Maserati model names confuse me. What’s this Sport GT S all about?
According to chief engineer Paul Fickers, it’s the car the Quattroporte always should have been. There are six Quattroporte variants – three with a semi-auto, three with a full auto – and it’s the ‘proper’ auto Sport GT S that’s expected to now form the majority of sales. Why? Because, like the Ford Fickers once worked on, it’s been 'focused'. Key change? Out goes the Skyhook adaptive damping, and in comes single-rate Bilstein dampers, biased towards handling to exploit the Quattroporte’s advantageous layout. Fickers is adamant that cars only feel right if the fundamentals are so. By this, he means a front mid-engine with all the weight behind the front axle and near-perfect weight distribution: for example, the Quattroporte…
OK, so apart from the new dampers, what’s been done to create this £86,400 range-topper?
The suspension has been lowered by 10mm at the front and 25mm at the rear compared to the Sport GT, while the mountings have been uprated to cope with the all-new set-up. There are also bespoke 295/30 section rear tyres, aiding turn-in and traction, while Fickers’ obsession with minimising bump steer has kept the Maserati test drivers occupied for months. Mean and moodiness is enhanced by a ‘dark chrome’ finish for the exterior, including the wheels and exhausts, while the doorhandles are now body-coloured. Result? Frankly, it looks superb.
It does look good – but I’m having trouble differentiating it from a standard ‘Sport GT’
We'll forgive you. But the lower ride height makes a startling difference, turning this four-door saloon into a coupe; from the front, the grille seems to take half the height of the car, so hunkered down does it look. From behind, it looks like a GT car – absolutely gorgeous. Inside, there’s an Alcantara overload. Steering wheel, seats, rooflining, gearlever – if the Comfort fabric softener people drove supercars, they’d have an interior like this. The real carbonfibre on the centre console has thin strips of aluminium woven through it, while the seats themselves boast beefed-up bolsters. With a low dash, and with the close-set steering wheel giving you the impression of being sat well back in the chassis, BTCC-style, it sure feels purposeful.
Is there anything different to the engine?
Nope, the 4.2-litre V8 remains the same. Still punching out 400bhp, a deep, muscular warble is the order of the day, with an exhaust note that could be straight out of the movies. It’s a super-smooth delight, even if 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds isn’t as rapid as it (literally) sounds. The six-speed ZF auto is superb, wired into your desires, and justifies Maserati’s decision to 'sportify' it, rather than trying to change the more Ferrari-like semi-auto.
What’s this new suspension like, then?
It’s classy, though you won't think so at first. You’ll be put off by the light steering, the darty response, and the nuggety-firm ride over potholes. But it’s got depth, this car. Take a medium-fast corner, turn in, and immediately the car responds. What’s more, after a sniff of initial roll, the car stays planted on a trajectory, super-settled, screaming confident thoughts at you. Tweak the steering and the car obliges; tackle a switchback-sequence and you really are in a sports car, rather than a five-metre long four-door. Throw in bumps and cambers, and the ride is transformed into an interference-free class act that is never knocked off course, stays keyed into the road and leaves you marvelling at the quality of the damping.
So it’s not just some badged-up special, then?
Certainly not. It might be saddled it with a mouthful of a name - but this car deserves better. The name implies a stickers 'n' spoilers special edition, not a model as intelligent as this. The brakes are also a world first. They’re a new design by Brembo – the outer disc is fade-resistant, distortion-free aluminium, connected via an ‘interference fit’ to cast iron innards. Very clever. The pedal is weighty and a bit clumsy in town, but beautifully modulatable at speed. And boy, are they powerful. Downhill mountain passes that Italy does so well are simply not a problem for them, particularly the six-pot front anchors. Each piston is a different size, for perfect distribution of pressure around the disc. We can look forward to then featuring on other Fiat Group cars, too.
The Sport GT S seduces as soon as you set eyes on it. But what’s all the more pleasing is how this promise continues when you drive it. Different in character to any other Quattroporte, it’s a car packed with finesse, that has depth you won’t tire of. We like.