Think popcorn, think movies, vanilla is plain – what flashes across your mind when you hear the name Maserati? Perhaps some old timers will remember their race machines, but a likely image is of a curvy Italian GT, rare and exotic, with a great sounding engine.
Words such as ‘long wheelbase’, ‘China’, ‘mass production’ and ‘big volumes’ probably don’t figure. For a BMW or Audi, perhaps, but surely not when it comes to Maserati.
But that’s the path Maserati is heading down. No, the Fiat-owned brand isn’t selling its soul, and the flair’s still there, but in this day and age, everyone’s got to survive. And you don’t survive by selling a few thousand units a year, no matter how much you want to ‘keep it real’.
In 2012, Maserati shifted 6,300 units. By 2015, it aims to do 50,000 units a year. And this seemingly outrageous transformation plan from boutique carmaker to credible rival of mainstream premium German brands is underpinned by this all-new Maserati Quattroporte. The ‘four-door’ will be assisted by the smaller Ghibli and upcoming Levante SUV, but we’ll focus on the limo for now.
The new Maserati Quattorporte is a different animal from its predecessor, and you don’t need a microscope to see the change. It’s long, very long if you remember the previous QP. With an overall length of 5,262 mm (up by 165 mm) and a wheelbase of 3,171 mm (108 mm longer), the Quattroporte, previously an overgrown sports sedan, is now fully embracing its role as a limo.
In fact, the distance between the QP’s front and rear wheels is the longest in its class, which consists of the standard wheelbase W222 Mercedes-Benz S-Class (3,035 mm), F01 BMW 7-Series (3,070 mm), Audi A8 (2,992 mm) and Jaguar XJ (3,032 mm).
At 3,171 mm, the Maser’s wheelbase length is comfortable in the LWB class, longer than the XJL and just four milimetres shy of the LWB V222 S-Class. The 530-litre boot is also 30% bigger than before.
The significant increase in size is vital to increase volumes in big markets such as China, where punters demand a long wheelbase in the 3-Series class, much less a limo. Conveniently, this size upgrade means that there’s room for the new Maserati Ghibli to slot under, fighting high-performance variants of the 5-Series, E-Class and Jaguar XF. So, instead of one car straddling both segments, Maserati now has two saloons sized to match the mainstream Germans.
The quest to widen appeal continues under the Quattroporte’s shapely hood. Previously, you could have any engine in your QP, as long as it’s a big, naturally-aspirated V8. Now, the big Maser can be had with a new range of turbocharged engines – a twin-turbo V8, a twin-turbo V6 and a diesel engine should cover all bases.
The 530 hp/650 Nm V8 is a new 3.8 litre unit, downsized by almost one litre from the old 4.7L motor. Two twin-scroll parallel turbos and direct fuel injection combine to deliver 18% more power and 39% more torque than before, as well as improved economy and 20% reduction in emissions. This, and a 0-100 km/h time of just 4.7 seconds (three tenths faster than the old Sport GT S), means that the flagship Quattroporte V8 GTS wins on all fronts.
But we’re in Torino to drive the Quattroporte V6 S, the variant that will pull a lot of weight in Maserati’s quest to rack up the numbers and fight the big boys in their limo game. It’s only entry-level in name, because with 410 hp and 550 Nm of torque from 1,750 to 5,000 rpm, the 3.0 litre V6 packs a big punch.
The standard rear-wheel-drive QP that Malaysia gets (S Q4 AWD is not made in right-hand-drive) does the century sprint in 5.1 seconds and a top speed of 285 km/h to dispel any doubts that still remain about its credentials.
Built by Ferrari at Maranello (yes, you read that right), both the V8 and V6 engines are closely related, jointly developed and share core components. The bore and combustion chamber design, the valve control tech (roller finger followers and four cam phasers), the twin-turbos and 200-bar direct injection system, they’re all identical, as are auxiliaries like the alternator, starter motor and power steering pump. All new Quattroportes are fitted with ZF’s AT8-HP70 eight-speed automatic transmission.
Other technical highlights include the high usage of aluminium in the body and chassis – 60% of the upper body are crafted from the lightweight metal, including the bonnet, fenders, door panels, boot lid and shock towers. As a result, the new QP is around 130 kg lighter than its predecessor despite the size increase. Maserati has also managed to achieve 50:50 weight distribution in the V8, as well as both RWD and AWD versions of the V6.
So how is it like to drive? The Quattroporte V6 is fast enough for sure, with a surge of force-fed torque to propel you to highway speeds in a blink. How this acceleration is served is entirely up to you – smooth as you like, limo style or a significantly more aggressive shift pattern in Sport mode, replete with thuds when upshifting manually via the long paddles and ‘farts’ on the overrun.
For a moment I felt like a young punk in a GTI – it was fun but juvenile in this application and slightly uncouth even. However, this is not a complaint as serene movement is only a button press away, and the new Quattroporte’s distinct dual-personality is to be celebrated. Yes, one doesn’t buy a Maserati expecting a docile, no-nonsense performance, limo or not – but won’t it be better if you had both business machine and entertainer in one?
