A taste of Italy to woo Aus­tralia

Herald Sun - Motoring - - PRESTIGE - CHRIS RI­LEY chris.ri­ley@news.com.au

MASERATI is slowly com­ing out of the shad­ows of bet­ter­known sib­ling Fer­rari.

Ten years ago the com­pany was sell­ing just 80 cars an­nu­ally in Aus­tralia but the tally is ex­pected to climb to 500 this year. The aim is to ex­pand to 1500 with two new mod­els — in­clud­ing the com­pany’s first SUV — sched­uled in the next two years.

The most re­cent growth has come from the com­pact Ghi­bli sedan, at the ex­pense of sales of the big­ger Qu­at­tro­porte.

To reignite in­ter­est in the Qu­at­tro­porte, Maserati has added a fourth en­gine vari­ant — a de­tuned and less thirsty ver­sion of its twin turbo V6.

With claimed fuel con­sump­tion of just 9.1L/ 100km, the 243kW V6 joins the 301kW coun­ter­part, 201kW diesel and 390kW V8.

More im­por­tantly it brings the price of the car within cooee of the en­try diesel and is likely to be a more at­trac­tive op­tion than the diesel.

The com­pany is also look­ing to at­tract more fe­male buy­ers by a new Zegna silk in­te­rior up­hol­stery op­tion.

All four en­gines now meet strict Euro6 emis­sions, all are paired with an 8-speed au­to­matic and all come with auto stop-start to save fuel.

As a re­sult of this and other en­gine up­grades Maserati claims fuel sav­ings of up to 12 per cent across the range.

Safety gear in­cludes a rear view cam­era, blind spot warn­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert, al­though there’s still no au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing.

ON THE ROAD

Maserati is quick to de­fend the less pow­er­ful V6, claim­ing it pro­vides an “un­matched” blend of per­for­mance and econ­omy.

We put the claim to the test on a fly­ing round-trip to the Hunter Val­ley.

The Qu­at­tro­porte is more than five me­tres long and takes up plenty of road, so squeez­ing be­tween semis in city traf­fic can be nerve-rack­ing.

Thank­fully oth­ers tend to give the car a wide berth, out of re­spect or per­haps con­cern for the likely cost of a bin­gle. Given the start­ing price in ex­cess of $200,000, that’s a com­fort.

Once we clear the city the big sedan is free to stretch its legs. With the trans­mis­sion in sport mode and the ad­justable dampers set to sport, we open up the throt­tle for the first time.

Progress is grat­i­fy­ing but don’t ex­pect this one to pin your ears back.

Large me­tal gear change pad­dles are fixed to the steer­ing col­umn, so there’s no need to chase them around the wheel.

They’re handy for ex­e­cut­ing a quick gear change but it’s not un­til you switch to full man­ual mode that the V6 re­ally comes to life.

The new model re­tains hy­draulic steer­ing, which re­acts quickly and points well enough for a large sedan.

Our test car pulls up sharply, even with­out the op­tional Brembo brakes.

Baf­fles in the ex­haust sys­tem are de­signed to open wide at 4200rpm to give full throat to the twin turbo en­gine.

It may not be the bur­ble and bark of a V8 but there’s noth­ing wrong with the sound of a high­per­for­mance six — we just wish this one was a lit­tle louder.

At the end of our 320km jaunt the trip com­puter shows fuel use of 12.5L/100km.

Not bad but the eco mode (or ICE in Maserati’s par­lance) and less right-foot vigour would prob­a­bly pro­duce a lower re­turn.

VER­DICT

A wor­thy ad­di­tion to the sta­ble.

It will en­able in­tend­ing buy­ers — es­pe­cially those at­tracted by the Qu­at­tro­porte’s style rather than per­for­mance — to over­look the en­try diesel.

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