Maserati gave birth to the first Italian sports saloon in 1963. Next year, the firm will launch its sixth incarnation of Quattroporte.

In the early sixties, Maserati had seen commercial success with its 3500GT coupé. Buyers were drawn to the looks and the performance and expressed interested in a four door version.

The Aga Khan commissioned Pietro Frua to design a one-off version of the 5000GT. Frua used this as inspiration for the four door sporting saloon that would become the Quattroporte. It was Maserati’s first four door car and was the fastest saloon of the era.

The Quattroporte was able to carry four passengers in comfort up to a claimed top speed of nearly 140mph. It had a 4.1-litre V8 engine which was later upgraded to a 4.7-litre unit in 1966, pushing the top speed to 158mph.

In 1968, Citroën took over Maserati, intending to absorb the firm's sporting know-how and add it to its models. The second Quattroporte was designed and set to go on sale in 1974, but never emerged.

The Quattroporte II was built on the Citroën SM chassis and featured a 3.0-litre V6 that produced 190bhp. It struggled to shift the heft of the Bertone body work and couldn’t match Maserati’s sporting pedigree.

In 1974 a bankrupt Citroën was taken over by Peugeot who divested Maserati a year later. This meant that the Quattroporte II never went on sale in Europe as the car could not get EEC approval. Only 13 were made, five of which are thought to survive today.

After the break up of Citroën and Maserati, Alejandro de Tomaso took over Maserati from Peugeot. In 1979 the third Quattroporte was released.

The Quattroporte featured a 4.1-litre V8, rear wheel drive and a lavish interior. A 4.9-litre 280bhp was later added to the range and in 1986 a Royale edition was built, earning the nickname the "Italian Rolls Royce".

Maserati changed hands again in July 1993. Fiat took over and released a new Quattroporte in 1994.

The car was, in essence, a saloon version of the Biturbo coupé. Three engines were available, a 2.0-litre, a 2.8-litre and a 3.2-litre. Most buyers opted for the mid range 2.8.

Ferrari bought 50 per cent of Maserati from Fiat in 1997 and continued the trend of updating the Quattroporte whenever the company changed hands by releasing updated models badged Evoluzione.

In 1999 Ferrari took complete control of Maserati. The fifth iteration of the Quattroporte was released in 2004. Designed by Pininfarina and known for its nimble handling, it was different from other luxury saloons at the time. It was released with a 4.2-litre engine that propelled the saloon from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and to a maximum speed of 167mph. The face-lifted model was released in 2009 with a 4.7-litre V8 engine.

The latest Quattroporte has grown to compete with rivals’ luxury saloons. Both rear legroom and boot space have increased, while Ferrari has designed two new engines for the sports saloon – a 3.0-litre V6 producing 407bhp and a 3.8-litre V8 with 523bhp, both turbo-charged, a first for the Quattroporte. The V8 races to 62mph in 4.7 seconds and tops out at 191mph.

The sixth version goes on sale in the UK in June 2013.

Matthew Burrow