The utility of classical neural networks as universal approximators suggests that their quantum analogues could play an important role in quantum generalizations of machine-learning methods. In this work we demonstrate a superconducting qubit implementation of an adiabatic controlled gate, which generalizes the action of a classical perceptron as the basic building block of a quantum neural network. We show full control over the steepness of the perceptron activation function, the input weight and the bias by tuning the adiabatic gate length, the coupling between the qubits and the frequency of the applied drive respectively. In its general form, the gate realizes an N-qubit entangling operation in a single step, whose decomposition into single and two-qubit gates would require a number of gates that is exponential in N. Its demonstrated direct implementation as perceptron in quantum hardware may therefore lead to more powerful quantum neural networks when combined with suitable additional standard gates. *We acknowledge support by the European Commission Marie Curie ETN project QuSCo (Grant Nr. 765267), and by the European FET-OPEN project Quromorphic (Grant Nr. 828826).