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  • November 22, 2014

Test Drive: Luxury Cars - Ladue News: Diversions

Test Drive: Luxury Cars

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 12:00 pm

What do you get the person who has everything? If you have a six-figure budget, a really cool sports sedan might be the perfect gift-giving idea this holiday season.

If your loved one has a flair for style and a need for speed, the newly redesigned Maserati Quattroporte is a moving piece of art in both senses of the word. First of all, it’s drop-dead gorgeous, as only an Italian car can be. And aurally, the Maserati has about the best-sounding engine exhaust note you’ll ever hear. It’s like a roaring lion.

What is possibly even more impressive is the Maserati’s performance. With its 404-horsepower, twin-turbo, 3.0-liter V-6 engine (made by Ferrari) combined with all-wheel-drive, excellent brakes and a tight sports-car suspension, the Quattroporte is a blast to drive hard. Road feel is excellent. When you’re carving up the curves of a twisty, windy road, it’s easy to forget you have a functional, quite comfortable back seat behind you. If the V-6’s power isn’t enough, a rear-wheel-driver version with a 523-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8 can provide more power than most drivers would know what to do with. With either engine, an 8-speed automatic with manual shifting mode comes standard. No manual transmission is available. Gas mileage with the V-6 is 15 city, 24 highway.

As they say on TV, But wait, there’s more! Not only does the Quattroporte offer sports-car-like handling and performance, it also is an incredibly well-appointed luxury car. Rich Italian leather and beautiful wood trim set the mood. Of course, all the modern bells and whistles are available, including navigation, a back-up camera, heated and cooled seats, dual automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and video screens for the rear seat passengers, who also get their own air vents, heated and optionally cooled seats, a center armrest with ventilation controls, and plenty of legroom. Trunk room is generous.

According to Brian Lee Tull of Maserati of St. Louis, “For the price of a Mercedes S-class or BMW 7-series, the Quattroporte has everything you want, plus a few surprises. It’s a gorgeous aspirational vehicle that actually makes sense because it’s very functional.”

Of course, they’re not giving away something this good, but at a starting price of about $105,000 before options for the V-6, it’s not a bad deal for a premium Italian sports sedan with the cachet of a Maserati.

If you prefer a German feel to your sport sedan, the redesigned Porsche Panamera offers an exciting choice for those seeking a bit of luxury with their white-knuckle performance. Styling is controversial, but I like it. With its hatchback design, it looks like an elongated, four-door 911.

The interior is luxurious, but geared toward performance. A large tachometer is front and center in the dash, as it should be in a sports car, especially a Porsche. The speedometer is to the left, and a handy small navigation screen is to the right. Much appreciated full instrumentation shows water temp, and oil temp and pressure.

Luxury features include four-zone automatic climate control, heated and cooled well-bolstered electric seats covered in rich leather, wood trim, a blind-spot monitoring system, back-up and surround-view video cameras, and adaptive cruise control. There’s a relatively easy-to-use touch screen interface for navigation, audio and other technology. A new ‘executive’ trim level adds 6 inches in length, much of it devoted to the rear-seat area, which provides copious amounts of legroom. Two rear seat passengers get well-bolstered heated and cooled seats, their own vents and ventilation controls, and even mirrors that drop down from the ceiling so they can see how good they look in the back of a Porsche. The large cargo area is easily accessed via the electrically operated hatchback, and the rear seats fold for additional cargo-carrying capacity.

Acceleration is tremendous from the 420-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin turbo V-6 that feeds power to the rear wheels via a 7-speed PDK automatic transmission that can be clutchlessly shifted with steering-wheel-mounted buttons. Unfortunately, no manual transmission is offered. Mash the go pedal and it’s like lighting a rocket. Excellent brakes help bring you back to earth. Handling is superb. It stays flat as Kansas in hard-cornering. Guiding it up and down a twisty back road was nirvana, though the power steering could be a little less boosted, and the PDK transmission sometimes seems to be hunting for the proper gear at lower speeds. Gas mileage is 17 city, 26 highway.

Kevin Rodermund, general sales manager at Plaza Porsche loves the Panamera. “It’s a true sports car with a luxury fit to it. There’s plenty of room, but with so much horsepower and torque it really gets up and goes, unlike most luxury cars. It’s the best of both worlds wrapped up in one car.”

Prices for the Panamera range from about $79,000 for a V-6 to $162,000 for a long wheelbase V-8 turbo.

Robert Paster (robertpaster.com) also is an attorney in private practice, concentrating in estate planning and probate.

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