Maserati Quattroporte 2016 Review
New in-cabin tech, better aero and more luxury for one of the world s longest cars
Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 and GTS
International Launch Review
Strong engines, disturbingly capable handling and acres of interior space. The Quattroporte facelift s best features are the same as they always were, with the addition of some driver-assistance features that lend it a big-boy credibility it didn t have with some buyers. It s a better car, and more mature without losing its sense of fun and charm and character.
With barely touched powertrains, the headline act of Maserati s Quattroporte upgrade is a bunch of driver-assistance technology that really should have been there when the car launched three years ago. By far the biggest Maserati (at 5.262 metres, it dwarfs almost the standard versions of almost anything that can be driven on a standard car licence), it now has some small visual changes and enough driver-assistance stuff (like radar cruise) to bring it up to German levels. At least, that s the on-paper argument. The reality is a bit murkier. Nobody was going to come over to Maserati just because of radar cruise, a reversing camera, a remote-opening boot and lane-departure warning systems, but now nobody need leave a showroom because of their absence.
All petrol-powered Quattroportes now come in two forms, the GranLusso and the GranSport, which deliver either more concentrated luxury or more concentrated handling dynamics, with Maserati distinguishing them visually with slight differences to the front bumper and grille area.
The visual upgrades might not include any actual metal but the Quattroporte gets an air-shutter to give it active aerodynamics, combining with a flat floor to lower its drag by 10 per cent and, on its own, improve its fuel consumption by three per cent. People are going to come for the style, for the engines (especially the petrol engines) and the car s unique ability in this class to charm with a visible, warm character. People come because it s not German (don t forget the Jaguar XJ is getting long in the tooth) and should now be a credible enough offering to make a living that way.
It s also the anti-Tesla, with no set plans to move to any form of hybrid power, much less a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Beyond that, Maserati s engineers look at you funny if you mention hydrogen fuel cell or battery-electric power. For all that, while Maserati clearly loves a good internal-combustion motor, it doesn t actually make any. It leaves the 3.0-litre single-turbo V6 diesel to nearby VM Motori, while Ferrari takes care of the V6 and V8 petrol engines (in, admittedly, a Ferrari plant built with Maserati money).
All three engines also live in the Levante SUV and Ghibli sedan engine bays, with the diesel delivering 202kW of power and 600Nm of torque, belying its on-paper technical simplicity to push the Quattroporte Diesel s enormous 1925kg body to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds.
Maserati complicates the line up by selling three versions of the Quattroporte V6 petrol engine, including an entry-level version with 257kW and 500Nm, an angrier S model with 302kW and 550Nm, plus the S model with all-wheel drive. Curiously, it never thought it necessary to give its strongest engine an all-wheel drive method of gripping the street, so the 390kW/650Nm V8 version only comes with rear-wheel drive. And it revs higher than the V6 (7200rpm plays 6500) and can overboost under hard acceleration to 710Nm of torque. The rear-drive only solution partly explains why the stonking V8 doesn t have a big sprinting margin over the V6 S Q4, outstripping it only by only two tenths of a second to 100km/h.
All-wheel drive gives the Q4 V6 S a sprint to 100km/h of 4.9 seconds, while the rear-drive version does it in 5.1 seconds, so you have to figure a Q4 set-up would cut the V8 s 4.7-second sprint down to something like 4.5 seconds.
But it doesn t, because such a car doesn t exist, and it doesn t exist because they d have to engineer a new sump with a hole in it for the front driveshaft, which would also mean lifting the bonnet line, neither of which they want to do that for the V8 s relatively low volume. Maserati had good reason not to bother with much spanner wielding under the bonnet. Both of the engines are good, high quality units rich in character, throttle response and urgency. They re sports engines that do an excellent job of masquerading as undercover luxury motors. The chassis, too, is little tweaked, though it could have used some more attention to the way it sometimes lift wheels in hard cornering and the pieces sometimes feels like they re not all working in harmony and needs some more core torsional rigidity.
It s tough judging cars in Sicily, whose wind, salt and sand swept mountain roads usually give you a good idea of how a car will feel in the rain, even when the sun shines brightly. There are also big bumps, lots of undulations and regular patches where the entire road has subsided to the point where you d think twice about tackling it in low range in a proper off-roader.
So launching this car here was brave, and done for no other reason than to reinforce Maserati s winning ways in the treacherous (and, like most of the people who drove in it, now dead) Targa Florio road race than anything else. It s immediately obvious that the long wheelbase helps the Quattroporte to do what it s always done: forgive mistakes, minimise pitch and squat under braking or acceleration and to make the big machine very easy to drive quickly. If there is a call on Maserati to shift the V8 to all-wheel drive, it would almost exclusively be for straight-line acceleration rather than cornering stability, because the 3171mm wheelbase and the five-link rear-end takes care of that.
