Maserati Quattroporte is a revelation

DAVE MOORE
Last updated 06:10 03/02/2014

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It's a credit to the designers of Maserati's new Quattroporte that they've managed to insert the segment's longest wheelbase into such a crisp, taut, and attractive profile.

AT A GLANCE
Drivetrain: Front-mounted RWD quad cam four valve per cylinder twin-turbocharged direct injected V-format engines with eight-speed automatic transmissions.
Outputs:
S -
2979cc 60 degree V6, producing 301kW at 5500rpm, 550Nm at 1750-5000rpm;
GTS - 3799cc 90 degree V8, producing 390Kw at 6800rpm, 650Nm at 2250-3500rpm.
Performance:
S -
Max 283kmh, 0-100kmh 5.1 seconds, 10.4L/100km, 246g/km CO 2 emissions;
GTS - Max 307kmh, 0-100kmh 4.7 seconds, 11.8L/100km, 274g/km CO 2 emissions.
Safety: Ventilated disc brakes front and rear, ABS, EBA, EBD, BAS, Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR), five-star Euro NCAP crash rating.
Connectivity: Bluetooth streaming for audio and phone car set-up, USB, Aux-in, 8.4" touchscreen navigation.
Dimensions: L 5262mm, W 1948mm, H 1481mm, W/base 3171mm, F/track 1634mm, R/track 1647mm, Weight 1860-1900kg, Fuel 80L.
Pricing:
Quattroporte V6 "S"
$194,900,
Quattroporte V8 "GTS" $258,900.
Hot: Amazing space for such grace; aggressive new pricing structure; stunning V8 performance and vocal accompaniment; talented chassis.
Not: Photographs don't do it justice; not as pretty in light colours; low-profile wheels and tyres tramline too much; anonymous rear styling.
Verdict: A revelation. Drive this and you understand how plausible Maserati's sales ambitions really are. Every German maker should study this car.

Straight off the stick, the car is longer between the wheels than everything with a German badge on it in this class, save for the extended, or "L" version of BMW's 7-series. So confident is the brand that it has sufficient space as a result that it's even eschewing an extended version for China, a market that has spawned lengthened versions of just about everyone else's offerings in recent times.

It certainly is bigger inside, I could stretch out my 1.88m frame until almost horizontal, despite the fact that the front seats contain a seatback entertainment system that makes them twice as thick. You can go for a three-place squab if you wish or a pair of captain's chairs with a storage and control console in between.

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That's how my Quattroporte would be. Taking three hangers-on with me is my limit, sorry.

As well as offering improved space, the new Quattroporte is a broader-based proposition than its predecessor in that from its launch it is to be made available with an entry-level version, to go with the requisite GTS V8 expected in this class. Ferrari- built 3.0-litre V6 and 3.8-litre V8 engines will be offered in the Quattroporte, both with twin turbochargers; the V6 producing 301kW/550Nm and the V8 390kW/ 709Nm. There'll also be a new four-wheel-drive system called Q4 for some markets, a system which will also find itself driving Maserati's Levante luxury SUV by 2015. Also for some markets will be a turbo V6 diesel version of the car. A business case for such a model might be part of European Automotive Imports' intentions for the car in Australia and New Zealand, but this remains undecided.

What has been decided is the cars' pricing, which starts at $194,900 for the V6 and $258,900 for the V8, making the model one of the sharpest buys in the large sports-luxury segment.

We don't like to twist the knife into our Australian colleagues - much - but the not so lucky country's eye-watering luxury car tax means that the smaller engined Quattroporte V6 S starts at A$240,000, with the V8 GTS asking A$319,800, or $255,750 and $341,000 respectively when that's converted into our currency.

So, as well as being lighter, more powerful, more spacious and more frugal, the new Maserati is also less expensive - in both countries - than its predecessor and you can understand the logic when Maserati says the V6-powered Quattroporte S is destined to become the most important model.

Maserati Australia/New Zealand chief Glen Sealey's states that the new V6 starter-car is destined to become the biggest- selling car in the lineup. Sealy says the new Quattroporte S takes Maserati into a new area of the market.

It's plain to see that the S model is a hugely important part of Fiat/ Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne's wish to take the marque up to 50,000 car sales a year by 2015 from just 6,200 in 2012. Marchionne refers to this movement as the "Maserati Revolution,' whose success is also predicated by the successful introduction of the new BMW 5-series sized Ghibli sedan - which will be here within months - and the Levante. When the Ghibli arrives, it will give the Maserati line-up an even sharper starting point, though Mr Sealey is so far not being drawn on its actual sticker. We'd suggest you look at 5-series window cards and make your own conclusions.

It's important to Maserati that it creates the new car at its new pricing without compromising its strengths. Glend Sealy reckons: "[it delivers] Maserati's exclusivity, style and performance at a previously unavailable price without any loss in ability or features that lift Maserati above the common herd."

In fact we can report that this herd, like the ones that gave their all to clad the Italian ultra-saloon its hide-lined cabin is very uncommon indeed. Spending time in the new Quattroporte GTS V8 driving down the New South Wales coast and then up into the hinterland, I soon realised that here was a car that could move freely between several distinct personalities, but not in a Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde sort of way.

