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Maserati's new Quattroporte

Italian sports car brand's new luxury sedan is bigger than before, but now gets a much smaller engine.

PT1M6S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2bc6x 620 349

Maserati calling its big saloon car Quattroporte is a bit like Ferrari calling its next model ‘‘The Fast Red One’’.

‘‘Quattroporte’’ translates directly as ‘‘four-door’’ and while that seems all a bit Dances With Wolves, the model remains an important one both globally and in Australia, where it’s been the best-selling Maserati in recent years.

The Quattroporte name has been around on big Maseratis since 1963, and if the name is entrenched, so are the model’s core values: high-speed transport in comfort for four with plenty of Latin flair and a big serve of sportiness thrown in for good measure.

Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8. Click for more photos

Maserati Quattroporte

Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8.

And on that basis, the new car due in Australia almost a year from now seems to measure up pretty well.

Some things have changed, of course, and while the model’s performance values remain unchanged, there is recognition at Maserati (and everywhere else) that cars must stop poisoning the planet. 

So, the non-turbo V8 engine of the current model has been well and truly superseded by a pair of new, Maserati-dedicated engines, a V6 and a V8, both of which use direct fuel-injection and twin turbochargers.

Fuel economy and emissions are claimed to be down by as much as 20 per cent over the current car while performance is improved with a claimed 0-100 sprint of 4.7 seconds for the V8 and a top speed claim of 307km/h.

The new car is also available with all-wheel-drive in V6 guise as a method of broadening its appeal.

Of course, the real advantage of all-wheel-drive in a car like this lies in markets which have the sort of appalling winters Europe is known for, and Australia’s much milder climate looks set to doom the AWD version for us.

Obviously, being still a year out from showrooms things can change, but for now, the Australian importer, Ateco Holdings, is looking only at the rear-drive V6 and the V8.

Part of the green approach to car building incorporates lightweight design and here the Maserati engineers have managed to combine a bigger car in every direction with one that is also lighter by up to 100kg (the V8 weighs about 1900kg).

Aluminium body panels and the use of magnesium in structural areas such as the dashboard skeleton have made this possible and there’s up to 60 per cent aluminium in the new car’s skin and structure.

And when Maserati says the new car is bigger in every direction, it means it.

In fact, the new Quattroporte is vast. There’s up to 200mm more metal in every direction and even standing beside the thing reveals that it’s tall, wide and doesn’t look overshod even on the optional 20- or 21-inch wheels (19s are standard).

Wheelbase has grown to 3171mm and the overall length is more than 5.2 metres, the pay-off being lots and lots of rear-seat stretching room and enough headroom for six-footers. There’s plenty of foot-room and the sculpted rear seat places the two passengers (three is possible) a respectful distance apart.

The overall styling and proportions, however, will be familiar and the deep, prominent snout, rising waistline and triangular C-pillar are all Quattroporte signatures.

While it might lack that last little snippet of sportiness of, say the Aston Martin Rapide, (although it’s very close) it’s a whole lot prettier than the Porsche Panamera with which it will go head to head in many markets including ours.

Like any Italian high-end car, of course, there is much emphasis on how the Quattroporte moves.

The V6 engine is the entry-level powerplant and shares much of its architecture with the V8, including the double overhead camshaft layout, twin-turbo approach, wet sump and direct fuel-injection that operates at up to 200 bar pressure.

It makes 301kW and can produce as much as 550Nm of torque anywhere from 1500 to 5000rpm. As such, it will outpace the current model in V8 form pretty comfortably as well as use less fuel (10.5 litres per 100km combined).

The hero V8 model displaces 3.8 litres and thanks to twin-scroll technology for its turbochargers, pumps out a mighty 390kW of power and a full-fat 650Nm of torque from 2000 to 4000rpm.

An overboost function can tweak that to 710Nm for short periods in the middle of the rev range.

One of the highlights of Maserati engines over the years has been their soundtrack, and the new car continues the recent tradition of having an active exhaust which can keep things civilised at cruising speed yet still deliver that Latin yodel when pressing on.

