Diesel engines are not typically associated with the Maserati marque. Despite that, the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte Diesel is the latest to join the growing list of oil-burning luxury cars at the upper end of the market.
It might sound amusing to use the word ‘cheap’ in relation to any Maserati, but the new Quattroporte Diesel is indeed the ‘cheapest’ in the range at $198,800 – until the new Ghibli lands in the second half of 2014. That’s not to say it’s cheap in isolation or execution, just cheaper than the petrol variants in the range. First, Maserati thrilled luxo limousine buyers with the dynamic V8 petrol engine ($319,800), then the impressive V6 petrol engine ($240,000). Both of those models feature engines built in-house by Ferrari to Maserati specifications, and both feature twin-turbo technology and direct injection.
Now, however, we get to sample the new turbo diesel powerplant for the first time Down Under. Its engine is designed and built by VM Motori in Italy, and while the powerplant will be used in other vehicles, the specific tune we’ve tested here is for Maserati only.
The 3.0-litre engine generates 202kW and 600Nm while using a claimed 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres, which is calculated in the more frugal default mode. Interestingly at launch, we were allowed to monitor our own fuel consumption as we would on our CarAdvice tests. Despite the 300 turns of Thunderbolts Way in rural New South Wales, prolonged periods in ‘Sport’ mode and extensive, er, spirited driving, the big Maserati returned 10.3L/100km. Cruising along the highway to your country estate, you could expect to see that fuel return drop well below that.
The question I have is whether Maserati owners care enough about fuel efficiency to opt for a diesel over the existing petrol models - though at $40K less, I'd understand why pragmatists would.
You’d expect a sense of occasion when you slide into the driver’s seat – elegantly of course – of any Maserati regardless of the model or the number of doors. The good news is, the Quattroporte has lost none of its panache or style with the addition of a diesel engine to the range. The interior is extensively appointed, meticulously finished and luxurious in equal measure. It’s the little things, like the front doors that open and stay at any position up to their maximum, that really make the difference.
Throughout the cabin there are swathes of timber trim, piano black, brushed aluminium and beautiful leather trim. Even the floor carpets are hewn from the highest quality materials. It’s opulent everywhere you look.
The infotainment system and mapping is nicely executed, and I didn’t have any trouble working my way through the major controls not long after getting comfortable behind the wheel. The only strange issue is its stop-start system, which, while being a genuine fuel-saving measure around town, requires the driver to scroll through the settings menu within the trip computer each time the engine is started should they wish to disable the system. That seems a little clumsy to me. I had a brief crack at the Bluetooth phone and audio system too. It’s easy to connect, clear to use making phone calls and streams audio without interruption.
Finding a comfortable driving position was no issue - as you’d expect - and there’s acres of room front and rear for adults of all heights. Our launch vehicle had a sunroof, which didn’t seem to encroach too much on headroom either. Crucially, I could fit my own large shoe under the front seat when seated on the back pew, meaning I didn’t have to have my knees too close to my chest. Rear seat passengers get a fold down armrest, which hides cupholders, a USB input and a power outlet for charging mobile devices.
On the open road, our only gripe was tyre noise on coarse chip country roads, which can get a little intrusive at highway speeds. It’s only really noticeable because of the cabin’s serenity on otherwise smooth surfaces. The Quattroporte is almost silent when the road surface is right, which is what we’d expect, but the noise does rise over harsher surfaces.
The engine is, surprisingly, a powerhouse – and the undisputed star of the show. The almost imperceptible gearshift from the eight-speed ZF helps the big sedan get up and moving regardless of how enthusiastic your process.
The torque figure of 600Nm is the key and there’s an intoxicating engine note, especially down low that accompanies the rapid piling on of speed. There’s almost nothing at all to indicate the Quattroporte is powered by a diesel engine – which is exactly what Sir and Madam would desire. As mentioned, we had a crack at some of the State’s most challenging driving roads at launch and the diminutive powerplant almost asks for more.
What surprised me even more than the engine’s performance was the Quattroporte’s handling prowess.
Sure, it’s a big, long wheelbase sedan, but it seems to shrink around you out in the open countryside. The Quattroporte turns in better than any hefty sedan should, sticks to the line you dialed in and rockets out of the bends with surety. It can even get a little lively as you exit the corner if you really want to – although we’re not sure too many Quattroporte drivers want to work up a sweat on their way out to the country estate. Regardless, the Quattroporte can handle an enthusiastic sprint.
If you were wondering why Maserati would add a turbo diesel to the range and whether a Maserati customer would desire a turbo diesel engine in the first place, we’ve got the answer, which is twofold. Many Quattroporte customers own country properties and what better vehicle to take on a country jaunt than a vehicle of this kind – the four-door makes incredible sense out on the open road.
Head out of the city limits and fuel range becomes important. There’s also the availability (or lack thereof) of 98-Octane premium unleaded fuel out in the sticks too - plenty of diesel though. An efficient turbo diesel with a large fuel tank easily stretches the range out into the 800-km zone on the highway.
Maserati's importer reckons this model will account for only 10 percent of Quattroporte sales. I think its significant cost saving over the petrol models means it would deserve a bigger slice of the pie than that.