Maserati invented the luxury sports saloon but can the new Quattroporte take the fight to zee Germans?[Not a valid template]
Maserati invented the luxury sports saloon fifty years ago by dropping a quad-cam, V8 racing engine from a 450S into an unsuspecting four-door shell designed by Pietro Frua. It was a timely and insightful decision by Maserati. Europe was opening up due to an expanding motorway network and travelling in style and comfort combined with serious poke suddenly became an option thanks to the Quattroporte.
Fast forward 50 years and Maserati are still in the luxury sports saloon game with the sixth generation Quattroporte. However, the game has changed. Every luxury car manufacturer and their sub-brand has a four-door capable of speeds that, until recently, were the domain of stripped-out supercars. And while the new Quattroporte can brag about its performance credentials with honour, the days of Maserati owning the game are long gone.
The marque is, however, currently in a transitional phase. Considerable investment has been forked out on a new factory in Turin and development of a new series of engines, designed by Maserati Powertrain and assembled by Ferrari in Maranello. Whether this is enough to achieve Maserati’s target of selling 50,000 cars per year by 2015 will, in large part, depend on the success of its new flagship model, the Quattroporte. But can it compete with zee Germans?
Our test model today is the top of the Trident tree Quattroporte GTS, equipped with a twin-turbo, 3.8-litre V8 that produces 523bhp and 524lb/ft of torque. Considering that this newer (and larger) Quattroporte is actually lighter than the previous model, it bodes well for both performance and handling. Initially though, I elect to leave all the fun buttons disengaged and cruise around in automatic. But just for a few moments as I am naturally itching to use a clichéd ‘four-door Ferrari’ analogy.
The example we have been provided with has been quite well specced-up including the superb Bowers & Wilkins sound system and quality cowhides aplenty. The interior design is elegant and utilizes a mix of materials which successfully fight the blandness of dark austere plastic and subdued grey alcantara normally associated with luxury saloons. The switchgear and 8.4-inch touchscreen have been lifted straight from the Chrysler parts bin however and don’t quite match the styling and quality of their surroundings. It still has that Italian flare, albeit slightly reigned in.
Ride is comfortable but firm, feeling stiffer sprung and more rigid than many of its segment rivals. It wouldn’t rupture your haemorrhoids or anything, but it does hint that a little luxury has been usurped for sporting credentials on this luxury sport saloon. I approve. This is a Maserati after all and with sports mode engaged and gears being changed manually the Quattroporte’s true character comes out to play.
Those ‘seven notes‘, the distinctive soundtrack of a Maserati, are allowed to sing a little louder as the valves in the exhaust are bypassed. It is still a relatively muted soundtrack but only in comparison to the previous generation’s larger and naturally aspirated V8. Upshifting around the redline, with the super fast and smooth eight-speed ZF gearbox, produces a gratifying acoustic reward that will immediately swivel the head of any bystander.
Performance is surprising in that the twin-scroll turbochargers provide plenty of punch lowdown the rev range and lag is barely existent. Combined with the ZF ‘box with a beautifully mechanical feel on gear change, helped by solid paddle shifters made from cast aluminium, the Quattroporte uses all 523bbhp effortlessly and could easily embarrass many sportscars with its pace.
Where the Quattroporte GTS shines though is when you challenge it on the corners. It may not be as playful as the smaller Ghibli but it doesn’t behave like a full-size luxury saloon. The weight distribution is perfect 50:50 and the steering provides plenty of feedback. It also breeds a point-it-where-you-want-it confidence with its reduced ratio steering rack. This flies in the face of normal luxury motoring where the driver is cocooned from reality and any feedback from the road is dissipated through electrical over-assistance.
Maserati could have gone down the road of challenging the German marques in the luxury sports saloon shoot-out, but then, the Quattroporte may have lost its quintessential ‘Maserati-ness’. Instead, the Italian marque has focused on something within the segment that rarely gets a look-in, and that is the driving experience.
Perhaps it is the perceived Italian notion of the heart ruling the head but the Quattroporte has been imbued with character. It manages to combine luxury with Maserati racing heritage to produce an involving drive and there aren’t many cars within the luxury sports saloon segment you can say that about. What might hurt the Quattroporte’s sales is the undeniable fact that nobody with blood in their veins will ever buy one for the chauffeur to drive.
|Engine:||Twin turbocharged V8 / 3800cc|
|Power:||530hp @ 6800rpm|
|Torque:||479lb ft @ 2250 – 3500rpm|
|Transmission:||Eight speed ZF automatic / rear wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||All aluminium double wishbones / Skyhook damping system|
|Rear suspension:||Five link aluminium / SkyHook damping system|
|Brakes:||360mm x 32mm ventilated and cross-drilled Dual Cast brake discs / six-piston fixed alloy Brembo calipers (front) / four-piston fixed alloy Brembo calipers(rear)|
|Wheels:||21-inch lightweight forged wheels|
|Tyres:||245/35 (front) / 285/30 (rear)|