Even without Sport mode on, the V6 is aurally charismatic compared to the Germans, and despite having so much low-end torque on demand, it’s actually worth revving it high, even if you won’t be rewarded by a howling top-end crescendo like in the old QP. Yes, the V6 is not nearly as exciting as the old naturally-aspirated V8 in buzz and sound, but those days are gone. In a world of emissions and efficiency, this is as good as it gets in this segment.
Wafting along the Autostrada A4 gave us the opportunity to admire the classy cabin of the new Quattroporte. Now, the new exterior look has become a debate point of sorts for car enthusiasts, who were largely united in their love for the old car’s looks.
Your writer understands Maserati’s need to go big, and loves that menacing front end (bookmark this line and look at our cover pic again) but is unsure of the rear-end design. That rump looks a little generic to these eyes, no thanks to those long, LED outlined rear lamps. You don’t want to spend a million bucks on a Maserati for people to confuse it with a Kia at night, do you?
There will be fewer debates on the new cabin, which although conventional in layout and design, is comfy and classy. The QP dashboard is amazingly clean, refreshing given that this is a luxury limo with plenty of toys. Access to everything is via the central Maserati Touch Control 8.4-inch touchscreen, which doesn’t come with a Comand/i-Drive-style controller – so if you want it, go press it. MTC is the single stroke that transfoms the QP cabin from button-mania to minimalist. We prefer it this way.
Wood trim (outer ring of wood on the steering is novel), lashings of chrome and the beige Poltrana Frau leather interior of this example combine for a warm, relaxing feel. We saw a few colour/trim combos in the test fleet, including a black Alcantara/carbon trim example, but the beige/wood felt most right for yours truly. Never thought I’d ever say that about a beige interior!
Move back and you have the highlight of the direction shift taken by Maser for the Quattroporte – the rear accomodation not only makes the old QP feel like a compact car, there’s enough legroom to satisfy those used to S-Class and 7-Series space.
And while not exactly a four-seater, the rear seats are nicely sculptured and you sink into them, as opposed to sit on them. One thing though, in our Italian test cars, apart from air-con controls, there were little to distract the VIPs at the back – no screens, seat adjustment or controls for the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo. The display units at the Malaysian launch had two 10.2-inch rear screens and tables, though.
The new Quattroporte may be a new kind of Maserati and a big limo, but we didn’t forget to drive it properly. To be honest, it would have been easier, not to mention safer, to just take it slow. The sinewy B-roads in Northern Italy were designed for normal-sized cars, and the Quattroporte, with its new brief, surely isn’t one. Didn’t help that the roads were damp from a morning shower and yours truly had two foreign passengers in tow.
But try we did, and the Quattroporte, size aside, was easy to point around, changing direction without the leadenness one normally associates with a car this size. We’re in Sport mode, which not only provides the above-mentioned drivetrain histronics, but hunkers down the big Maser via the standard Skyhook adaptive dampers. You never truly forget its size, especially on narrow B-roads, but when the coast is clear, it’s a willing partner when other limos feel like fish out of the water.
The Quattroporte S has the agility to match the speed, and body control is really good for a car this size, as is the hydraulic steering. If you’re waiting to hear about the comfort trade-off, sorry, the Quattroporte rides very well. European drives normally happen on smooth tarmac, but so confident was Maserati about the QP’s ride comfort, they included a pockmarked trail that cut across a field. It surprised all of us in the car, but the big Maser kept its composure in admirable style.
Maserati is very proud of its Q4 all-wheel-drive system, which now incorporates continuous torque vectoring that can send up to 50% of drive to the front wheels when needed. And what better way to show it off than allow us an all-out blast around the Langhe test course within Fiat Group’s Balocco proving ground.
Langhe is a narrow mountain road-simulating route that has it all – lots of undulations, crests and a jump mean that it’s a challenging little course for both car and driver. The QP Q4 proved to be unflappable, generating plenty of traction to keep the car on track without electronic intervention. Despite clearly not driving the Maser to its limits, I somehow managed to get the QP to swing its tail out on one occasion, surprising both yours truly and rally driver chaperone Valter Ballestrero.
We looked at each other after that aberration, and Valter insisted that it shouldn’t have happened in the Q4. That incident bought me a bonus lap, this time in the passenger seat. With a point to prove, the affable rally driver gave it all he got, while I attempted to dislodge the hand grip. It was pedal to metal in every corner while telling me “full throttle, no understeer and oversteer.” As we rolled back to the parking lot, we shook hands and I told Valter I believe in him and Q4. Both are amazing.
So there you have it, a proper Maserati limo that rivals the big boys in space and comfort, with amazing sports sedan handling and pace. A Porsche Panamera may promise the same thing, but the not-so-handsome German fails in the limo test – that cave of a cabin is no place for an industry captain. Without a doubt, the new Maserati Quattroporte is the best in mixing business with pleasure.
The Maserati Quattroporte V6 S is now available in Malaysia from Naza Italia, along with the flagship V8 GTS. Prices start from RM898,800 without road tax and insurance. Click here to read our launch report.