“Awaken your soul.”
Maserati’s mission statement speaks of an undefinable, ethereal, almost otherworldly spirituality living – sleeping – within you. And it needs a wake-up call that only their cars can give you.
Putting aside any notion of whether you believe in the spiritual or even in the idea of each of us having a soul (this reviewer, for one, doesn’t), it’s a bold idea to assume a car, any car, can awaken what many believers think is the essence of, well, you.
So does the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte follow the company’s bold claim? Let’s find out.
At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be much difference between Maserati’s new grand touring sedan and its predecessor. And with good reason. The exterior changes are mild at best, a mid-life update with only subtle enhancements to the big four-door’s styling.
Starting at the front, the familiar grille sporting the company’s distinctive Trident, has been subtly redesigned, drawing inspiration from Maserati’s stunning 2014 concept, the Alfieri. The front bumper design is all new too, along with the lower grille vents and splitter. Move to the car’s profile and you’ll notice the side skirts have undergone the designer’s touch, while the door mirrors have also been redesigned to incorporate the 360-degree cameras they now house.
It all adds up to an evolutionary model, subtly different to those in the know, but if you’re not a Maser aficionado, then you probably won’t notice much change at all.
Underneath that funky and aggressive grille, however, lurks an aerodynamic tweak that is claimed to improve the car’s aero efficiency by up to 10 per cent. Dubbed the ‘Air Shutter System’, vents inside the grille open and close to provide either optimal engine cooling (open) or optimal drag resistance (closed). The shutter’s default position is closed and it will only open when the engine requires a burst of cooling air, such as when you’re stuck in traffic. It also improves engine efficiency, as it takes less time for the engine to reach its optimal operating temperature. It’s a neat trick, and one no one will ever see.
While neat aero tricks and an aggressive new grille are nice enhancements over the incumbent Quattroporte, the big changes can be found inside the cabin and, more importantly for a performance car, under the bonnet.
There are four engine variants and nine trims levels across the Quattroporte range, which starts with the $210,000 (plus on-roads) Turbo Diesel and tops out at the $349,990 GTS GranLusso. That’s a lot of choice for customers of what is, essentially, a niche car in a niche segment.
Vying for customers in the Upper Large Sedan over $100K segment, Maserati is currently sitting at number three on the sales charts behind the Mercedes-Benz S-Class range and BMW’s flagship 7 Series. But with 54 Quattroportes sold year-to-date, Maserati faces a yawning chasm if it wants to topple segment leaders Mercedes-Benz (251) and BMW (244).
So has Maserati done enough with this, the latest iteration of the Quattroporte, to “awaken your soul” and, more importantly for the company’s bottom line, lure buyers away from the establishment?
We sampled the new Quattroporte in Australia last week, spending some decent time behind the wheel on some pretty nice driving roads around the Bathurst region. Our test loop took in around 220 kilometres, where we were able to stretch the car’s legs and get a feel for its ‘soul-awakening’ credentials.
Our first tester was the entry-level petrol V6 Quattroporte which starts at $215,000 (plus on-roads). Ours carried a few options, bumping the price up to $233,335. The extra $18K or so added a powered rear sun blind ($1302), sport pedals ($1155), distinctive red brake calipers ($1431) 20-inch Urano diamond finish wheels ($5296), high gloss Tanganika wood trim ($3613), mica paint (in black) $4092 and an 18-inch collapsible spare wheel ($1446).
Of course, for $215,000 of your hard-earned, you do get a lot of standard kit. Adaptive cruise control with stop and go, a suite of safety enhancements including lane departure warning, forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, blind spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, high resolution rear-view camera and a 360-degree surround view camera. Also standard is Maserati’s new 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment hub including satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system.
Inside the cabin, the refinements over the older Quattroporte are immediately apparent. The new centre console flows nicely into the integrated touchscreen while a console mounted rotary dialler, with nicely milled edges, feels nice in hand. A big letdown, once again, is the switchgear which just looks cheap and nasty. It’s been a complaint in the past and it is once again. To some, this might not matter, but to others who expect premium quality and feel in their $215K-plus luxury sedans, it might be a deal breaker. It’s shame because nearly every other detail in the cabin oozes premium.
The leather seats are comfortable and offer 12-way electric adjustment and lumbar support as well as heating for the front occupants. As you would expect of a car this size (it’s 5262mm long, 2128mm wide and 1481mm tall on a wheelbase if 3171mm) there’s plenty of space for front and rear occupants. In the back, there’s an abundance of legroom and three adults could fit comfortably across the bench. The centre armrest folds down to reveal a pair of cupholders for those espressos on the run as well as a USB socket. Kiddies are catered for with a pair of ISOFIX points.
