Car reviews - Maserati - Quattroporte - range
Sweet twin-turbo V6 and rapid V8, smart automatic, sharp and involving smooth-road handling, improved cabin roomy as ever
Room for improvement
Some cheap cabin controls, steering rack-rattle and jittery ride on country roads, expensive and can feel generic
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1 Dec 2016
IT IS appropriate that the national media launch of the Maserati Quattroporte MY17 started in Bathurst, New South Wales. Not because it is home to Australia’s most famous racetrack, but because west of the Blue Mountains also contains some of this country’s best driving roads.
The facelifted version of this stately 5262mm-long Italian upper-large sedan is pitched as the driver’s limousine, a place of luxury for occupants but also pleasure for the person turning the tiller. Apparently, it is not just for conveying those in the rear seat from boardroom to the airport.
We firstly tested the range-topping GTS GranSport at $345,990 plus on-road costs, followed by the $215,000 257kW twin-turbo V6, both to check if that target rings true and also to see which is the most alluring MY17 version.
It will take a keen eye to spot the exterior changes to the Quattroporte MY17 compared with its four-year-old original second-generation predecessor. Inside, however, a new high-resolution centre screen with revised graphics takes centre stage around the renewed climate controls.
In a sign of the times, the CD player is replaced by a handy flip-down storage bin with a USB port and a flock-line draw that neatly fits an iPhone6 Plus, we can confirm.
The leather trim quality is as rich and luxurious as before, as is the sprawling space behind the front seats. This is no compromised fastback ‘coupe’ – although centre passenger room is restricted by a bulging centre tunnel and the optional four-zone climate control really should be standard.
Likewise, although the GTS feels premium with swathes of leather across the lower dashboard and upper door trims, that treatment is replaced by basic plastics in the 257kW twin-turbo V6 model when it really should be standard.
Electric soft-close doors are not available, either, while switchgear – notably the window switches, blinker stalk and headlight controls – continue to be shared with Chrysler products and feel as cheap as they are in those much more affordable models.
The 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V8 petrol engine is thankfully a thing of far greater beauty. With 390kW of power at 6800rpm and 650Nm of torque from 2000rpm until 4000rpm (or 700Nm from 2250rpm to 3500rpm on overboost), the 1900kg GTS feels faster than its 4.7-second 0-100km/h claim would indicate.
It is also quieter than perhaps a Maserati buyer would hope, its sweet simmer never quite finding the richness of, say, a good bolognese sauce. But the way it allies with the eight-speed automatic – which is intelligent enough to know when the driving is cruising or being enthusiastic – then relentlessly piles on pace is majestic.
By far the most impressive aspect of the drivetrain, though, is the way it gets its grunt to the ground. Even considering the mighty 285mm-wide 21-inch rear Pirelli P Zero tyres, the Quattroporte’s 50:50 weight distribution, extra-long 3171mm wheelbase and rear limited-slip differential all combine to create staggering power down.
Rarely in a sedan with this much power can throttle be applied so early in a corner without back-end movement or a fight with the electronic stability control (ESC) light.
All of which applies on smooth roads, however. In either Normal or Sport mode for the adaptive suspension, the system dubbed Skyhook can make you squirm like watching a horror movie when driving on a country backroad. The Quattroporte simply cannot deal with ultra-low-profile 21-inch wheels and undulations or potholes like, say, an Audi S8 Plus can.
The hydraulically assisted steering that proved sharp and feelsome on smooth roads also provides nasty, aggressive kickback even on moderately uneven surfaces at speed.
Teamed with abundant tyre roar, the GTS struggles to fulfill the ‘GT’ part of its name while ‘S’ could mean smooth-roads only.
Surprisingly, swapping to the $100K-cheaper 257kW twin-turbo V6 was hardly a downgrade. The engine – which now gets an extra 14kW of power – is mostly sweet except for some graininess at the top end, and a 5.5s 0-100km/h is not exactly slow.
Even the slightly smaller 20-inch tyres delivered a dramatic increase in ride comfort while reducing steering kickback. In fact, the excellent chassis balance and mostly enjoyable steering can be exploited to a further degree over a greater variety of surfaces than in the GTS.
We could understand why someone would pick this Quattroporte 257kW twin-turbo V6 over a similarly priced BMW 740i or especially the Mercedes-Benz S400L. A GTS is also more impressive dynamically (at least on smooth roads) than an Audi S8 Plus or Mercedes-AMG S63.
Maserati’s pitch that it trades technology for dynamics does not ring perfectly true, however.
On Australian roads both Quattroporte MY17 models struggle to deliver the soothing refinement or dynamic finesse expected of vehicles with such a high pricetag – they are likeable gems, but ones that also require further polish around the edges.
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