Car reviews - Maserati - Quattroporte - auto sedan range
Shift quality, ride and handling, comfort, interior trim choices, engine sound
Room for improvement
No 100km/h speedo increment, cheap-feeling centre console bin latch, fuel consumption
13 Apr 2007
MASERATI’S sleek yet muscular Quattroporte has been an effective contributor to the Italian marque’s recent revival, but many buyers have not been entirely satisfied with the shift quality of the electronic "DuoSelect" semi-automatic sequential transmission fitted to the car since its 2004 launch.
Now those lucky enough to afford this stylish luxury sedan are able to enjoy for the first time the convenience and comfort of a fully automatic six-speed transmission that provides the sort of smooth shift quality required at this end of the market.
Whereas the previous electronic unit was located at the rear of the car, the new ZF-made hydraulically-controlled auto is in the more conventional position – alongside the driver’s legs, attached directly to the back of the longitudinally-positioned 4.2-litre V8 engine.
This, of course, changes the weight distribution of the car, but not dramatically. In fact, the Quattroporte was previously more heavily biased towards the rear (53-47 front-rear) compared with its mostly German rivals, so the change of two percentage points (to 49-51) actually takes the car closer to the theoretically perfect 50-50 balance.
Whatever the theories, in practice the Quattroporte is a fine car to drive and we doubt that many people buying a big luxury sedan like this often explore the handling boundaries on a race circuit, where such differences might be revealed.
On the road, the car feels superbly balanced, with lots of grip, but not at the cost of ride quality. It also feels very secure on the road and never feels like stepping out of line unexpectedly.
The transmission itself provides a nice, lazy shift quality when you are cruising around town or on the highway, but responds quickly to a jab of the throttle without ever feeling urgent.
If you feel a little racey, at the push of a single button you can select the Sport mode, which not only changes the shift regime but also the suspension. The car hunkers down a little, the gearchanges are sharper and more aggressive, and cruising is done in fifth gear rather then sixth.
In this Sport mode, the Quattroporte holds gears longer, changes faster and automatically shifts down earlier, but it never feels harsh. You can also slip the elegant lever across to the left and shift manually if you prefer – or use steering wheel paddles on the Sport GT model.
Fitting the new transmission in the tunnel between the front seat passengers, plus the need for a conventional gear lever and the introduction of an electric parking brake, necessitated fitting a new centre console and most of the changes have been beneficial.
The electric park brake engages automatically when you select Park and disengages when you touch the throttle in Drive or Reverse, but tends to graunch a little if you just come off the brake to ease forward because it is still engaged.
Other changes for the 2007 model year include revisions to the Ferrari-sourced engine to match the new auto, mostly to reduce noise, vibration and harshness levels.
The high-revving engine has been tuned to produce an extra 10Nm of torque (up to 460Nm) at 250 fewer revs (4250rpm) and over a wider spread to compensate for torque losses from the new auto. Power remains at 295kW at 7000rpm.
Fuel consumption has been reduced some nine per cent, but it is still on rather hefty at 14.7L/100km, even allowing for the fact that it is more powerful than both the Audi A8 (12.0L/100km) and BMW 750i (11.4L/100km). Even the 5.5-litre Mercedes-Benz S500, which has slightly less power but much more torque, is more efficient at 13.2L/100km.
Maserati is still offering the old DuoSelect transmission as a no-cost option on all three models for those wanting the harder edge, but this also comes with the previous-spec engine. Nevertheless, the DuoSelect-equipped Quattroporte accelerates from rest to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds – some four-tenths faster than the auto.
As before, Quattroporte has literally millions of colour and trim combinations to ensure that individual style remains an essential attraction for the Maserati brand.
Fitting this new automatic transmission will only enhance the Trident company’s small but rapidly expanding customer base in Australia.
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