Maserati claims it has spent a lot of time and money in improving the Quattroporte’s NVH characteristics which has been a bugbear in the past. To combat ever-intrusive road noise, the Quattroporte now comes with sound-deadening carpet and double-laminated acoustic glass for both the windscreen and rear window. Similarly, the side windows also offer sound deadening via their single-laminated acoustic damping. But all that noise mitigation has come at a cost, to this reviewer anyway.
Maserati’s engine note, particularly the V8, is a thing of beauty. Its crisp burble at idle is accentuated by a wonderful growl and bark with minimal throttle application. Unleash your right foot, and its Ferrari-tuned V8 howl is joyful, an automotive hymn sung by a choir of handbuilt mechanical parts singing from the same song book. It’s a delight for those that experience it. From the outside.
But, sit behind the wheel or anywhere in the cabin and those same sounds, while audible, are muffled, stifled, crushed by luxurious carpet and sound-deadening windows. It’s there, and you can hear it, but it’s like it’s coming from the house next door. And they’ve glued egg cartons to the walls.
Which is a shame. Visceral pleasures in motoring are all too few these days so stifling one of the great delights one can derive from an Italian thoroughbred like this one is, well, soul destroying.
Acoustic strangulation notwithstanding, the 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 under the long and menacing bonnet of the Quattroporte is a cracker. More powerful than its predecessor, the twin-turbo six now pumps out around 257kW (up 14kW) with an unchanged 500Nm of torque (in a very usable range of 1750-4500rpm). It’s an ample supply of power delivered with effortless ease as required. The Quattroporte was built to eat up Autostrada at speeds that could possibly land you in jail here in Australia. And while we didn’t stretch its legs to that level (I like my job, I want to keep it), cruising at 100km/h on a stretch of unrestricted highway provided a hint of the ease, comfort and luxury this Italian limo provides.
But the Quattroporte is more than just another luxury liner designed to carry its occupants, cocooned in a luxurious cabin, at a level of refinement most of us in the real world are ever likely to experience. The Quattroporte, is after all, Italian. And that brings with it some sporty expectations.
It might be a behemoth (it weighs a portly 1860kgs and the five-metre-plus body ain’t on the short side) but it is, in essence, a sport sedan. And in that regard, it is a lot of fun, if not without its flaws.
The B-roads around Bathurst aren’t the smoothest but they are fast and twisting enough to challenge the Quattroporte. Leave it in Comfort mode and you’ll barely notice a ripple as it gently cruises along the undulating and sometimes rough and pot-holed roads. The re-engineered Skyhook suspension does its best to absorb most of the minor road imperfections while the eight-speed ZF automatic transmission has a knack of choosing the right gear for you. It never leaves you wanting or scratching your head in puzzlement as to its choice of ratio.
But, and it’s a big but, switch the drive mode to Sport and it’s a different story. Sure, the engine note (what you can hear of it) takes on a more menacing tune and the suspension setting is without doubt firmer, but it comes at a cost. The suppleness of Comfort makes way for a sharper, altogether more aggressive suspension tune and with that a commensurate loss of comfort. That’s to be expected, of course, but what is less expected is the steering kickback under hard cornering. It’s not enough to leave you panicked but it it unnerving and detracts from the overall driving experience.
What it does do extremely well, however, is swallow up its dimensions. Once comfortably inside the car, there is not a hint of its gargantuan proportions. The Quattroporte feels surprisingly nimble for a car its size. It’s mostly assured on the road and the power on tap from its twin-turbo V6 - and its smooth as silk delivery - belie the car’s size. You feel like you’re driving a much smaller car than you actually are.
We did sample the $345,990 (plus on-roads) Quattroporte GTS GranSport with its stonking 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8, but our stint behind the wheel was sadly all-too-short to provide any kind of meaningful assessment. That said, it too suffered from kickback through the tiller over some of the roads’ sharper bumps, especially while cornering. And that glorious V8 engine with its lovely growl also suffered at the hands of Maserati’s in-built ‘mute button’, leaving you feeling a little short-changed. We’ll reserve judgment on the GTS, however, when we spend some extended time with it in the CarAdvice garage.
Which leaves us with the entry-level petrol variant Quattroporte. At $215,000 it has its work cut out if Maserati wants to lure buyers away from the established Germans. While increased technology and safety features to be applauded, it is still not as technically advanced as say, an S Class or a 7 Series. But, nor is it meant to be. The Germans are just as likely to be driven by someone else with the owner firmly, and comfortably, ensconced in the rear seats, but the Quattroporte is meant to be driven, and on occasion, sportingly. It’s meant to, as the marketing tag line claims, “Awaken your soul”.
And in that regard, it falls just short. From cheap-looking switchgear to acoustic damping that robs the driver of one of the automotive great pleasures in life and that steering kickback, the Quattroporte is good luxury tourer, a viable alternative for someone who wants to stand out from the crowd.
But soul-awakening? Not quite. After a pleasant and enjoyable day behind the wheel, the Quattroporte certainly tried to wake my 'soul' but it was more gentle nudge than slap in the face. My soul hit the snooze button.