It can be an obsequious, butler- like factotum one minute, oozing gently through Sydney traffic, where tall, car-crunched kerbs need to be watched constantly. In that situation, the car's chassis settings can be dialled into still providing some necessary nimbleness without shaking up the Maserati's occupants. In fact even on 20-inch rims, the car progressed in a remarkably sumptuous shock-free manner.

Show the car even a hint of an opportunity and its new, smaller 3.8-litre V8 (the old car had a 4.7) erupts into a twin-turbocharged blast of ear-massaging acceleration to complete overtaking manoeuvres with implausible seat-crushing alacrity without testing outer Sydney's ubiquitous speed cameras.

When the road snakes down the coast and provides a platform on which to enjoy the car's grip and handling, the chassis can be tightened up to taste and the eight- speed paddle shifters employed to shuffle through the sedan's engine repertoire, while the 32 valve V8 orchestra demonstrates that the new Quattroporte has lost none of its musical accompaniment.

While Glen Sealey says that most owners prefer and order the 21 inch rims - which do look superb, especially on my mafia black test car - I'd go for the 20-inchers.

When powering through the twistier parts of the route with the Maserati snugly in its backroad bruiser mode, the larger diameter wheels were too affected by roadmakers' patches and changes of texture, wriggling about a centimetre or two from side to side in a classic demonstration of "tramlining".

The 20-inch rims were not affected by such influences at all, and offer, it appears just as much grip as the more sporting wheel and rubber setup.

The backroad talent of the car is flawless regardless of wheel choice. Whichever mood you wish to take advantage of, the Quattroporte delivers, with remarkable turn-in accuracy and a sense of balance and wellbeing that not many seriously large cars can emulate. It's all helped by the car's roll and stability mitigation setup, which lays a guiding hand over proceedings without being the killjoy that many early systems used to be, and its actions are barely perceptible unless you deliberately try to sense it.

Bigger and more spacious the new Quattroporte may be, but thanks to the use of lightweight aluminium blended with high quality steel, the car saves 100kg over the previous model, and with most of that weight saving coming from the body-in-white, the centre of gravity has benefited too. With the engines both set well back into the engine bay, the V6 and V8 each have a close to 50:50 front-rear weight spread and this explains how something so sumptuous and calm one minute can be so biddable and entertaining the next.

I didn't get the opportunity to try the smaller-engined car - that's another month or two away from showrooms - but while Maserati says the GTS V8 is the quickest sedan it has ever made, with a top-end of 307kmh and a zero to "sorry, officer" time of 4.7 seconds, the S V6 car is not far behind, giving away just 24kmh and less than half a second respectively.

Which means the new V6 is as quick as the old V8 was, putting its sub $200k sticker into even sharper relief. Again this sharpened performance is partly the result of weight saving, as is the economy rating which is a combined 11.8L/100km for the V8 and 10.4L/km for the V6.

These factory figures must be contrived for EU countries with higher cruising speeds than those in Australia and New Zealand, for my crew and I managed well under 10L average by the time we'd returned to Sydney.

Fun though it is to personally conduct the Quattroporte, the rear of the cabin is a remarkably comfortable and deliciously fragrant place to sit. The hide in the biscuit leather-lined cabin smells so good that I constantly rubbed my hands over it, hoping that it would transfer some of its perfume and flexibility to my dry hard-worn hands.

Double glazing well contained wind flurry around the body and suspension and chassis bushing that appears to quell a lot of the road clamour from the tyres, makes the Quattroporte what I call "a five-minute car", five minutes being the time it takes to fall asleep in the back of the beast when it's driven by a wise and considerate driver.

I did the same in the front, truth be known while navigating, tired after flying in from New Zealand and both my co-driver and I agreed that the car was possibly "too quiet". Then we exercised it on a gorgeously serpentine route and listened to the car's full hammer and tongs grit and glory, and changed our minds from "too quiet" to "just right". Goldilocks would love it.

If the car's engine doesn't provide enough racket, the Maserati's Bowers and Wilkins sound system will find other ways to entertain you, and trust me, your streaming iPhone playlist will never sound better.

I wasn't expecting the new Quattroporte to be as good as it was for two reasons. First, I didn't like the way it looked - until I viewed it in the flesh. Clever camera work with a long lens can artificially flatten the car's curves when viewed three-quarters front or rear. The human eye is better than that, and I now really admire the muscularity of the car and the new sharper-edged grille line.

From the rear the car could be mistaken for a Lexus, Audi or BMW, until you move out a few degrees and allow the curves to indentify the car more emphatically.

The second reason was that the car's new engine is so much smaller than that gorgeous 4.7-litre unit. That it's quicker and even more operatic than the old block, makes the new 3.8 one of the best V8s of the moment. And with all the great work that Maserati has done with the rest of it, you could say that the whole car is one of the very best too, and at prices that make Australian journalists consider migration to New Zealand, a starting sticker of under $200,000 makes its importers' suggestion that New Zealand will take just 10 of Australia's 100 Quattroporte allocation patently ridiculous. At least at that price grey importers won't be able to afford to fill the need.

- The Press

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