MAINST REAM FLAIR
Larger and less distinctive yet amazingly entertaining, Maserati has taken the middle road with the new Quattroporte. Is it a better car overall? wheels’ Sony Thomas finds out
The Maserati Quattroporte, like a lot of sporty fourdoors, has been a paradox, an inconsistency on wheels. It had the soul of a sportscar, but one trapped in a body from which it seemingly couldn’t wait to be ripped away. As stirring and capable as it was, the previous model was more bipolar than a fine blend of two vivid personalities, having been deficient on the practicality front.
The Trident apparently wants to change all that with the 2013 version that’s been launched here. No wonder, then, words like space, practicality and fuel economy feature prominently in the press kit for the car, which is now competing directly with best-sellers like the MercedesBenz S-Class, the BMW7 Series, Audi A8 and the Jaguar XJ.
For Maserati, this is the first step in its ambitious expansion plan to bump up sales to no fewer than 50,000 cars in a year by 2015 from around 6,000 now. Is this the right step? If you go by sheer numbers, it proves to be a credible rival to the major players in the segment. At 5,262mm long, 1,948mm wide, 1,481mm tall and with a wheelbase of 3,171mm, the Quattroporte is now as big as the long-wheelbase variants of other luxury flagships.
However, the Quattroporte hides its bulk pretty well. The in-house design isn’t as dramatic as the Pininfarina-styled precursor. But that’s not a bad thing. A crisp crease running from front fender to the taillight lends a solid character to the car, while the sleek new headlights and grille with vertical bars give it a quietly attractive countenance. The
only part that doesn’t look fit for a Maserati is the rear, which appears more German than Italian.
The biggest change in the cabin is the substantial increase in overall space, but you won’t miss the uncharacteristic subtlety and restraint. The interior isn’t as distinct in design or craftsmanship as before, with simplicity seemingly the mantra.
Passengers, especially those in the rear, will appreciate the extra leg and shoulder-room freed up by the longer wheelbase and wider body. The new model can be specced from a choice of two interior configurations – a regular five-seat and more luxurious four-seat layout for those who would prefer to be chauffeur-driven.
The rear seats are super comfortable, but it beats me why anyone would ever want to sit there, as under the Quattroporte’s sinuously graceful lines lives a Ferraribuilt 3.8-litre V8 with twin-scroll turbo that’s good for 530bhp and a staggering 710Nm of torque. Mated to an eight-speed ZF automatic gearbox, this mill helps the car despatch the 0-100kph sprint in just 4.7 seconds before topping out at 307kph – the fastest Maserati four-door ever.
The new V8 is splendid and turbo lag is virtually non-existent. Whereas the old 4.7-litre V8 had to be wrung out close to its 7,200rpm redline to extract its juice, the twin-turbo’s thrust is instant with plenty of torque on tap regardless of where the rev needle is. However, the infernal snarl of the normally aspirated V8 in the previous version has been traded for a more muffled growl.
For a car this size, the Quattroporte is surprisingly engaging
and fun to drive, with an impressively communicative steering. Thanks to the limo’s perfect 50:50 weight distribution and the Skyhook suspension system, the car is amazingly poised around corners. Flicking it to Sport mode further firms up the suspension and steering, while making the transmission and engine remarkably more responsive.
It also keeps the exhaust valves wide open throughout the rev range, however, the exhaust note is still not as intense as before. Leave it in Normal mode and the Quattroporte is as comfortable and luxurious a cruiser as any of its major rivals. Good-looking, spacious and serving up a more fulfilling drive, the Quattroporte has no personality crisis any more. It deftly blends its two separate characters to make a bigger, lighter, faster and a more well-rounded luxury limo that’s better equipped to take on the likes of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. And with a 410bhp V6 version offering both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options expected later this year, this new model has the potential to add significant numbers to Maserati’s 2015 dream.
Thanks to perfect 50:50 weight distribution, it’s brilliant around corners