Italy's four-door limo retains appeal even with smaller (V6) engine, though Quattroporte is still a choice for owners who want to drive rather than be driven.
A $240,000 Maserati Quattroporte wouldn’t seem an obvious model to associate with increased sales volumes, but this big Italian executive car is central to the Italian brand’s plan to reach 50,000 units by 2015.
It’s not just the fact this new Maserati Quattroporte S has joined the V8-powered GTS released in late 2013 to make the S-Class rival relatively more attainable but also because its foundations will underpin the smaller Ghibli sedan out this year and the Levante SUV due in 2015.
If you missed our review of the Maserati Quattroporte GTS, here’s a quick recap of the sixth version of the Italian limo to be released since 1963. The latest Quattroporte can be genuinely described as all-new, with a new platform and new engines. It’s grown in size – from just over five metres to 5.2m – yet has reduced in weight by about 100kg.
What we’re interested in here specifically, though, is the new V6. It’s closely related to the V8: both are built by Ferrari in Maranello to Maserati specs, both feature direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, they share the same bore and stroke, and both feature twin turbochargers (slightly bigger on the V8).
There’s not a great advantage on paper opting for the model with two fewer cylinders with regards to fuel consumption – 10.4 litres per 100km for the V6 versus the V8’s 11.8L/100km – though your typical Quattroporte buyer is likely to be more concerned about other types of economy.
Power and performance, however, are a different matter when it comes to the more casual parts of boardroom chatter. While the Maserati Quattroporte S saves $80,000 over the $319,800 GTS there is the expected trade-off in performance.
The 301kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 takes another four-tenths to reach 100km/h (5.1sec) and its top speed of 285km/h falls short of the 390kW/650Nm 3.8-litre V8 GTS’s 307km/h. The V6 only revs to a maximum of 6000rpm whereas the V8 runs to 7200rpm, though key to the S’s performance is a torque curve plateau that stretches from 1750 to 5000rpm. This graces the Quattroporte S with rapidly flexible performance that devours kilometres for trips to the countryside mansion, though some detectable lag below 1500rpm is a reminder the engine under the bonnet is force fed with air rather than just relying on what comes through the grille.
Pressing the S (Sport) button steps up the throttle response – and also ensures a bypass valve in the exhaust system opens from 4200rpm. Good noise insulation in the cabin means the twin-turbo V6 and exhaust sounds even better for passers-by than occupants, though there’s still sufficient acoustic character to entertain the ears. Exhaust blurts that respond to the driver changing up a gear via the paddleshift lever also add to the occasion. And the ZF eight-speed automatic in the Maserati Quattroporte is as brilliant as it in so many other vehicles, changing gears smoothly and decisively whether you’re navigating the CBD or out on the open road.
All Quattroporte’s come standard with Maserati’s Skyhook adaptive dampers, though the suspension’s effectiveness depends on your perspective.
If you’re seated in the back, literally lounging around in acres of space as you’re being chauffeured to work, you’ll feel more of the road surface than ideal for a limo thanks to a knobbly ride. Making the ride of our test car even firmer were a set of optional 21-inch wheels wrapped in ultra-lean rubber – 245/35 front, 285/30 rear – that Maserati says virtually every Australian Quattroporte buyer will adopt.
We also tried a model fitted with 20-inch rubber and the extra sidewall compliance suggested the standard 19-inch wheels would bring further incremental comfort – though a Comfort mode for the adaptive dampers below the Normal and Sport modes would surely be worthwhile. (We’re told China – where back seats rule – does get a softer suspension tune.)
If you are looking for the sportier limo drive, however, then the damping is excellent. Pressing the separate suspension button on the centre console tightens the Quattroporte’s control noticeably further and brings a level of agility that is surprising for a car that measures 5.2 metres long.
Those 21-inch tyres assist cornering with unshakeable grip on the road, as does the marvelous hydraulic steering that is highly accurate and also files reports from the bitumen to the driver’s fingers like a good minion. The tyres will start to make themselves heard on rougher sections of country road, though otherwise the lack of wind noise in the cabin is hugely impressive.
While the big executive cars from Audi (A8), BMW (7 Series) and Mercedes-Benz (S-Class) are all available in short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase forms, the Maserati Quattroporte comes with just one size.
That size is still longer than even a LWB S-Class, including that distance between the axles. It’s not wasted in that back seat as we mentioned earlier, though the four-seat layout option may as well be ticked for all the comfort the middle-centre passenger would get in the five-seat arrangement. The outer seats, though, were perfection for this writer in terms of just-right cushioning, seatback firmness and under-thigh support. Whether you’re looking to fit up to two or three people up back, there’s rear ventilation, heat seating, and auto blinds for the side and rear windows.
The massive boot looks like it would swallow a couple of golf trolleys let along bags. A word of warning for any budding gangsters eyeing the Quattroporte as a kidnap car. The boot features a fluorescent ‘escape’ chord that can be pulled from the inside to open the lid.
Maserati says Quattroporte owners prefer to occupy the driver’s seat, and here there’s a multitude of electric adjustment for steering wheel, seat and lumbar. After spending a day and a half as driver and passenger we can attest to the long-distance comfort of all seats.
The cabin is rife with leather handcrafted in Italy and our test car also featured carbonfibre-encased trim to stress the sporty angle of the car. Minimalism is achieved with a large central silver touchscreen flanked by just two dials, with a heating/ventilation control panel beneath.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen system takes no time to understand, though perhaps more perplexing for an owner who has spent $240,000 is an interface that is Made-for-the-FiatChrysler-Group rather than Made-for-Maserati. It’s the same UConnect found in the likes of the Dodge Journey or Jeep Grand Cherokee, albeit with different colouring.
If the Maserati Quattroporte doesn’t look as grand as an S-Class inside, the Italian is also the opposite of the Mercedes when it comes to technology. Where the S-Class has consistently been the pioneer of the latest automotive technology, the Quattroporte is almost comically devoid of any. It’s nessuno to radar cruise control, engine stop-start, head-up display, lane departure/keeping, and blind spot monitoring. Even the headlights stay on if you have main beam selected and lock the car (the lights have to be in auto).
You can turn your Quattroporte into a mobile WiFi hotspot, however, with an optional WLAN-based sim card. Audiophiles can also tick the option for the 1280-watt Bowers & Wilkins system.
The Maserati Quattroporte, then, isn’t the default choice for prospective big executive buyers who prioritise ride comfort or owning one of the most advanced cars on the road. If the mission statement, however, is to target a sporty limo that’s faster than an Aston Martin Rapide even in V6 form – and with styling that stands out rather than blends in – then four-door Italian may well be your desirable goal.