Much of the improved efficiency is probably down to the new transmission for the Quattroporte.

The excellent ZF eight-speed automatic is used and it lacks the trendy double-clutch technology, like the Porsche Panamera, instead using a conventional torque converter and planetary gearsets. It might sound old fashioned, but for big, heavy cars like this one, there’s still lots of life in the conventional auto. 

Suspension is all-new with steel coil springs rather than the often flawed air-suspension of its competitors. The front end consists of double wishbones while the rear set-up is a sophisticated multi-link arrangement with five links to provide ride control yet still allow such a long car to corner briskly.

Brakes are from Brembo and consist of six-pot front calipers with 380mm rotors on the V8.

Aerodynamics have also come in for much attention and as well as a low drag coefficient of 0.31, there’s also a flat undertray to reduce lift at high speed.

Inside, there’s all the leather, chrome trim and Italian brio you’d imagine in such a car from such a maker.

The controls have been simplified as much as possible, and elements such as the sculpted, pleated leather seats and lush carpets and fittings all speak of luxury.

Which is just as well, because the Quattroporte won’t be cheap when it finally arrives in Australia in the fourth quarter of next year (some months after its European release).

The importer is understandably tight-lipped on pricing, but the smart money suggests that the V6 will replace the current V8 on the price-lists at about the $300,000 mark with the V8 costing a good chunk more.

First drive

Our introduction to the new Quattroporte was an all-too brief drive on the sinewy roads around Nice in the south of France in cars that, although pre-production prototypes, seemed pretty representative of the end product.

We sampled just the V8 version as the V6 had yet to be built in sufficient numbers to be included in this 12-months-out taste-test.

One thing is abundantly clear, however; this is a big car. Big to sit in, to look at and to steer.

It’s not cumbersome by any means, but it remains a long, wide car that felt slightly at odds with its environment in the case of these tiny Cote d’Azure  tracks that climb up and away from the coast around Nice.

Beyond the feeling of being a very big fish in a very small pond, the Maserati is easy enough to drive, starting with a multi-adjustable cockpit that suits a wide range of bodies. Visibility is excellent, too, and doesn’t seem compromised by the upswept window-line.

The steering is reasonably direct but lacks a little definition in its feedback, though this will hardly worry most owners.

Firing the V8 engine is via a start button behind the tiller and immediately it’s obvious that this is a sophisticated yet urgent engine.

The brilliant engine note of previous Maseratis is faithfully reproduced this time around, and pressing the Sport button not only puts the controls and transmission on notice, it also liberates another few decibels of warbling V8.

The Sport setting also cancels out eighth gear in the transmission which, combined with the rowdier exhaust makes the Normal setting the choice for freeway cruising.

But the Sport mode does provide a delicious little burp on upshifts and flooring the throttle from a standstill will have the traction control stepping in to tame the V8’s onslaught.

For all that, though, the engine doesn’t feel especially like a turbocharged unit with next-to-no lag and what feels like a very linear torque curve.

A quick prod on the shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel reveals the transmission to be eager to obey commands as well as being very smooth into the bargain.

It may not have the lightning-fast shifts of a double-clutch unit, but it’s certainly fast enough and brings a level of refinement to urban stop-start progress that many a double-clutch unit would fail to match.

Suspension-wise, we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve driven the car on a variety of more familiar surfaces, but there’s no denying the long wheelbase gives the Quattroporte a loping feel that soaks up the majority of road flaws pretty convincingly.

It also promises to be a secure high-speed vehicle, although the relevance of that is less important in Australia than it would be in many parts of Europe.

Either way, it seems as though the new car is as dynamic - not to mention fast in a straight line - as any potential owner would want with the bonus of having a huge interior and the ability to pamper its occupants at whatever speed the conditions demand.

Again, we’ll have to leave the final analysis to a home-turf drive, but, four doors or not, this is a proper Maserati.