From £108,8047
Full-house Quattroporte is an ambitious, appealing effort, but has a few too many flaws to rank among the class’s best

What is it?

Maserati’s flagship of flagships – the range-topping Quattroporte GTS. A 523bhp Ferrari-made 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 engine makes this the fastest and most powerful Maserati saloon ever built, and the near-£110k price tag positions it well inside exotic territory.

This is a car of real sporting ambition, from a company with equally ambitious designs on global sales growth. And having driven it in Europe last year, now’s our chance to find out how well it stands up in right-hand drive form, and on British roads.

What's it like?

It’s big. Huge, frankly. Those who’ve taken their eye off the Maserati model range these last couple of years may be quite taken aback at how big the Quattroporte has become.

While the last one bridged medium- and full-sized executive saloon dimensions, the new one has a wheelbase of 3171mm – longer, even, than even the long-wheelbase versions of the Mercedes S-class and Jaguar XJ. There’s certainly no mistaking the stature of this sharp-suited Italian now, nor any way to ignore its dominant presence in the car park.

Based on Maserati’s own aluminium platform and built in a factory formerly owned by Bertone in Turin, the Quattroporte has all-independent suspension, and an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF driving the rear wheels.

‘Skyhook’ adaptive damping is standard, likewise 20in alloy wheels with 285-section tyres at the rear, and iron brake discs measuring 380mm up front. The car bucks the modern trend for fuel-saving electromechanical power steering, though, by featuring a speed-sensitive hydraulic power steering system.

And it looks great. The Quattroporte’s exterior styling mixes visual muscle with elegant refinement effectively enough to easily distinguish the car from the more ordinary premium-branded German options. Frameless doors, combined with Maserati’s characteristically generous use of chrome, lend a particularly classy appearance.

Inside, there is space to stretch out in in both rows – something the old Quattroporte never offered. But the impression of class evident externally wears a bit thin as you interact with the car’s systems, and fiddle with its fixtures and fittings.

Material quality levels are far from poor, but compared to some of the best-constructed saloons in the world – the cars the Quattroporte must directly compete with – they’re disappointing. The leather upholstery is rich and pleasant, the seats large and comfortable, and equipment levels are good.

There’s just not the same painstaking attention-to-detail you find in a Mercedes S-class here, nor even a BMW 7-series. The switchgear looks plain and feels ordinary; there are too many plasticky trims on the fascia than any £100k car can get away with; and the factory-fit sat nav looks and feels like an oversized, overworked aftermarket addition.

Such things, perhaps, can be overlooked in a sporting saloon with more dynamic talents. And the Quattroporte has its charms as a driver’s car, no question. Not just big on performance, it’s also got grip and chassis balance to rival a much smaller sporting four-door, and communicative steering.

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But its driving experience has some distracting quirks; flies in the ointment that make the car that telling little bit less intuitive to drive, and less relaxing over long distances, than it ought to be.

Maserati’s turbo V8 issues a subtly mellifluous warble under load. It’s pleasing to listen to, torquey enough through the mid-range to make for easy overtaking cross-country, and powerful enough overall to make the Quattroporte deceptively rapid. A Jaguar XJR is noisier and feels marginally quicker, but neither by much.

What the XJR does much better than the Quattroporte is to juggle smoothness, refinement, stability and consistency of response against the need for directional agility and big-hitting performance. The Maserati corrects one of the old Quattroporte’s big flaws in as much as it rides decently enough.

Leave the dampers in normal mode and the car handles most UK surfaces quite well. It’s compliant enough on the motorway and in town, and taut enough on a backroad – though it does occasionally get caught out by a sharp ridge.

The car’s steering is weighty and offers dependable feedback from the front wheels, and it allows you to tap into a chassis with surprisingly high grip levels for something so large. There’s sporting character here to burn, in other words – but it doesn’t come without compromise.

There’s a non-linear jump in directness to the steering response at just under a quarter turn of lock than can make the car hard to place in a corner, and an intrusive stability control system that overrules any attempt you make to steer the car slightly on the throttle – unless you switch it off completely. Bump-steer can corrupt your line through a fast bend, likewise a change in camber can upset the Quattroporte’s stability slightly at high speed. 

There are some distracting manners about the powertrain, too – little flaws that suggest Maserati’s engineers didn’t pay enough attention to the minutia. Select ‘Sport’ mode and the accelerator pedal becomes hyper-sensitive right at the top of its travel, before going dead towards the bottom of it.

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Hit ‘manual’ mode and you’ll find that every paddle-operated downshift is preceded by an annoying interruption in engine braking. They’re mild annoyances in isolation, but do begin to erode your enjoyment of the car over an extended period. And they don’t belong on a car with any credible claim to overarching superiority.

Should I buy one?

The Quattroporte remains an appealing alternative to a full-sized performance saloon, and would be much easier to justify than the car it replaces – but it’s still not sufficiently well-executed or rounded enough to present a serious challenge to a Porsche Panamera Turbo or a Jaguar XJR.

On refinement, performance and practicality, Maserati has narrowed the gap to its competition by a long way; on dynamic charisma, you could argue it has outstripped many rivals.

But on overall handling polish, material quality, cabin finish, simple ease-of-operation and more, the Quattroporte leaves enough to be desired that you can’t really consider it the equal of the better cars in its class.

It’s an engaging prospect on the face of things, but like so many of its forebears, the Quattroporte demands you make a few too many compromises in return for its eye-catching styling, exotic Italian badge and lively sporting character.

Maserati Quattroporte GTS

Price £108,185; 0-62mph 4.7sec; Top speed 191mph; Economy 23.9mpg; CO2 274g/km; Kerb weight 1900kg; Engine type, cc V8, 3799cc, twin turbocharged, petrol; Power 523bhp at 6500-6800rpm; Torque 524lb ft at 2250-3500rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

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caribbeanautogl... 29 April 2014

Editor's first drive.

I just checked the photos of the Maserati,and the interior is way better than a BMW's interior.ALL BMW's have the same UGLY dash,this is very refreshing.Next time you drive a Maserati take off your bloody Binders.
caribbeanautogl... 29 April 2014

Beautiful Maserati.

This car is beautiful.I have been reading about cars for about 55 years,and some of the people that write about them seem to be on drugs,or may be the fumes go to their heads.There are some cars that are given some of the worse reviews that you could ever read,yet you see so many on the roads.The Maserati is beautiful,and seeing it had been able to be better than the previous car is a step in the right direction.BMW,M-Benz,Audi have been building basically the came car for the past 6 years,so Maserati has dome a great job,and the next car will definitely be better.The sound and looks alone of this car alone not to mention that Italian name, will sell this car.We already see the sales results.They have more than quadrupled sales,and what more can anyone ask for.I will buy this car.Screw the Germans.
Suzuki QT 29 April 2014

Hmmm ...

OMG!! ... Is this car ironically celebrating the 20th anniversary of the introduction of that other ugly mug, the second generation Ford Scorpio?? ...
caribbeanautogl... 29 April 2014

Suzuki

I guess you are still driving a Suzuki Swift.or Ford Scorpio???