It s a wonderful thing, the GTS GranLusso, feeling slightly old-fashioned in the way it delivers its power and completely in keeping with the character and on-road feel of its gorgeous predecessor.
The strength in the engine is obvious from the moment you start it up, with depth and constrained anger, then you push the Sport button and wake up the Big Boy exhaust and the anger is given full voice. That doesn t mean it dominates the car, though, because there s a strong mask of civility in everything the car does, even with eight cylinders of Ferrari s best oversquare efforts pounding away up front. The nuanced pieces of the sound are masked by the two turbochargers (neither of which follows the trend towards taking up residence inside the hot vee ), but the urge is worth it.
The V8 is easily capable of spinning up the rear wheels in a straight line at 80km/h (at least on Sicilian roads), so they fry up a treat from a standing start, unless there s electronic intervention. It shows so much gristle on overtaking that it doesn t need a gap much bigger than its overall length, which is just as well because that s a pretty big gap.
The V6 is, surprisingly, almost as convincing. It is the least V6-sounding V6 out there, with depth and rumbling smoothness and fun, even if the throttle response isn t as rapid as it is in the V8. It s little slower in Q4 form than the V8, in both the real world and in theory. It loses a little on in-gear acceleration, but makes up for it on being stubbornly grippy from a standing start and out of corners. Both engines mate up to eight-speed ZF automatic transmissions that are usually clean and efficient in their work without standing out for any significant reasons, though we did come across a fair bit of gear whine from the differential in the V8 at light throttle.
The cars both ride well, with calm composure for the most part and only occasional springy hits from the back-end over things like expansion joints, and they both have a reassuring way of making it feel like you re easing your way around difficult roads, even when you re pushing quite hard.
The caveat is that over high-frequency bumps at speed, it can develop a shimmy through the cabin as the Skyhook active suspension system struggles to keep up with the incessant demands from the sensors on the dampers. That brings us to the upgrades, which are good and bad. Good, because they re needed to bring it up to what has effectively become the category baseline. Bad because it hasn t gone beyond the baseline and in some areas, has only just snuck up to it. The active cruise control, for example, feels a generation behind the intuitive system Audi just debuted in its Q7 and A4 (and will soon be in the next A8) and the one BMW shows off in its new 7 Series.
Those systems show off their software coding by re-accelerating the instant something moves out of the way; the Quattroporte needs to wait until the car/truck/bus has long gone before punching the throttle again. Over time, it becomes infuriating. Still, it brakes the car to a stop and, if things get moving again within a few seconds, accelerates away again.
Then there are the optional 360-degree and reversing cameras. Yes, they re there and they re helpful when you re parking a car this size, but there s no self-parking option and the screen resolution is shamefully fuzzy compared to the Germans. It adopts the sizeable 8.4-inch multimedia screen from the Jeep Grand Cherokee and it mates it with mirroring systems for Apple s CarPlay and Android Auto. It uses the same double-decker scrolling system Maserati debuted on the Levante to run everything from the seat heating and cooling to the audio to the navigation to the rolling wifi hotspot. Those in the rear can use optional 10.2-inch LCD screens to watch either shared or unique content and it s run via remote control because unless your kids are in the NBA, they physically couldn t reach the back of the front seats.
It s the navigation system that is the weakest link in the system, with our car s screen freezing up four times, once for 10 minutes, and then telling us we were driving somewhere in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea for at least 10 minutes. We weren t alone, either, with two other journalists reporting the same issue.
That s partly offset by the Quattroporte running a level of style and class in the interior that even the higher visible tech of the Germans can t match. The hand-stitched leather interiors are exquisite and the aluminium shift paddles are compellingly touchable. The only jarring notes in the cabin are the decidedly not-premium chrome plastic trims across the air-vents and instrument cluster and the clunky closing action of the cup-holder cover. The rest of it is an exercise in making this much interior space not feel stupendously enormous, which Maserati does well from the inside as it does poorly from the outside. At its core, the Quattoporte is a very good car. At its core, it always was. It just lacked the kind of technology that buyers of German limousines took for granted.
Now that it has that tech (most of it, at least) it s a much more credible contender. It s just a shame it s not better in some areas that seem pretty visible, because the core of the car deserves it.
2016 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 pricing and specifications:
Engine: 3.0-litre 24-valve twin-turbo petrol V6
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Safety rating: TBC
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 286km/h (limited)
2016 Maserati Quattroporte GTS pricing and specifications:
On sale: December
Engine: 3.8-litre 32-valve twin-turbo petrol V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Safety rating: TBA
0-100km/h: 4.7 seconds
Top speed: 310km/h (limited)