Sitting on an airplane heading home offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on a motor show. It tends to be quiet, there’s a drinks cart, and your mobile phone doesn’t ring. Funnily enough, my pre-show thoughts also came together on the flight to New York City.
As I think about all the cars at the New York motor show, a couple stand out. The Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG coupé impressed me with its gorgeous exterior and Bentley-scaring interior. It is much more than just a two-door version of the (also impressive) S-class saloon.
The other is the Land Rover Discovery Vision Concept. It’s clearly the next step in Land Rover’s continuing rebirth. American dealers can’t keep the new Range Rover or Range Rover Sport in stock but the ageing LR2 (Freelander) and LR4 (Discovery) are easy to come by. The Disco concept clearly shows that Land Rover is serious about making their Land Rover-badged models as special as the Range Rover-badged models.
Speaking of a rebirth, Maserati had a very large stand in New York. It’s clear the company wants a bigger piece of the luxury car market in the USA. In February Maserati spent a reported $12 Million US dollars (around £7 million) on a 90-second Super Bowl advert. Plus, the east coast of America is a big market for the company.
While it’s clear Maserati needed more than the last-generation Quattroporte to be successful in the luxury saloon market, I’m not too sure the latest Quattroporte (or Ghibli) is good enough. Sure, the addition of all-wheel drive and V6 engines (and a diesel in Europe) are key but all you need to do is look at the latest Mercedes S-class and it’s clear the Italians have more work to do.
I recently spent time in the latest Quattroporte and, to be frank, I was disappointed. The old Quattroporte was flawed but it handled brilliantly and felt special. It wasn’t as good as the German competition at being a luxury car but it was a truly wonderful car to drive quickly.
The new Quattroporte ticks nearly every box on paper but there is something missing. From the lacklustre interior detailing (including lots of subpar Chrysler bits) to the less-than-stellar steering and overall driving enjoyment, it’s just not good enough to fully compete with the best from Germany. I had a good chat with a handful of other journalists in New York about Maserati and they felt the same way.
But people are buying the new Maserati models. Last month, the manufacturer's sales were up 342 per cent in the USA versus March 2013. That’s very impressive. But you need to look at the actual numbers to see where the company sits in the luxury car market. Maserati sold 963 cars in March of this year.
Mercedes and BMW each sold a similar number of automobiles each day in March. BMW put 32,107 new vehicles on the road in the USA in March of 2014. To be fair, that number is very much helped by BMW having SUVs in their model line up. That’s something that Maserati is working on.
Progress is progress and Maserati is growing. I just wish it offered a large luxury car that was as good as a Mercedes S-class but still had the full Italian flair of the old Quattroporte.