Car reviews - Maserati - Quattroporte - S
Fast and loud V6 powertrain, slick eight-speed auto, improved cabin space and quality, steering and body control, $80k cheaper than similarly-specced GTS
Room for improvement
No DAB+, autonomous brakes or blind-spot monitoring, instrument fascia lacks the jazz of an S-Class Benz, borderline short on headroom, wind noise
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17 Nov 2014
What do you buy if you’re a high-roller with a need for speed and space?Well, a luxurious SUV and something small and sporty for the weekend could make an ideal double act. But then, so could the latest Maserati Quattroporte, a rival for the S-Class Benz with extra flair, or the Porsche Panamera with more sex appeal.
Maserati has not messed with the established formula overmuch, though it has improved rear legroom — it’s roomier back there than in the Benz — and a bigger boot that can swallow several golf sets, or a fellow motoring writer (we were stationary during this test, rest assured).
What it has changed is its approach to engines. The old model had a pair of V8s on offer, but only one engine option on this new one has eight cylinders. The other, which we drive here, has a twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6, which will see service in other future Maseratis but makes its premiere here.
At $240,000 plus on-road costs (and lots of luxury car tax), the S is $80,000 cheaper than the V8, but lacks nothing in the way of standard equipment.
Plus, with 301kW (at 5500rpm) and 550Nm (between 1750 and 5000rpm), at its disposal, it can dash from 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds, just 0.4s off the GTS.
So what’s the catch? Well, we’re stumped. Perhaps the romance of a V8 soundtrack — and not wanting to appear to be a cost-cutter to your friends at the top end of town — could qualify as reasons to spend the extra.
Maserati’s Australian distributor expects about 70 per cent of all Quattroportes sold here to be the six, and it’s small wonder why.
Our guess at why you may opt for the V8 is not meant to infer that the V6 lacks much in the way of theatre. Under heavy throttle, it lets out a snap, crackle and bark, and at idle still does plenty to grab attention. And grabbing attention is sort of what having a Maserati is all about, right? The V6, like the V8, is matched to a re-tuned version of the eight-speed automatic used in a range of BMWs and the Jaguar F-Type.
As in those cars, it is less intrusive than a Victorian butler unless you program sports mode to hold lower ratios, while under harder driving, the manual shift paddles (column, not steering wheel-mounted) add extra engagement.
Find a nice piece of winding surface — our choice was Victoria’s Great Ocean Road — engage both the throttle/transmission sports setting and racier damping via buttons on the transmission tunnel, and the Maserati simply chews up the tarmac in a way an 1860kg car by rights should not.
Like the Porsche, the Quattroporte belies its size, all 5262mm of it (sitting an a 3171mm wheelbase, and occupying 2100mm of road width including mirrors).
The benefit of the wheelbase is much-improved rear legroom, though the headroom with sunroof is average at best.
Maserati eschews electro-hydraulic steering here, in favour of old-school servo-assisted hydraulic assistance, full of feel and weight. The electronically and independently controlled dampers, especially in firmer sports setting, keep the car stuck to the road, and the ESC even allows a small flick of the tail on exit.
The ride, in regular mode, is borderline firm for the class and less serene than some rivals, especially on the larger 20-inch wheels of one test car, but to us that befits the Maserati’s sportier nature. In sports setting, it becomes noticeably firm, though rarely busier than it needs to be. We did manage to bottom out over a nasty back-road, though.
Further complaints here are limited, though we found a little too much wind noise for comfort at cruising speed, though Maserati has managed to insulate most of the road noise emanating from the standard 19-inch and optional 20-inch optional wheels.
The old Quattroporte’s cabin was a bit of a low point, because while it was comfortable in the front, its fascia was infested with too many buttons and its rear legroom was lacking. We have addressed the improved legroom already, but we’re happy to say the cleaner new dash layout is a step in the right direction as well.
Build quality and surface tactility is excellent, though again falls just short of Mercedes and its peerless new S-Class, even in base form. The big leather seats are comfortable and supportive and, unlike many Italian cars, its ergonomics spot on.
That said, we are not fans of the Chrysler Group touchscreen, not because it’s a bad unit — it is actually quite good — but because it looks down-market. We’d also rather a rotary controller a la BMW’s 7 Series, Lexus’ GS or, again, the S-Class.
Some features are also missing, namely digital radio, autonomous brakes and blind-spot monitoring. Maserati says it prefers drivers to ‘drive’, without safety helpers. But really, at this price point it should at least offer switchable versions.
A head-up display would not go astray either. If you value lengthy standard equipment lists above all else, in fact, then the Maserati is not for you.
But if you want a spacious sedan with sex appeal and driving nous, we’d have this Italian Stallion over a Panamera or an M6 Gran Coupe.
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