Finally, a return to form for the Italian brand with the updated 2017 Maserati Quattroporte.
It’s not often an ultra-luxury vehicle gets a mid-life update so extensive as the one found in the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte, but as the Italian brand seeks world domination over its European rivals in what is a hotly-contested segment, the refresh for this super-sedan brings some much-welcome changes.
Love it or hate it, the Maserati Quattroporte turns heads. If anything, that’s a huge understatement as our relatively conservative looking $215,000 (plus options and on-road costs) twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 Silver Quattroporte test car attracted so much attention anywhere it went, we began to question the sanity of onlookers.
It was genuinely a big surprise to see so many people point at the Quattroporte as it drove past, with some even taking photos. Strange indeed, for it’s a large sedan and not a supercar from sister-brand Ferrari! Our conclusion was that perhaps the allure of the Maserati brand is much stronger than we give it credit for.
For those of us in the car reviewing business, we have been somewhat hard on the Italian brand lately. After all, for some time, Maserati had lost its way and the essence of what makes a Maserati a Maserati seemed to have been exchanged for commonality of parts with the likes of Jeep and Chrysler.
This hasn’t exactly changed completely, and the Levante SUV is a case in point, for it’s far too much Grand Cherokee and not enough Maserati, but the updated Quattroporte is almost like a return to form.
It’s the first Maserati we’ve driven in, well, forever, that not only ticked all the boxes in terms of price, performance, comfort and luxury, but also felt grand and worthy of the Trident badge.
The most notable update to the Quattroporte is the front and rear bumpers, which bring a matte black profile at the front and the matte black extractor at the rear. The MY17 Quattroporte now has more resemblance to the Levante from the front, but also utilises active aero by the adoption of electric air shutters which, the company claims, reduce aerodynamic drag by 10 per cent.
The turbocharged V6 engine has seen its power boosted to 257kW with 500Nm of torque. It will now do the 0-100km/h run in a respectable 5.5 seconds. It feels pretty quick for a car this big and the ZF eight-speed automatic does wonders for extracting the most from the engine in the smoothest way possible.
What really makes you smile, though, is the noise when Sport mode is engaged. It’s not the Ferrari-inspired V8 sound you might get in the GTS, but it’s still very rewarding and certainly adds to the allure of owning an Italian car.
We did notice in our test car there were occasional moments of surging when the speed was constant and the Quattroporte was powering slightly uphill. The large sedan would surge forward slightly then stop and then repeat over and over. If we released the accelerator and retried, the issue would cease. Odd, but all part of the charm.
Maserati’s insistence with hydraulic steering systems is massively noticeable as you get the type of feel and feedback from the Quattroporte’s steering wheel that is all but gone in modern cars. It’s a tremendous sensation and we applaud the Italians for sticking with what is best, rather than what saves an extra two per cent in fuel economy tests.
Nonetheless, it’s still a big car and while it's dynamically very competent for its size, it’s not the type of car you’d drive enthusiastically for extended periods of time. That's not its purpose. It sits high enough that it can be driven as a daily without a worry.
However, it needs that level of dynamic ability, for the Maserati Quattroporte competes with everything from the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, BMW 7 Series and even the Porsche Panamera and Jaguar XJ.
Unlike the offerings from the three big Germans, the Maserati doesn’t blend in to traffic. That has its up- and downsides depending on your personality. Frankly though, we prefer our high-end cars to look a little different to a base model C-Class or 3 Series.
You would expect, then, that beauty is not very skin deep in the Quattroporte, but you would be wrong.
Jump inside and the large sedan oozes class and sophistication. It lacks the technological gadgetry and contemporary design of the S-Class and 7 Series but it makes up for it with every other virtue possible. It’s a beautiful cabin with expert use of wood throughout and an overall design and theme which will date much better than the giant screen ‘wow’ factor of the Germans (which we love for other reasons).
Most importantly, it finally gets an infotainment system that doesn’t drive you mad. The 8.4-inch unit has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with a new rotary control knob system, but even without those, it’s super-fast and very easy to use.
Yes, it’s almost identical to the one you get in a new Jeep, but at least it works and we’d rather have this than some quirky Italian system that decides to go on siesta every time you try and use it.
There’s also a perfectly positioned storage area for modern smartphones that easily accommodated and protected our iPhone7+ like it was designed for it.
The rear seats are enormous and this is undoubtedly the type of car that will swallow up five average adults for long trips.
We had our family of four on board as we took a long drive form Brisbane out towards Warwick and back, and the Maserati’s interior quietness and comfort really impressed us. There’s very little road noise inside the cabin and despite riding on the optional ($5296) 20-inch wheels, the ride comfort was excellent.
The now standard active safety features, which include adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane departure and forward collision warning as well as autonomous emergency braking, are a big bonus across the whole range. We found ourselves not touching the brake or the accelerator pedal for a good hour on the highway stretch of our journey out west. We tested this in pitch black conditions, with heavy rain, and it never once misbehaved.
On the downside, we found the leather inside the cabin and on the seats somewhat hard and artificial in feel, despite the additional $13,205 for the full natural leather option on our car (same leather as without the option, just more of it around the cabin). We also found the new parking brake system a tad confusing, for its push to engage and push to disengage, which seems someone counterintuitive.
But what really didn’t impress us was the gearstick, which is possibly the most annoying feature of any modern car ever envisioned, the same gearstick that has been the centre of plenty of controversy in Fiat-Chrysler models in North America.
The problem? Instead of having Park as a separate button (like BMW, Mercedes and Audi), it sits at the very top of the gear selection. So, if you push all the way up, it goes into park. That sounds reasonable, right?
Well, no, because when you want to go from Drive to Reverse, you end up in Park, and when you want to go from Park to Reverse, you end up in Drive. It’s like a bad comedy of errors that can drive any sane human to the brink of madness.
When you’re concentrating, it’s not an issue. But when you’re trying to do a three-point turn with cars waiting, it becomes very frustrating. We thought we’d get used to it after a week, but it only got worse and drove us further into thoughts of extreme violence for those that engineered it.
Surely it can’t be that hard to fix with just a single extra button for Park, leaving Reverse at the top and Drive at the bottom? But heck, undoubtedly hundreds of millions was spent on the R&D of this transmission system with plenty of market group testing, so maybe it’s just us. Maybe.
To be fair, if you did actually own the car you would at some point learn to use it without bringing the Lord's name into disrepute, so our rant shouldn’t be a deterrent to purchase, but serve as an early warning that it’s a ‘feature’ that needs a bit of patience at first.
Overall, our love of the Maserati Quattroporte was not affected by its little quirks. It’s a truly sensational car and one which stands out in a segment dominated by Germans. It’s well priced for what you get and it's the type of super luxury sedan you buy if you want to make a subtle statement that says something more than just ‘me-too’.