First Drive: Maserati Quattroporte S
Richard Blackburn, drive.com.au, July 29, 2008
After five successful years, Maserati has given its Quattroporte sedan a makeover and a power boost.
The Quattroporte is the car that sparked a renaissance for Maserati, so itís no surprise that the company has erred on the side of caution with its mid-life makeover.
The Italians would put it far more eloquently, but the old adage still applies: if it ainít broke, donít fix it.
The exterior changes to the car are subtle, to say the least.
The front grille is more prominent than before, with vertical fins reminiscent of the racier Gran Turismo coupe, while there is a new headlight design incorporating LED daytime running lights.
The tail lights have also been redesigned, with LED bulbs featuring prominently and both bumpers have been restyled.
The new 20-inch wheels on the Quattroporte S are a highlight, with Maseratiís trident logo incorporated into each spoke, a design again borrowed from the sportier Gran Turismo.
Inside, the instrument cluster and centre console have been redesigned, there are new seats and two new interior leather trims.
But the biggest change has been reserved for under the bonnet.
While the standard Quattroporte makes do with the existing 4.2-litre V8 that puts out 295kW, the new S model gets a 4.7-litre unit capable of 317kW and 490Nm of torque, or pulling power.
Maserati claims the S version is two-tenths quicker from 0-100kmh (5.4sec), has a better spread of torque and is more useable at the top end. It also uses a litre more fuel every 100km.
Unfortunately, the standard model wasnít at the launch to compare the two engines back to back.
We did, however, drive the existing Quattroporte a couple of days earlier and the new engine is definitely more responsive, with better initial urge off the mark and more grunt available when you kick-down to overtake at highway speeds.
It also sounds terrific, with a deep, refined burble that grows more raucous under heavy acceleration.
Performance is helped by a new version of the standard carís ZF six-speed transmission. The new gearbox has been re-mapped for the 4.7-litre engine in the Quattroporte S, with quicker downshifts.
You can also select sports mode, which gives you even sportier shifts, a more responsive throttle and stiffer suspension. Gears can be changed manually via paddles on the steering wheel.
The S gets Maseratiís adaptive suspension as standard equipment. We tried the car in both sports and comfort modes and it was firm but comfortable, albeit on mostly excellent road surfaces.
When the going got a little rougher, the suspension felt a little busy in both modes, but weíll wait to test it locally before giving a definitive verdict.
Steering was precise and well weighted and roadholding excellent for a car of the Quattroporteís size and weight. The S version is five metres long and tips the scales at a whisker under two tonnes, so some body roll through corners is inevitable. As the corners get tighter, the Maserati feels less at home.
Overall, though, the driving experience is a great mix of sporty performance and leather-wrapped luxury.
Our car on the launch had a new dark brown leather interior trim that smelt expensive and looked classy, with trident logos embossed into each of the seats.
The seats had enough thigh and side support, although I found it hard to find a comfortable position. You also sit quite high and the sunroof eats into headroom in the front. Iím also not a fan of the leather and wood steering wheel. While it probably makes sense on the standard model with its bent towards luxury, Iíd prefer a full leather wheel on the S.
The back seats have plenty of leg and headroom though.
The new multimedia system, which includes a 30 gig hard drive and a menu-based system for cataloguing music by artist and genre, is simply laid out and easy to use.
Maserati claims to have created a new niche with the Quattroporte Ė the sports luxury sedan. At the moment it has little competition, with only the Mercedes CLS providing coupe-like looks, sports car performance and four doors.
But things are about to get tougher, with Porsche, Audi and BMW all planning four-door coupes in the next couple of years. Time will tell how the Maserati stacks up against new rivals, but for now itís easy to see how this car sparked a Maserati revival.
Itís beautiful to look at, luxuriously appointed and entertaining to drive along sweeping country roads.