Something has happened to the adjective 'executive'. It used to signify 'very expensive or exclusive', but now it tends to mean 'aspirational, but actually not great'. Take the British Airway's 'Executive' Club card: useful, but what you want is the invitation-only Premier Card. Similarly, a hotel's executive suite is rarely the penthouse. So when brochures called the Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT Automatic a 'four-door, five-seater, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive executive saloon', I began to worry.
With the Quattroporte Automatic starting at £77,110, one hopes for more than 'slightly above average'. Besides, the model has been described as 'the world's prettiest four-door saloon'; and, recently, a US luxury lifestyle magazine called it 'best of the best' in the sedan category, beating the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, the Audi S8, the BMW M5 and the Maybach 57Sc.
Yet the anxieties remained when the car was dropped off and the driver delivering it promptly reversed it into a wall in my apartment block's car park. Incredibly, the nudge didn't leave a mark on the nero carbino bodywork but brought to attention a problem that persisted: unreliable parking sensors. With its ZX Spectrum-quality graphics, the satnav system also turned out to be slightly 'executive'; the key looked like something that would normally open a Ford Cortina; and the CD changer, located behind a flap under the steering wheel, was almost impossible to access.
But there were compensations. The QPSGT is hugely handsome - the test model came on massive sports alloys wheels with profiles so low that it looked like there was no rubber on them. And under hard acceleration the car makes a visceral, primal wail. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite reflect the performance - the 4.2 litre V8 is powerful, but the car weighs nearly two tonnes and is even longer than its name. And although the top speed isn't limited as on its German rivals, it feels less thrilling to drive than other 'sports saloons' such as the BMW M5 and Merc's E63.
Of course, it may lack a degree of build quality and attention to detail in its interior finish, but the QPSGT has great character and the chance of pulling up next to another at the lights is low, meaning that it is 'executive' in the old sense.
I'LL TAKE ONE ...
- Makes a fantastic noise.
THANKS BUT NO THANKS ...
- Unreliable gadgetry.
- Not as fast as it sounds.
Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT Automatic: £86,200
Engine: 4.2 litres, V8
Power: 400 bhp at 7,000 rpm
Torque: 333 lb ft at 4,500 rpm
Fuel: 14.9 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 440 g/km
0-60 mph: 5.6 sec
Top speed: 167 mph