Pitching a Maserati at people who aren’t bothered about performance might seem like selling steak knives that have been blunted, but in the case of the new ‘330bhp’ Quattroporte it’s actually a sharp move, dropping the entry price by $25K.
WHAT IS IT?
Changes to the looks of this new Quattroporte variant could be described as non-existent, but there are some sexy new rims to choose from, and you can now option it with an interior made of special silk, designed by the people who make Zegna suits. This variant is all about the engine, which is the cleanest and greenest Maserati has offered by a good margin. A new standard stereo system, a few software tweaks and a gear lever redesigned by a masochist are the other changes.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Because Maserati is doing particularly well in the Australian market, in terms of market share, and an entry-level offering like this, plus the Ghibli, will only increase its profile (and sales) locally. And because Ferrari makes its engines, so it must be good.
It could quite reasonably be argued that no one makes a four-seater as sportily luxurious and beautiful to look at as the Quattroporte, but only if there wasn’t a Porsche salesman within earshot. The Panamera is a very different looking car – which is a polite way of saying it’s not as pretty – but will carry four adults in similar style. A base 3.6-litre naturally aspirated V6 is somewhat down on power, and theatre, to the Maserati, but is cheaper at $204,200. To properly compete you’d need to step up to the twin-turbo 4S, though, with 309kW and a $300,700 sticker. But you still won’t look as good. An AMG E63 at $250,540 or a BMW M5 at $185,000 might also work.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Big, heavy luxo-barges with four doors shouldn’t be this good or this much fun to drive. The 243kW doesn’t feel underpowered, even though it clearly is next to the Quattroporte you might wish you could afford, and its combination of chassis dynamics, steering and handling really put it in a class of its own. As you’d expect from the Italians, it also looks absolutely fabulous and feels special, with or without silk seats. At $215,000, it’s almost a bargain.
PLUS: A properly involving drive experience; great steering; ride and handling balance; effortless torque around town and screaming top end for the open road; beautiful inside and out
MINUS: Maseratis used to be all about the sound, and much has been lost in this department; will never match its 9.1L/100km claim in a billion years
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SOMETIMES a single drive can change your mind. I’m not alone in thinking of Maserati as the plainer, quieter and less clever sister of the sex bomb that is Ferrari. In the past, I’ve found Masers to be more about sound than fury, with a kind of inherent softness that seemed out of kilter with the thumping heart they share with the Prancing Horse.
Having not driven the new twin-turbo V6 Quattroporte until the launch of this, its cheapest, least powerful and most frugal variant, I was shocked at what a great driver’s car it now is.
This entry-level ‘330bhp’ Quattroporte (that’s 243kW from a 3.0-litre engine that somehow claims a fuel figure of just 9.1L/100km) is aimed at younger and more womanly clients, who currently account for up to 30 percent of some models.
These buyers, according to Maserati Australia CEO Glen Sealey, are “not so demanding in terms of performance”, but are after the exclusivity and Italian design flair the brand offers.
Access to this exclusive marque-et will now be more affordable than ever, with the 330bhp on sale for $215,000, a good $25K cheaper than the previous entry QP, as they call it; a diesel version - the Maserati Quattroporte Turbo Diesel - is even more cut-price at $210,000, but why would you?
The detuned, fuel-miserly engine, which actually provides an ample amount of grunt, huffing out maximum torque of 500Nm just off idle to 4500rpm, and then happily screams to 6500rpm, is the main change to the car, which looks exactly the same.
On the spacious, classy inside, however, you can now option seats made of a specially developed super silk from suit maker Zegna, which is properly exclusive and costs from $11,000 to $22,000.
They’ve also changed the operation of the gear stick, to make it incredibly infuriating. “It needs a delicate touch, like an Italian woman,” we are advised.
What the QP really likes, though, is to be driven, and it is hugely rewarding, in ways you don’t expect from a big, plush luxury Grand Tourer like this, with its double-glazed windows (which sadly reduce the noise from an already too-restrained exhaust note) and lashings of leg room.
Its Ferrari-like steering feel – just pointy enough, like a good Thai foot massage – clever Skyhook suspension set-up and fabulous feedback through the well-cushioned seat of your pants mean it invigorates not just in the long sweepers you’d expect it to enjoy, but in the cut and thrust of 25-45km/h corners.
Yes, you do get some bodyroll and you do slide a bit sideways on the flat seat bottom, but it just adds to the fun. The Quattroporte is the perfect balance of effortlessness when crawling through traffic and involvement when you’re out in the country.
No doubt the even more powerful versions are even better – and quicker than the 5.6sec it takes this one to hit 100km/h – but the 330bhp is one hell of a ‘bargain’ offering.
Model: Maserati Quattroporte 330bhp
Engine: 2979cc V6 (60°), dohc, 24v, turbocharged
Max power: 243kW @ 4750rpm
Max torque: 500Nm @ 1750rpm-4500rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
On sale: Now