Published on Saturday 20 December 2014 01:37
Ten Second Review
The Quattroporte was always a special Maserati model; in effect a sportscar dressed up as a big saloon where its rivals were big saloons dressed up as sportscars. This latest sixth-generation version is a big step forward, with a radically different engine line-up coupled with more space and less weight.
Maserati as a brand is going places. In 2011 it made profits of £40m on sales of £588m. These figures were up £67m on 2010 and in 2012 it did even better, selling over 6000 cars, As encouraging as these numbers are, however, they're nothing compared to where the company envisages itself in 2015 when it expects to selling around 50,000 cars. Yes, you did just read that right. An eightfold sales growth in three years. There's been some massive investment in new model development at Maserati and with a small saloon and an SUV in the pipeline, the company is branching out into new market sectors. It's key not to forget the Maserati heartland which is why the GranTurismo and GranCabrio will continue to be improved and we have this, the rather intriguing sixth-generation Quattroporte.
The Quattroporte first appeared on Maserati's books way back in 1963 and was always a bit of a quirky niche player here in the UK until the introduction of the achingly gorgeous fifth-generation model in 2004. Here was a car that had the power to seduce buyers from their BMW M models and Mercedes AMG specials into something altogether more sensuous. Its replacement has some big boots to fill.
The ethos of the old Quattroporte was that this was a saloon that drove like a sports coupe. If you wanted silent cosseting, you should have visited a Lexus dealer. The Maserati had a firm ride, an urgent engine note and was fantastic fun to hustle through a set of bends. Chatting with some Maserati personnel, they don't expect that to change with the latest car, with its official unveil at the 2013 Detroit Show. What has changed - and quite radically - are the engineering details. Instead of a big normally aspirated V8 petrol engine doing the spadework, Maserati is going to an all turbo line-up, with a diesel engine also slated for inclusion at some point.
Expect to see a 2.8-litre twin-turbo V6 as the entry-level engine. But what an entry level. With a power output of 407bhp, this engine crucially dips under the 3.0-litre capacity limit at which punitive taxes are charged in the lucrative Chinese market. It's set to be the big seller in the range. Want more under your right boot? Try the 3.8-litre twin turbo V8 that's good for 523bhp. This is closely related to a Ferrari design, although the Ferrari engine is said to feature a cross-plane crank for more power but slightly less torque. The 2.8-litre engine will also be available with all-wheel drive but sadly not for right-hand drive markets. Apparently the steering column would foul the driveshaft plane. Power for all Quattroporte models is directed through a ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Design and Build
Measuring over five metres from tip to tail, the old Quattroporte wasn't a small car but nevertheless rear seat accommodation was quite tight when you had taller occupants up front. Maserati has worked to improve the packaging of this latest model. It grows by 163mm in length to a hefty 5263mm but there have been big gains in rear legroom thanks to a much longer wheelbase. In other words, the Quattroporte has now been transformed into a car that could now appeal to the chauffeur market as well as to buyers who just want pedal the thing themselves. You can specify a two-seat rear bench with a central divider, or a three-seater that splits and folds to extend the bigger and longer boot.
It looks as good as ever. Yes, there is a tiny bit more bulk to the styling compared to the svelte litheness of the fifth-generation car but it's still a good deal sleeker than something like a Mercedes-Benz CLS. Even BMW's elegant 6 Series Gran Coupe is going to look a little bit clunky in comparison when one of these draws alongside. The Quattroporte's drag coefficient has been reduced by around 12 per cent and weight has been slashed by about 100 kilograms, largely through use of aluminium in the suspension, front wings, bonnet, doors and boot lid.
Market and Model
Historically, the Quattroporte has occupied the £80,000 to £100,000 market segment - and broadly, it will continue to require that kind of budget. There's been a clear emphasis on improving quality both actual and perceived, with stricter quality procedures in the build process and some high-quality woods and leathers used throughout. Many of the major controls are operated by a large central touch screen mounted on the centre console. There's a twin-cowled instrument cluster and traditionalists will be reassured that you still get an analogue clock inset into the dashboard.
The Quattroporte will have to do very well to shift some formidable rivals and these cover a wide span, including vehicles such as the aforementioned Mercedes CLS and BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe right up to cars such as the Aston Martin Rapide and Bentley Continental Flying Spur. It'll be helped in achieving its targets by a dealer network that's growing fast as well. By the end of 2012, Maserati had 250 dealers worldwide. That's set to double by the end of 2015.
Cost of Ownership
Naturally, developing a range of more efficient downsized turbocharged engines and coupling it with a body that's lighter and more aerodynamic will result in improved economy and emissions but we've yet to see hard data. The evolutionary styling of this Quattroporte will help protect residual values of the old car which weren't as bad as many think. Because it had been around for over eight years with styling left largely unchanged, people see sub-£20k Quattroportes on dealer forecourts and think the car was a depreciation disaster. It wasn't. Three year old cars were still changing hands for £40k, which means retained values of about 45 per cent. That's very creditable for a luxury saloon with a big petrol engine. The sixth-generation car looks set to do even better and, if Maserati are to be believed, improved reliability should bolster residuals still further. Emissions of 278g/km for the 3.8-litre engine aren't too bad either and a big improvement on the old version.
Maserati looks to be adhering to a very sensible development plan for this latest sixth-generation Quattroporte. Not a lot needed doing to the basic styling of the old car, so the exterior design is nicely evolutionary. The interior has been extensively modernised and is far more spacious, with less of the cheap plastic switchgear which rather dated its predecessor. Removing weight, developing more efficient engines and fitting a sharper-witted automatic gearbox were always the three priorities from a dynamic perspective and these look to have been achieved. What's not to like?