Four Play — Revamped Italian luxury sedan family-friendly while maintaining rush of Ferrari engine

This white 2014 Maserati Quattroporte stands out on a shaded road west of the Ashley. Leroy Burnell/ 10/1/2013

The Maserati lineup isn’t very deep – two models and a third on its way – and changes don’t take place very often.

So when a makeover does occur, anticipation builds and expectations multiply. That’s the case with the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte sedan, which underwent a full redesign for the first time in seven years.

Sporting streamlined looks, high-tech features such as a navigation system and backup camera and powerful engine choices, the renewed four-door puts the carmaker back in the chase among high-performance luxury cars at somewhat less than stratospheric prices.

“It’s a fantastic car,” said Lee Clagett, sales associate at Baker Maserati on Savannah Highway.

The buyer profile, he said, would be a car enthusiast shopping in the high rent district, desirous of a vehicle that can be a daily driver while displaying a flair for the unconventional.

“You know, this is the person who normally buys a Mercedes S class or BMW 7-series,” Clagett said. With the Quattroporte, the buyer “wants something unique.” Citing the four-door’s limited manufacturing base, he said, “You are never going to pull up next to one of these.”

The new Quattroporte proved to be a long time coming. “It hasn’t had a change since 2006,” he says.

The new Maserati carries a 3.8-liter engine from its automotive sister Ferrari matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 523 horsepower V-8 version known as the Quattroporte GTS prices out at $147,520, while the 404 hp V-6, called the S Q4, can be acquired for $109,000. The vehicle can reach top speeds of 176 mph in the V-6 and 191 mph in the V-8.

When it comes to the new Quattroporte’s looks, long-time coach builder Pininfarina isn’t involved. “This is the first model I can think of that’s not a Pininfarina (body). This was done in-house,” Clagett said.

Yet the Maserati keeps its refined design. The car’s full length extends to 17 feet, 3.3 inches and boasts headroom of 4 feet, 10.3 inches. And the trunk spreads out to a moderate 18.7 cubic feet.

Separately, Maserati parent Fiat Group took steps to eliminate lingering worries about the manufacturer’s dependability. “A lot of reliability issues went out the door in this car,” Clagett said.

The Quattroporte remains a formidable vehicle, weighing around 4,200 pounds and showcasing a 10 foot-plus wheelbase on 20-inch rims. The sedan tantalizes for people who like a large sedan yet also want the carmaker’s vaunted speed, he said.

Maserati says as much in its sleek, 43-page brochure for the Quattroporte, which literally means “four-door” in its home language.

Launched a half century ago, the Quattroporte pioneered the idea of a “high performing luxury sedan.” It claims to be the first model in which a racing engine was installed in a four-door body.

The new edition “continues to be the embodiment of the classic grand tourer,” Maserati points out, adding that the sedan can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in a skinny 4.6 seconds.

In an afternoon drive of the V-8 GTS, the Quattroporte revealed that its manufacturer can rely on more than its racing heritage and exotic lineage.

The four-door captured the essence of a high-performance luxury sedan, powerful enough to barrel along highways while flexible enough to ease through traffic or back into a tight parking space.

Lookswise, the Quattroporte carries a softness through the body and hood that complements an imposing grille with its famed trident emblem. Seats are roomy front and back, cargo space is more than adequate. Poltrona Frau leather proves extra comfortable while setting off the fine wood paneling.

Carrying a key fob, the driver can automatically open the door and employ the push button start and stop. The 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system provides melodious tones even at high volumes.

Highlighting the dashboard, the center console includes a touch screen navigation-communications system that’s easy to use. There’s also a convenient information display cluster in front of the steering wheel that rotates through mileage figures, fuel economy and tire pressure scores.

Also sporting broad doors, the Quattroporte passes the test as a family car.

Behind the wheel, the sedan shines. The four-door speeds up gradually in regular mode but can get a boost from the sport mode button next to the gear shift or by switching to manual driving with shift paddles and without a foot clutch. Brakes held firm, even when called for in a quick stop in stalled traffic.

The V-8 kicks in on the open road, which with tight handling brings out the sedan’s race car instincts.

While a pleasure to drive, the luxury four-door hasn’t worked out all the bugs. Side and rear visibility was not always the best due to pillar placement and windows that didn’t seem very wide. The gear shift provided an awkward way to get in and out of reverse. And while the back-up camera was handy, the accompanying alarm could be, well, alarming.

Nonetheless, Maserati has significantly upped its game. Once an exotic oddity, the carmaker shows with the 2014 Quattroporte that it’s caught up to competitors in terms of comfort, looks and – most telling – technology.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or