What is it?
It’s well past time for an all-new new Maserati Quattroporte. The existing car, although beautiful, has been around more or less unaltered for eight years, which is too long for for most limos. But now there’s an all-new edition, to be officially revealed at the Detroit motor show in January, and due to reach its first European mainland customers in February and UK buyers next June.
Most cars use carry-over pieces, but this new Maser is just about as new as a new car can get: it has a different look, an all-new platform, newly designed engines by Ferrari (entirely different in character to the old ones), considerably different dimensions and even a new role in the marque’s future line-up. To cap everything, its launch begins a new phase in the company’s history, one aimed at massively boosting total sales from last year’s 6200 units to 50,000 units by 2015.
What is it like?
The new Quattroporte grows to the length of a standard Mercedes-Benz S-class, and whereas it was once cramped in the rear, it is now as roomy inside as the Merc is. The boot is now vast, too. Buyers get a choice of two new Ferrari-designed and built twin-turbocharged, direct injection petrol engines, a 3.8-litre V8 with 523 bhp and a 3.0-litre V6 with 407 bhp, both of which drive through an eight-speed ZF gearbox. Our test car was a V8.
Optional four-wheel drive (which usually directs 100 per cent of the drive to the rear in dry conditions, but can split it as far as 50 per cent front, 50 per cent rear) is available in many markets although not the UK, while a high-performance diesel, already a certainty in the forthcoming 5-series-size Maserati Ghibli, is under consideration. The chassis is a steel monocoque with aluminium forgings and castings for components such as crossmembers and suspension parts, where lightness really counts. The new all-independent suspension (double wishbone front, five-link rear) will be used in other new-era models.
The Quattroporte’s styling was created in-house. It carries the already-established family look with a classic, vertically slatted grille, luxuriously sculpted sides and a neatly tapered rear, although its greater rear bulk means it lacks some of the outgoing car’s delicacy and is reminiscent, some say, of the look of an Infiniti or a Lexus. Such is the price of a decent amount of rear cabin space.
The interior theme is simplification, with quality, and it works very well. There’s a straightforward twin-dial fascia set-up straight ahead, with a small screen between the dials and a three-spoke wheel that perfectly splits the difference between luxurious and sporty. The central console is satisfyingly high, with the main info screen just above it. The tan all-leather seats have traditionally styled ribbed inserts that look beautiful and feel supportive.
Any fear you may have had about the car’s size impinging on its driving quality dissolves the moment you close the driver’s door. The seats hold your body well, and the driving position, low and long, feels ideal for concentrated driving. The silky engine starts smoothly and there’s barely a hint of a V8 throb, though something warns you about the 500-plus horsepower on tap. The excellent ZF transmission (specially adapted to this 1900kg, paddle-shifted application) does its stuff as beautifully as ever, and there’s a lightning responses through its accelerator that feels all-Italian.
It’s restrained fun driving the Quattroporte for smoothness, but for all its refinement this car fairly itches to hurl you down the road, especially if you allow it anywhere near the exalted 7200rpm redline. Under five seconds for the 0-62mph sprint is a helluva time for a two-tonne super-saloon: plenty of supercars do no better. Nor can they touch its 190mph top speed. In fact, for a while it’s tough working out what kind of engine this truly is: is it a torquey, low-revving V8 or a high-revving, smaller-capacity turbo? Truth is, it’s both.
Should I buy one?
It’s tough, trying to reach conclusions about a luxury limo’s ride comfort while driving Fiat’s Balocco test track, as we did. The place is all about near-limit handling, where this car excels. Given the long wheelbase, grippy tyres (and surface) and subtle intrusions of the sweetly-tuned chassis's stability control, the Quattroporte stays neutral in corners to the point of insanity, when you start to notice a whiff of stabilising understeer and a little body roll. Oversteer isn’t really on the agenda. The steering is accurate and perfectly weighted, though I did think I noticed a hint of vagueness on lock, away from the straight-ahead.
And the ride? My best guess it’s on the firm side of supple, possibly unyielding enough to cause sticky moments on poor UK roads. We look forward to checking thoroughly.
Maserati Quattroporte V8
Price: £100,000 (est); 0-62mph: 4.7sec; Top speed: 191mph; Economy: 23.7mpg (combined); Co2: 278 g/km; Kerb weight: 1900kg; Engine type, cc: V8 petrol, twin turbo, direct injection, 3798cc; Installation: Front, rear-wheel-drive; Power: 523bhp @ 6800rpm; Torque: 479lb ft (530lb ft overboost) at 2000-4000rpm; Gearbox: 8-spd auto; Fuel tank: 80 litres; Boot: 530 litres; Wheels: Alloy, 20in