Being handed the keys to a Maserati for the first time wasn’t just a career milestone, it also brought back vivid memories of my earliest association with the iconic Italian marque.
My old man had been on a business trip in Italy in the early-seventies, driving a Fiat 124, when he described being passed by something blisteringly quick. As a former Bathurst racer – his best guess was that the car was travelling around 170m/h and was wearing US military plates.
Keen to discover the make and model of this Italian thoroughbred, as well as being overcome with a desperate need to converse with anyone that might understand English, he dropped the little Fiat down a cog and took off in hot pursuit.
Turns out, the car he was chasing was a 1970 Maserati Ghibli SS, owned by a US Air Force pilot based in Italy. I know this, because my father caught up with him at a café down the road where he got a good look at the car, as well as an enthusiastic exchange of car and aeroplane stories.
Under the bonnet was a 4.9-litre V8 putting out 330bhp and capable of a genuine 174mp/h. At the time it was the fastest Maserati road car ever produced.
I was hooked. That Trident emblem would symbolise Italian craftsmanship, speed and beauty from that moment on, as well as holding a special place in my car-obsessed life.
Back then, the Ghibli was a beautifully sleek coupe with proper supercar proportions, but these days it’s a four-door sports sedan that takes some of its styling cues from the Maserati GranTurismo, as well as its larger sibling, the Maserati Quattroporte, with which it shares its underpinnings and which we drive here.
The name Quattroporte translated from Italian literally means “four-doors”, but only the Italians could make such a simple word combination sound so deliciously exotic. The model line dates back to 1963, when it was first unveiled at the Turin motor show armed with a quad-cam all-aluminium V8. Maserati claimed a top speed of 143mp/h.
The current sixth-generation Quattroporte was introduced in 2013, ditching Maserati’s naturally aspirated V8s in favour of twin-turbocharged V6 and V8 petrol engines, as well as a turbodiesel – all in the name of efficiency.
The entry-level price for Quattroporte ownership is $198,800 (plus on-roads) for the 202kW 3.0-litre diesel, but our mid-range 301kW twin-turbo V6 S tester wears a substantially higher price tag from $240,000. The range-topping 390kW GTS gets a twin-turbo V8 with the price jumping to $319,000 for the privilege.
Despite its proportions, it’s still unmistakably Maserati. There’s the trademark floating Trident symbol adorning the blacked-out grille, as well as the equally familiar side vents and quad exhaust pipes.
The Quattroporte’s silhouette is low and wide – accentuated by its wide rear wheel arches, sitting on extra wide Pirelli rubber.
Step inside, and your olfactory system is immediately greeted with a superb full-grain leather aroma, which bodes well with Maserati’s luxury brand values.
The entire dash is crafted from hand-stitched leather from top to bottom, except for the real wood and metallic trim that embellishes the doors and centre console.
However, it’s still not quite as polished as some rivals and lacks that really bespoke look and feel that you get in an S-Class.
Up front, there’s heaps of room with extra-wide buckets and a low-set driving position for a proper sportscar-like feel from behind the wheel.
Rear seat passengers are also provided for with armchair-like comfort and plenty of legroom, though surprisingly less than what the S-Class and 7 Series rivals offer.
Headroom, at least for taller folks in the second row, is slightly less generous due the compromise associated with the Quattroporte’s beautifully tapering roofline.
The smaller rear windows also tend to make this more a comfy space to be rather than a limo-style living space.
The Maserati Quattroporte is a large, luxury sports sedan with a substantial price tag so buyers can expect an extensive list of features when it comes to standard inventory.
Everything from the leather-wrapped steering wheel to the front heated seats are electrically operated. So too are the sunshades for the rear windows and the power-fold door mirrors.
Highlights include adaptive Bi-xenon headlamps with integrated LED daylight running lights, 10-speaker 600-watt audio system, 8.4-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity and dual-zone climate control.
I especially like the blue-faced analogue clock that pays homage to Maserati examples of a bygone era.
That said, anyone spending nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars on a luxury Italian purebred will likely want more than just a sumptuous leather-bound interior and a Maserati timepiece.
And for those prospective Quattroporte S buyers with legitimate questions over the V6’s credentials, there’s absolutely no need for concern. The driving experience is simply exhilarating. And it starts with that twin turbo V6.
That’s two, twin-scroll, low inertia water-cooled turbochargers if you will, which go a long way in providing serious lag-free thrust whenever you feel the need to prod the right pedal.
There’s a stomping 550Nm of torque on tap from just 1750rpm and it doesn’t start to taper off until the needle nudges 5000rpm - meaning the big Maserati has the ability to shred the 110km/h speed limit in around 5.1 seconds. Top speed is 283km/h.
This is one car that feels as quick as the numbers suggest.
Those turbos, along with an efficient eight-speed auto and stop/start, also assist in lowering fuel consumption to a claimed 10.4L/100km – though, if you’re having fun (and you will) expect low 16’s using the recommended 98RON.
There’s obviously no more V8 burble to listen to, but tap the Sport button and you’ll be rewarded with a glorious deep-throated V6 howl that’s deeper and more V8-sounding than any 3.0-litre symphony before it. It borders on intoxicating, especially with the added crackle and pop overrun.
Hand-in-hand with the added punch that Sport mode provides is faster and more aggressive shift mapping for the added drive experience.
I don’t mind the paddleshifters, either. They’re fixed, but they’re large and easy to access and they work well, especially in Manual mode.
Disengage Sport, and the Quattropporte immediately morphs into a kind of stealth mode, but that’s only if you’re ever so gentle with the throttle, otherwise its all too easy to wake your neighbours.
If there are any complaints to be levelled at the Maserati, it’s with its overly finicky electronic shift action, which requires nothing less than a surgeon’s touch to ease it into gear. Word of warning – don’t rush it – take your time.
The turning circle isn’t great either, so 'easy does it' in those lethal CBD car parks.
There are no complaints when it comes to ride and handling, both of which are nicely balanced in this Grand Tourer. First thing that comes to mind is that this a big car that doesn’t drive big – in fact, it feels positively agile in the twisty sections – almost chuckable, even.
That’s partly down the hydraulic steering. It’s a tad light at low speeds (most folks will appreciate that) but loads up beautifully in the bends, at least in the sporty suspension setting.
Despite its sporty pretences, the Quattroporte delivers excellent ride comfort, especially in the Normal damper mode. Rarely did any size road bump or pothole bother the chassis in a bad way.
So, did my first Maserati drive live up to my expectations for this iconic Italian carmaker?
The short answer is yes. I certainly wasn’t expecting the kind of engaged driving experience that the Quattroporte delivers, at least not one powered by a V6.
Nor was I expecting the level of attention this car attracts - regardless of where I took the Maserati, it always drew plenty of appreciative onlookers.
The Maserati Quattroporte won’t be for everyone looking to spend a few hundred grand or more on a large luxury sedan. It lacks some tech and isn’t as plush as an S-Class, or as roomy as a 7 Series LWB.
This is more special – a big stylish Euro Grand Tourer that looks as good as it goes for the cashed-up enthusiast who values passion and soul over pragmatism.
Now where’s that GranTurismo MC Stradale?
Photography by Mitchell Oke.