The flight into Nice, France was clouded and dull. A steady drizzle swept in off the Mediterranean Sea, obscuring what is usually a pristine coastline punctuated with the magnificent private villas and resorts of the French Riviera.
Undaunted by the bad luck of arriving in a rain shower, my ultimate destination of Monaco was but a short helicopter ride away and even bad weather couldn’t dampen the excitement. It isn’t everyday one gets to drive a new Maserati Quattroporte on the hallowed streets of Monte Carlo.
A short taxi ride later, I strolled out of the car and passed under the canopy leading to the Hotel de Paris. Situated on the Palace du Casino, this grand hotel is made famous each year as the annual parade of Formula One race cars pass by the front doors a total of 78 times on their way around the inner city race track.
Originally constructed in 1863, it exudes opulence with each turn of the many winding, thickly carpeted hallways. A baroque ceiling soars skyward in the main entrance hall, a place to mingle for the super wealthy who visit the nearby Casino de Monte Carlo.
Guests stay in one of 112 rooms and 75 suites and junior suites. Those seeking a respite from the black-tie crowd can throw on a swim suit and enjoy the ambience of an adjacent seawater swimming pool with stunning views of the Mediterranean.
My first floor room overlooked the rear stone terrace with its meticulously groomed gardens and ornate fountain. Staring out the window, it was easy to imagine the epic sounds of Ayrton Senna downshifting gears in rapid succession as his F1 race car reached the quick left hand entrance to Casino Square.
The tradition of the Maserati Quattroporte dates back to 1963. A stylish trendsetter and Italian icon for more than four decades, the 2007 Maserati Quattroporte is everything the original sport sedan was intended to be and then some.
Featuring a completely new 4.2-liter wet sump engine, the Ferrari inspired V-8 develops 400 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 339 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm.
Residing under revamped cylinder heads painted in striking Maserati Blue, it transports driver and up to three passengers to 100 Km/h in 5.6 seconds and reaches a top speed of 270 Km/h. Modified pistons add power but at the same time help improve fuel economy while driving in the city.
Of equal importance to the new engine and maybe even more so, is the addition of a new ZF six-speed automatic transmission. Four driving modes distinguish the driving potential available in the new Quattroporte; Normal, Sport, Ice and Manual.
If there was one knock against the previous Quattroporte, it was the fact the DuoSelect manual transmission left much to be desired in the “user friendly” department.
Manipulating the gears manually required a steady hand and left foot as well as a great deal of patience. While purists may opt for the DuoSelect transmission, Maserati understands the importance of increased market share and has insured even greater sales success with the introduction of the new Quattroporte with an automatic transmission.
As you would expect of a luxury sport sedan in the 21st Century, the gearbox can still be operated manually, but requires no clutch to navigate the gear range. Simply flip the aluminum shift paddles located behind the steering wheel and enjoy the sounds of a virtuoso performance under the hood. Standard on the top-of-the-line Sport GT Automatic, shift paddles are also available as an option on the base Quattroporte Automatic and Executive GT Automatic models.
A secondary benefit of the new automatic transmission is an improvement in fore/aft weight distribution. By connecting the 6-speed transmission directly to the engine block, as opposed to the rear longitudinal layout of the manual transmission, the Quattroporte Automatic demonstrates a superb 51% rear, 49% front weight balance. Given its rear-wheel-drive design, this slight rear bias is ideal for high speed driving, especially in a 4-door sedan.
Additional improvements include a revised center console with “North American” sized cupholders and an electronic parking brake. Leather seating surfaces and trim levels are extremely high and Maserati has spent much time and money to improve overall vehicle quality.
Driving the new Maserati Quattroporte Automatic in the French Riviera countryside was more than a dream come true. Over the course of a day, I succumbed to the romantic wiles of this jet set location, getting lost on several occasions, but never caring. The twisting roads from Monte-Carlo to Grasse and back again held me spellbound with each bend in the road. All too soon it was over and I was back at the hotel handing over my keys to the valet attendant.
Leaving the hotel was an experience I have never before encountered. The front desk attendant led to a small room where security ushered me in and locked the door behind me. It was more than a little intimidating.
Once inside, a well-dressed attendant than asked me to sit down while together we looked at my bill to see if there were any casino charges. There weren’t, and she thankfully didn’t want to discuss my being asked to leave the casino because our group of cheapskate automotive journalists wouldn’t play the $20 EU minimum table bet. Monaco is truly reserved for the rich and famous. As for me, I was just allowed to play rich for a few days. At least I got to do it in a Maserati Quattroporte!
2007 Maserati Quattroporte
Wheelbase: 3,064 mm
Overall weight: 1,990 kg
Engine size: 4.2-liter V8
Horsepower: 400 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque: 339 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 14.7 L/100 km