The new Maserati Quattorporte goes on UK sale in June 2013, priced from around £110,000. Is the Italian Jax XJ and Audi A8 rival worth it? We’ve driven the flagship 3.8-litre bi-turbo V8 to find out.
When the covers are pulled off the new Quattroporte, what hits you immediately is the sheer size of the thing. Next to this frame-filling statement on wheels, the old model looks almost like a compact car. At 5263mm, the new QP is fractionally longer than a stretched S-class, and, at 1948mm, a substantial 80mm wider. The wheelbase has grown too, chiefly to allow an increase in rear legroom. While American and Chinese customers may appreciate the inflated girth, in Europe it will take hawkeyed precision to slot into parking bays and steer through tricky width restrictors. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but reckon on £80k for the V6 and £110k for the V8.
So, is the new Quattroporte just a bloated barge?
No, it’s actually very well-proportioned, almost understated. Don’t forget it’s 100kg lighter than before, though it’s still a hefty 1900kg. The styling’s an improvement to these eyes, too. Head- and tail-lamps are more neatly integrated than before, exterior ornamentation is restricted to the trademark triple vents, and 20in wheels fill the arches.
This less-is-more design philosophy extends inside. There is of course deep carpet, endless leather and sumptuous trim, but the number of switches and buttons have been reduced to a minimum. The instruments are proper dials and needles, and the revised controls are a doddle to use. Conspicuous by their absence are head-up displays, dials that change colour, surround-view cameras, and driver assistance systems that make the door mirror housings flash and the steering wheel vibrate.
How does the 2013 Maserati Quattroporte drive?
Very well. It’s now powered by a muscular all-new twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8, rated at 523bhp. The extended use of aluminium for body, chassis and suspension, the now-perfect 50:50 weight distribution, the longer wheelbase and the improved aerodynamics all help to make the car feel nimbler and simultaneously more stable; more chuckable and better balanced, sportier and yet more relaxed. Hitting the Sport button firms up the dampers and speeds up the throttle-engine-transmission chain reaction, but arguably the most memorable effect is the louder, meaner exhaust note…
Is the new Quattroporte faster than before?
If you think a displacement of ‘just’ 3799cc might damage your boardroom cred, you clearly have not experienced the punch produced by two handball-sized turbochargers – 479lb ft all the way from 2000 to 4000rpm, and a mighty 523lb ft in overboost mode. With eight aggressively spaced ratios in the ZF automatic gearbox, this four-door luxury liner will accelerate from 0-62mph in just 4.7sec, while its top speed is a best-in-class 191mph. The combined economy figure is 23.9mpg.
Traditionalists will love this car. There’s no manettino to play with, no in-between setting splitting ESP on and ESP off, no switchable anti-roll bars and no air suspension. Maserati even vetoed electric power steering, claiming that only a classic hydraulic system could give the feedback the engineers wanted.
There is, however, the option of all-wheel drive. Back in the old days when the brand treasured the transaxle layout, 4wd was thought out of the question. But now that Audi, BMW and Mercedes offer it on most models, the Italians have changed their mind. The resulting state-of-the-art hardware features a variable torque-split ranging from 0:100 to 50:50, and a self-locking rear differential. All-wheel drive is available for the V8 and also for the new 410bhp 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6. For 2014, the Modena grapevine is predicting a torquey V6 diesel good for 340bhp and 553lb ft.
Does the Quattroporte still suffer from a fidgety ride?
The Skyhook suspension is a mixed bag. Wheel travel is generous, but wheel control can be casual. And while we’re agreed that the number of electronic helpers on board should be kept to a minimum, hooligans would appreciate a hardcore ‘MC’ Maserati Corsa track- driving mode for a little more extrovert cornering.
Still, the accurate steering means this QP can be driven with the same confidence as a GranTurismo Sport. Compared with the outgoing car, it’s more light-footed, the transition to understeer or oversteer is smoother, the chassis produces more grip and traction, and the brakes are both strong and instantly responsive.
How does the new Quattroporte compare with its rivals?
It’s certainly the sportiest. Maserati is pitching the QP against the lwb editions of the Audi A8 W12, BMW 760i, Mercedes S600 and Jaguar XJ Supersport as well as against the Porsche Panamera Turbo. Tough competition, for sure, but after an hour on a challenging handling circuit the qualities of the Quattroporte – and its flaws – were evident. This is a compelling all-rounder, not too firm and not too soft, easy to drive fast, communicative in all areas that matter, a ship of a car that manages to feel like a speedboat a good deal of the time.
As you would expect from an engine co-developed with Ferrari, the V8 is a gem, blending a sports-car-like throttle response, soundtrack and 8200rpm redline with the mid-range urge and seventh- and eighth-gear waftability of a luxury liner. As the rev-counter needle reaches the limit of its sweep, the gearbox snaps through changes like a true supercar.
There’s no doubt the MkVI Quattroporte ranks at least one rung above the MkV in dynamic terms. It is also faster, lighter, more frugal and roomier. It has an even classier , more user-friendly interior and should appeal to a wider audience. It feels as solid as an A8, as cossetting as an S-class, as luxurious as an XJ and as sporty as a Panamera. And yet it is Italian through and through – hopefully without the downsides that sometimes implies.