The Maserati Quattroporte has character, balance and a wonderful engine, but its ride and gearbox mean it’s ultimately flawed.
What is it?
The Maserati Quattroporte is a beguiling sports saloon. fast, beautiful and brilliantly intoxicating to drive. But only when you’re in the mood; with only a paddle-shift manual gearbox (DuoShift in Maserati speak) and an edgy ride other quick foor-doors like the Jaguar XJR and end-number of AMG Mercs play the all-round role with more conviction.
So why wasn’t there an auto from the off? The company now admits that it was a mistake but a self-shifter simply didn’t fit in with the rear transaxle gearbox arrangement of the original car. So to fit one this time round has required some cunning engineering. The new ZF six speed auto now nestles up front next to the engine, changing the weight distribution in the process and some chassis fettling.
The introduction of the self-shifter has also required revisions to the 4.2-litre V8. Power stays the same at 400bhp but torque has been pushed up from 333 to 340lb ft and it’s optimised at 4250, rather than 4500rpm. The engine itself now has a dry, rather than a wet sump to cope with the ‘box being bolted straight onto the back of it.
What’s it like?
So was it worth the wait? Yes. Though if you’re used to the robotised manual there’s a lack of lack of drama merely shifting the distinctly Mercedes-like selector into D to set off. Once you’re rolling though it’s clear that the Quattroporte’s lost none of its character or verve. It’s just as keen to surge forward, even on part throttle and if anything it sounds better; throatier and gruffer – all down to the dry sump apparently.
The ‘box itself is every bit as good as we’ve come to expect from ZF units, with well-judged ratios. It slices through cogs just as quickly as the paddle ‘box but, crucially, with considerably more delicacy than you can even achieve with the DIY gearbox, Go for the range-topping Sport GT version and you’ll get a pair of paddles for manual override too and they’re optional on the rest of the range.
Should I buy one?
Bear in mind that some of the other Quattroporte drawbacks remain. It’s stiff riding and there’s not enough space in the back. But it remains amazingly agile for such a big car and the new auto ‘box makes it a much better car. And so much worthier of comparison with any of its would be rivals.