Car reviews - Maserati - Quattroporte - GTS
Charismatic and sonorous V8 soundtrack, decadent interiors, rear-seat comfort, physics-defying acceleration
Room for improvement
Jittery ride in comfort mode, about-town maneuverability, clunky gearshift paddles
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29 Jan 2014
HERE is a message to all car-makers currently in the process of designing sporty models: you can’t put a price on an evocative engine note.
And by this, we don’t mean a racket piped into the cabin via the speakers, as used in a small but increasing array of performance cars on sale today, but the real organic deal.
The new Maserati Quattroporte is all the proof you need. In the same way that people feel compelled to hang out of a limousine sunroof, sometimes making your presence known is part of the fun.
The Maserati Quattorporte returns with all the quality, head-turning styling and performance associated with the big Italian sedan, but most importantly it has retained its shouty exhaust. There is nothing synthetic about the way the new Quattroporte sounds.
In place of the previous Ferrari-derived V8 there is now Maserati’s own twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V8 producing 390kW/710Nm and a seriously entertaining soundtrack.
With full throttle at low rpm, the 90-degree V8 produces a deep satisfying bassy rumble, which is joined after a little lag by the unmistakable hiss of turbos accelerating.
Once at full-boost the brace of turbochargers produced a fantastic whistle, which was only drowned out by the sonorous V8 as it nears its dizzy 7000rpm red-line.
A snatch at the up-shift steering-wheel paddle produced a rifle-like crack from the tailpipes and a loud whoosh as the surplus boost pressure was vented.
The whole performance was intoxicating and particularly charismatic because of its irregularity – sometimes the exhaust would buzz and complain on downshifts, other times it would resonate and burble or crackle.
A system that plays a sample of an engine sound through speakers simply cannot create the theatre of the Maserati. In our minds there is simply no comparison.
The Quattroporte is also another excellent case-in-point proving that the presence of a turbocharger doesn’t always have to soften and pacify the exhaust note.
Many car-makers insist that placing the restriction of a turbine in an exhaust system removes the dry bark of a normally aspirated note, but again we say that the Quattroporte manages to buck this trend too.
The engine is nothing short of a glorious piece of engineering offering low down-torque, high-rpm power, supercar acceleration to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds and surprising fuel consumption of 10.0 litres per 100km (we managed a figure closer to 14.0l/100km with enthusiastic progress).
Such is the versatility of the engine that it took renowned transmission builder ZF around six years to develop a transmission to deal with the combination of torque and high revs.
The result is an eight-speed automatic capable of shifting aggressively and quickly with haste but also provides a comfortable ride at more sedate speeds.
We particularly like the I.C.E. button which softens the throttle sensitivity, thieves a few Newton-metres from the engine and slickens the gearshift for use in snow and icy conditions, but we found it provided a more comfortable ride about town too.
Sitting in Sydney’s all too typical traffic was less frustrating in a large Italian super-sedan with excellent sound insulation, efficient climate-control and seating a country-club would be proud of, even if maneuvering required extra concentration given the generous proportions.
With all that drama going on under the bonnet it was difficult to concentrate on the other elements that come with the Quattroporte package, but we made time to sit back and relax, taking in the fantastically appointed interiors.
One test-car had been optioned with lighter tones complemented by a beautiful un-lacquered and richly grained wooden dash, which looked as if it had been lifted straight form an expensive Italian shotgun.
Our pick was the darker interior with black Alcantara roof lining and carbon-fibre dash, which made the cabin a much cozier place to be and added a sporty feel in place of the more traditional cream leather and wood. Take your pick – they were both great.
The entry level Quattroporte has space for three on the rear bench but our mid-spec car had the two-plus-one offering, which allowed a third rear passenger if they didn’t mind perching on a rather uncomfortable pew.
The two proper rear seats lacked adjustability but were every bit as comfortable as the front spots, with ventilation, rear privacy/sun blinds and the option to have large entertainment screens fitted.
Maserati has kept everything very simple when it comes to equipment with only the most frequently used functions controlled with buttons and switches and everything else accessed through the entertainment and information system.
This move has kept the cabin feeling classy, uncluttered understated and allows occupants to appreciate the design and we particularly liked how any dynamic drive controls were limited to a row of just five no-nonsense switches.
The first button turns the sports suspension on or off, the ‘sport’ button makes the exhaust note a bit naughtier, another button selects the aforementioned I.C.E. mode, ‘M’ selects manual gear shifting and a traction-control off button for the brave.
It’s all very simple and straightforward.
Not one element of the previous Quattroporte has been carried over including the suspension and it is here we found a small anomaly.
Over rough surfaces quite noticeable vibrations were transmitted through the steering and rear suspension, which seemed to be amplified by the big sedan’s generous 3171mm wheel-base, manifesting itself as a juddering felt by both front occupants.
However, and quite perplexingly, hitting the sport-suspension on button changed everything.
With the stiffer setting selected, all shuddering through the steering evaporated making the passenger seats a nicer place to be with the added benefit of a more rewarding experience for the driver too.
Sailing through winding roads both fast and slow with sport exhaust and suspension modes engaged was a memorable experience, one that defied the substantial 1900kg kerb-weight.
The vast 21-inch slender spoked alloy wheels hooked on like talons and perfectly framed the large red brake calipers behind, but unsurprisingly offered little in the way of shock-absorbency and allowed a little too much road-noise in to the cabin.
The 20-inch option was better but at the cost of reduced aesthetic sensation.
Steering weight was satisfyingly heavy while moving at pace and the variable power-steering lightened up well when slowing down for traffic or parking, but we found the good-looking steering wheel a touch on the large side to achieve true sports status.
While the list of equipment generally reflected the asking price there were one or two surprising exclusions, with an absence of electric motors on the boot-lid and sunroof blind, while paddle gear shifters didn’t rotate with the steering-wheel.
Not only did the paddles not revolve with the wheel, they also required rather a long travel to actuate which gave a somewhat agricultural feel compared to the rest of the car.
When it comes along later this year the twin-turbo V6 S version of Maserati’s Quattroporte will offer a saving of around $80,000 compared with the currently available V8 GTS and that figure will have a lot of customers gravitating towards the six-pot.
But no matter how accomplished the 3.0-litre engine may be, it will have big shoes to follow in with its high-achieving big-sister.
The Quattroporte GTS is an accomplished four-door with performance and pricing to hold its own despite some impressive alternatives from around the world, but thanks to its sensational engine, the big Maserati offers a level of soul and character that is hard to beat.
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