Although it’s claimed to remain true to Maserati’s roots, the new generation Maserati Quattroporte utilises brand new ones in order to re-plant itself in the ultra-premium luxury sedan segment.
Its platform, body, suspension, engines and interior are brand new compared with the decade-old previous model. The underpinnings and mechanicals are also shared with the smaller Ghibli sedan and forthcoming Levante SUV that will make or break Maserati’s target of 50,000 units globally by 2015 – two years ago the brand shifted 6000 cars, last year that figure was doubled, while early orders suggest half the full target will be met this year.
Priced locally from $240,000 for the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, or $319,800 for the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 tested here, the renewed Maserati Quattroporte will now face off against more competitors than ever before. At the lower end the V6 will rival faster, mainstream cars such as the BMW M5 and Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG; the V8 will challenge usual suspects including the Aston Martin Rapide, Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG and Porsche Panamera.
The V6 will launch in February, with the all-new direct injection unit’s 301kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 550Nm (between 1750-5000rpm) helping propel it to 100km/h in 5.1 seconds. That’s almost as fast as the outgoing Quattroporte GTS V8, yet its 10.4L/100km claimed combined consumption makes it significantly more frugal than before.
That leaves the V8 (on sale now) to become the fastest Maserati sedan ever produced. The larger engine is based on the V6, with the same bore and stroke and core technologies, but with a 90-degree V-angle widened from 60 degrees. From an engine capacity usually associated with V6 engines, the engine produces 390kW (at 6800rpm) and 650Nm from 2000-4000rpm (or 710Nm on overboost between 2250-3500rpm).
The bigger engine also has a heady 7200rpm cut out (V6: 6000rpm) and claims a 4.7-second 0-100km/h and 11.8L/100km consumption.
Mostly thanks to lots of aluminium in the body and suspension, the Quattroporte GTS weighs 100kg less than before, at 1900kg (V6: 1860kg), which further aids the increased performance.
Double wishbone front and rear suspension with variable damper rates and a sports setting are used by Maserati to claim big ride and handling improvements compared with the old car.
The 5.26-metre-long Italian sedan claims the longest wheelbase in the class, at 3.17 metres. It reflects the stately proportions of this proper, traditional luxury sedan. Maserati is having none of the coupe-like fastback roofline that has become the modern interpretation of a sedan for many luxury manufacturers. Yet the subtle haunches and fine proportions of the Quattroporte still hand it fine road presence. It still looks like a Maserati Quattroporte.
It also means the packaging is less compromised than, for example, a BMW M6 Gran Coupe or Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG. Up front those coupe-like competitors can match it, but in the rear the Quattroporte is S-Class-like in its amount of space. While there’s plenty of stretching room, there could be even more if the rear bench wasn’t so deeply padded and plush, but that’s as it should be – a fine balance.
There’s even a 60:40 split-fold rear seat to further expand the 530 litres of boot space.
Where the Maserati Quattroporte is less S-Class-like is back up front. Its dash design is a model of tasteful simplicity, but anyone who owns a Fiat Freemont will know the infotainment system is shared with it. Although the Quattroporte is Wi-Fi enabled – via either tethering to your phone or via a Sim card – its navigation graphics appear cheap and the resolution isn’t as high as it could be.
Dig deeper, and the plush leather-topped dash surfaces and indulgent seats aren’t matched by a level of fit and finish expected of a six-figure car. Both the air vents and climate controls don’t move with the expected tactility, for example. An S-Class interior mauls it, though the Quattroporte cabin is still a nice, quaint place to be.
Equipment levels are mostly shared between V6 and V8 models, with the latter only adding 20-inch alloys (up from 19s) and a powered rear sunshade. Standard on both are front and rear parking sensors, rear camera, adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washing system, power adjustable heated front seats, rear door sunshades, and dual-zone climate control.
Maserati argues that the lack of Benz-rivalling safety tech – there’s no blind-spot monitoring, auto parking, auto high-beam, or auto braking – is reflective of the fact Quattroporte drivers like to be in control of their steed. The Quattroporte is a driver’s sedan, it claims.
Before putting that claim to the test on twisty roads beyond Sydney suburbia, it’s immediately apparent how quiet and comfortable the new Quattroporte is, even by lofty luxury car standards. In the adaptive suspension’s normal mode, and despite the test car’s 21-inch tyres, the Maserati has a beautifully disciplined yet supple ride. There’s not a lot of road noise, and the steering is ordinarily very light. The other noise that’s missing is engine noise – the V8 is too distant on light throttle, low rev applications.
Press the Sport button and the accelerator pedal gets touchy, the transmission becomes more in tune with harder driving, the stability control loosens its belt slightly and the exhaust resonates a louder tune; under duress, the note coming out of the pipes is harder edged, but the Quattroporte is still best enjoyed with the window down … or from behind it.
The eight-speed ZF automatic is impeccable the way it slides between gears around town, and during hard driving it has a wonderful intuition that sees it holding gears for just the right amount of time, but not for long enough to be annoying.
Next to that Sport button is another one that can firm up the suspension independently of the throttle/exhaust/stability control/transmission. It’s handy, because the sports suspension should only be reserved for smooth roads. The regular suspension smothers lumpy country roads in the same way the twin-turbo V8 crushes them. There’s terrific body control mixed with the same fine compliance offered around town, and rapid performance.
The long wheelbase no doubt makes the Quattroporte more malleable than many sports sedans. There’s not quite the front-end agility of the best of the breed, but the way the limited-slip differential and 21-inch tyres help get power down makes for pleasingly early throttle applications in corners without going sideways.
Even in its less restrictive setting the stability control is quite intrusive when attempting to power out of tighter corners, culling throttle for what feels like seconds. But it is a more subtle and restrained partner in the longer and free flowing roads the Quattroporte truly loves anyway.
On such roads, the Maserati feels light on its feet, dancing with its driver and belying its size. It is also helped by the light steering that is incisive and feelsome when threading through corners.
The Maserati Quattroporte doesn’t quite offer half the handling of a Panamera or Rapide, but its packaging and level of luxury is about twice as convincing. The bigger chink in the V8’s armour is the one-second-quicker (to 100km/h) Audi RS6 Avant that costs $100K less and arguably offers one of the finest ride and handling sweet spots of any sports-luxury car.
In the price range of that Audi, though, the Quattroporte V6 will soon exist, and that may well be the real sweet spot in the range. For now, minor interior quirks and lack of outright agility aside, the Maserati Quattroporte GTS is a masterful large sedan that finely blends sports, luxury and – rare for cars in this class – character.