

Differentiated from the standard Quattroporte, the automatic Quattroporte Sport GT is for those who demand performance but still must perform every day with four doors. For instance, the standard Skyhook adaptive suspension, with anti-dive and anti-squat technology, is tighter for road feel, 20-inch wheels and tires are included, and cross-drilled brake rotors and steel-braided brake lines improve the car’s already excellent stopping ability. Carbon fiber accents, aluminum pedals, and a paddle shifter on the steering column set off the interior as a racer as well as a daily pacer.

The flagship Quattroporte Executive GT adds an Alcantara headliner as well as Italian-leather front seats with heating, cooling and massage. Maserati appoints in fine wood the driving control surfaces: the steering wheel and handbrake. Other details such as the red-highlighted trident on the chrome-mesh grill set the car apart even from its distinguished brethren.

All three models offer the eight-cylinder 4.2-liter all-aluminum engine. Supplied by Ferrari, the Maserati-blue powerplant employs double-overhead camshafts and variable-valve timing, with four valves per cylinder to produce 400 horsepower at 7,000 rpm with excellent low-end torque of 339 pounds per foot at 4,250 rpm.

The hydraulic six-speed torque-converter transmission produces great power at low to medium speeds, while still producing an exceptional top speed. Performance differences are minimal, with the nonautomatic DuoSelect cars slightly quicker to 60 mph (5.1 against 5.5 seconds) and achieving a slightly higher top speed (170 mph against 165 mph).

Brembo brakes provide superior stopping. “Road & Track” reports a sedan record: from 60 mph to stop in 117 feet. In addition, the Maserati Stability Program (MSP) integrates anti-lock brakes with other components such as the traction control system to ensure safety and control. Say the Quattroporte skids in an August monsoon: The MSP system helps to control the brakes as well as the engine to keep the car on track.

Owners can customize as well through the Officine Alfieri Maserati Personalization Program. Choose from a variety of exterior and interior colors — 13 hues for stitching and three for the headliner. Higher-grade Poltona Frau leather can be chosen, for example. Owners can select mahogany or walnut briarwood instead of the standard Tanganyka wood provided with the automatic Quattroporte. A carbon fiber or piano black finish is also available.

Comfort isn’t just in the colors or cloths: A package for the front or rear seats includes ventilation, massage, and, for the fronts, auto-adaptive versions. And, of course, owners can request a TV screen and a DVD player to keep passengers informed and entertained.

Automatic Customers: It’s Almost Automatic

Every Quattroporte driver wants four doors. Not every Quattroporte driver wants to shift.

The automatic transmission sits to the rear of the engine. A hydraulic torque converter provides quick, smooth shifts through the rpm curve. As a result, the Quattroporte maintains the rear bias of nonautomatic DuoSelect-equipped vehicles: 49 percent front and 51 percent rear as opposed to the 47 percent front and 53 percent rear for the latter.

“Because almost all the customers for the Quattroporte are coming from cars with automatic transmissions, they prefer that type of transmission,” Simon explains. “They want sports car handling and speed but don’t want to have to work to drive the car. Remember, this is a car they will be using every day.”

Automatic drivers want to avoid gear-change lurches — not just uncomfortable but, perhaps, inappropriate to the spirit of a great luxury GT. On the smooth-shifting automatic, drivers use the central-console selector and, for more control, select the “sport” mode. For further excitement, owners can select column-mounted paddles.

Trident neatly stowed, Neptune himself would be pleased, even on land. “The car is just so different from any other sedan,” Simon notes. “It offers light sports car-like handling and terrific brakes. It’s responsive and great looking. It is my favorite sedan — period.”

Scottsdale Maserati 480.421.3801