Maserati faced an unusual problem when designing the new Quattroporte. In making it better, they may actually make it worse.
Y’see, the old Quattroporte wasn’t actually very good. It was thirsty, had little room for luggage or passengers, didn’t ride very well and the automated manual ’box was about as smooth as Parramatta Road.
Hit the Sport button, though, and you wouldn’t care if it ran over your children and insulted your wife. One run through a tunnel with the 4.7-litre V8’s magic exhaust note enveloping you was all it took to fall in love.
Add in the fact it looked sensational – particularly the Sport GTS in black with the optional 21s – and suddenly the poor ride and lack of room ceased to matter. It had that most elusive of attributes: character.
Character is exceedingly difficult to engineer into a car, but at least Maserati’s stylists have got it right. It may look a bit beady-eyed in photos, but in the metal the new Quattroporte’s a well-proportioned, handsome thing, just as an Italian limo should be.
Bigger in every dimension than its predecessor, the growth spurt has done wonders for the new QP’s practicality. The boot has swelled from a marginal 450 litres to a useable 530 and it’ll now easily accommodate full-size adults in the rear, if only two of them.
Sadly, the driver is unlikely to be as comfortable. The seats lack lateral support and the enormous transmission tunnel skews the pedals heavily to the right. A fine mix of leather, wood and carbonfibre clothes the cabin, but there are small reminders that perhaps Maserati didn’t have the development budget enjoyed by, say, Mercedes with the new S-Class.
Fit and finish won’t be worrying Audi and the multimedia system and multi-function column stalk are lifted straight from the Chrysler 300.
To be fair, the average Quattroporte owner is never going to sit in a 300, and the Italians aren’t alone in doing this (Aston Martin with Ford gear, Bentley with VW bits), but the parts bin approach grates when Maserati asks $319,800 for the pleasure. The shift paddles, too, make an awful, plasticky ‘clacking’ sound that discourages use.
Still, these are relatively small foibles, easily forgiven if the new Quattroporte is dynamically superb. Unfortunately it’s not. Let’s start with the ride: with the two-stage adaptive dampers set to soft, it takes too long to settle over large bumps while constantly fidgeting over small ones.
Sport is better; it’s no less restless but at least the floatiness is gone. Even more of an issue is the suspension noise, with every impact being heard as much as felt.
In the corners the 5.2m-long Maser never really shrinks around you and the lack of support from the seats leaves you hanging on to the enormous steering wheel for dear life. There is a caveat, though. The chosen launch route didn’t really allow us to stretch the Maserati’s legs properly so a final handling verdict will have to wait. There’s certainly plenty of grip and traction is strong, the ESP rarely troubled even exiting tight hairpins.
Thankfully, the new Quattroporte’s most contentious feature, the new turbocharged engine, is also a highlight. No, it doesn’t have the theatrics of the old 4.7, but this superb new 3.8-litre twin-turbo V8 still makes a great noise and, thanks to 390kW/710Nm allied to the slick eight-speed ZF automatic, shifts 1900kg of limo down the road with indecent haste.
The biggest problem facing Maserati, however, is the quality of the opposition. The new S-Class is in another realm as a luxury limo while as a driver’s car, things like the BMW M6 Gran Coupe and Benz CLS63 are much sharper tools.
There’s no doubt the new Quattroporte is a much better car than the one it replaces, it’s just unfortunate that some of what made the old car special has been lost in the process. So it’s better, but also not.
Engine: 3799cc V8, DOHC, 32v, twin-turbo
Power: 390kW @ 6800rpm
Torque: 710Nm @ 2250-3500rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claimed)