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.
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.
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.