Italy’s big luxury sedan gains a sprinkling of bespoke luxury – and up-to-the-minute multimedia – to support its charismatic quest for seducing rich buyers bored with the usual mega-luxe suspects.
WHAT IS IT?
A nip-and-tuck makeover for the circa-2013 Maserati Quattroporte, splitting the range into two distinct extra-cost equipment packs – GranLusso and GranSport – while honing its refinement, driveability, connectivity and luxury.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
Despite its enormous length and similarly lofty price, there’s something deeply alluring about the twin-turbo Quattroporte, whether it’s a V6 or V8 petrol powerhouse under the bonnet (or a turbo-diesel if you’re allergic to excitement).
THE WHEELS VERDICT
A handsome and stylish alternative to its more clinical rivals, though the Quattroporte stumbles on the finer details, including various pieces of switchgear from the Chrysler parts bin and ride quality that fails to give the impression of 300-odd grand’s worth of limousine.
That said, some of Maserati’s trim options are delectable, the Quattroporte’s overall dynamic prowess is immense, and its twin-turbo petrol drivetrains are very impressive, if not quite inspirational. Despite improvements, it’s still one for the Italophiles.
PLUS: Superb handling balance; supreme power-down ability; feels much smaller than it is; interesting and colourful interior-trim options; well-calibrated auto ’box; strong powertrains
MINUS: GTS’s knobbly ride, agitated steering and tyre rumble on less-than-perfect roads; cabin’s think B-pillars and lumpy headlining; fixed shift paddles block (bulky) indicator stalk
THE WHEELS REVIEW
Big Italian sedans have always suffered, to varying degrees, in comparison with their sportier, more interesting two-door siblings, but the gap is definitely closing. And Maserati’s current Quattroporte has been partly responsible for that trend, seeing it is blessed with much of the dynamic poise and delicious performance that has signified Italian thoroughbreds from Modena for many decades, packaged into an enormous 5262mm-long body with enough presence to demand attention.
But with so much competition in the upper-luxury segment, and all those dollar signs that success in China can bring, the leggy Maserati Quattroporte has been gifted with an even more bespoke interior and a few engineering improvements to keep the Joneses, the Russos and the Wongs interested in not following the herd and buying something German.
Fronting Maserati’s freshly updated Quattroporte is a new Levante-style grille, inspired by the 2014 Alfieri concept car and incorporating an air-shutter system that lowers the Quattroporte’s drag coefficient by 10 percent to 0.28.
It also sports a redesigned lower front bumper, new side skirts, redesigned side mirrors (to house new 360-degree surround-view cameras), and new exhaust-outlet designs, as well as obligatory massive alloys.
Oz-spec Quattroportes wear 19s on the diesel, ‘Mercurio’ 20s on the GranLusso trim and ‘Titano’ 21s on the GranSport, with 285mm-wide rear Pirelli P Zeros on the larger rim sizes.
Inside, everything from the dashboard tide-line down has been massaged for a much more bespoke-looking arrangement (meaning less Chrysler parts-bin). There’s more leather, classier switches and a nifty felt-lined drawer beneath the climate control to place your smartphone, even when it’s charging (though this could be awkward if you have a long cord).
The MY17 model gets a slick new 8.4-inch centre touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, accompanied by standard Harmon/Kardon speakers and a (not entirely necessary) two-tier controller in a new centre console with electric park brake.
Maserati has also amped up the active-safety tech (AEB, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise with stop&go) to bring the Quattroporte into line with what’s expected in 2016.
In combination with some warm wood inlays and stunning optional silk trim inserts by Ermenegildo Zegna on the GranLusso, or slick carbon fibre and sumptuous red leather in the GranSport – as well as beautiful navy-blue instrument dials – the Quattroporte has a level personality befitting the Maserati marque. Just try and ignore the cheap-looking headlight rotary knob, or the bulky multi-function column stalk, both of which should be familiar to Chrysler and Jeep owners.
Under the skin, enhancements to its ‘Skyhook’ magnetic dampers aim to improve the suspension’s compliance in ‘Comfort’ mode, while making ‘Sport’ more responsive.
Quattroporte’s brakes have also received attention to enhance pedal feel and the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission has been recalibrated for faster kickdown response and more aggressive shift patterns in the drivetrain’s Sport mode.
Thankfully, you can switch the drivetrain to Sport and set the dampers to Comfort because lumpy back roads leave the Maserati wanting for ride plushness, particularly the 21-inch-wheeled GTS. The 390kW V8 is neither cushy enough for a luxury car, or sporting enough for a driver’s car in its Comfort setting, though the new base 257kW Quattroporte V6 feels much more cohesive in its ride/handling combination.
Riding on fat Pirelli P Zeros, both Quattroporte variants produce plenty of tyre noise. And both suffer from degrees of steering kickback, with the GTS’s neat three-spoke wheel feeling constantly agitated and corrupted by any imperfect surface rushing beneath.
That said, it’s still easy to point the MY17 Quattroporte, particularly with the dampers in Sport. This is a textbook example of how a car can shrink around you, with the Maserati’s excellent balance and agility belying its near-5.3m length and 1800kg-plus kerb weight.
Regardless of drivetrain, it puts its power down with supreme conviction, and the eight-speed auto does a fine job selecting the right gear (or learning to relax when cruising in Sport mode), including when downshifting under hard braking. But the Sport-mode throttle is perhaps a bit too sensitive, especially in the ballsy V8.
Of the two, it’s the milder 257kW/500Nm Quattroporte V6 that’s the more pleasant steer and the sweeter drive. Addictive as the subtly thunderous twin-turbo V8 is – especially its 710Nm of torque on overboost and its 7200rpm rev ceiling – and slightly disappointing as the V6’s strained nature is at high rpm, its crisper steering, lighter balance and more relaxed demeanour better suit the Quattroporte’s station in life.
Which, in China, is favouring rear-seat passengers who enjoy impressive seat comfort and loads of legroom. But the tree-trunk thickness of the Quattroporte’s B-pillars, combined with the lumpiness of its headlining shape and the undernourished size of its sunroof, somehow make it feel strangely claustrophobic back there.
But up front is where you want to be in Maserati’s limousine. On a relatively flat and pothole-free road, surrounded by the lushness of a GranLusso or GranSport cabin fit-out, with either the twin-turbo V6 or V8 truly on song, the MY17 Quattroporte again proves that the Italians know how to indulge the senses.
Flawed as it may be, its very existence makes the world a little less boring.
Model: Maserati Quattroporte GTS GranSport
Engine: 3799cc V8 (90°), dohc, 32v, twin-turbo
Max power: 390kW @ 6800rpm
Max torque: 650Nm @ 2000-4000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 10.7L/100km
On sale: Now