- Published: Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:24
SINGAPORE - "Make sure you try the back seat," grins Edward Tan, the executive director of Maserati importer Hong Seh Motors. "Make sure you try it!" Tan is the sort of guy who could sell bread to a baker, and he's adamant that the new Maserati Quattroporte is the sort of car that can be appreciated from the rear of the cabin, just as easily as from the front. I have to say I'm sceptical.
Here's a car that has an engine built by Ferrari, for one thing. According to a design by Paolo Martinelli, too. Now the powertrain chief at Maserati, he's best known as the man who engineered all of Michael Schumacher's race-winning engines when both men wore red overalls. And it's not just any engine, but a V8 with direct-injection, two twin-scroll turbochargers, and variable valve timing and lift to make it good for good for 530bhp and 650Nm of torque (710Nm if you count the brief bursts of overboost), from just 3.8 litres.
As if that isn't enough to tempt you into the driver's seat, there's the fact that, thanks to liberal use of high-tensile steel and having 35 percent of the body made of aluminium, the Quattroporte is roughly 100kg lighter than before in spite of having grown larger. The correct wheels are driven (rear) and the transmission is the eight-speed ZF gearbox you'll find in countless BMWs and Audis, but tuned to shift faster here than anywhere else.
The experience from the driver's seat, as you'd expect, is a blast. If there's a clear road ahead, the big Maserati gobbles it up with unexpected gusto, the way a hungry Italian might slurp a strand of fettuccine into his mouth. This thing is the size of a long wheelbase 7 Series (and then some), don't forget, so having it leap to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds is something you need to calibrate your senses to. Just breathe on the accelerator pedal, and when those turbos spool up it's like a jumbo jet has started to accelerate for takeoff.
It goes without saying that it's far more nimble than any 747, of course. The last Quattroporte basically flew around corners like a big Ferrari because, well, it was essentially a stretched 612 Scaglietti (now you know). This Quattroporte actually feels like a different animal altogether, and though it can be threaded through even tight corners with eye-popping zeal, it never quite exudes the same enthusiasm for bends that the last model did. There's quick steering, good balance and only a bit of understeer as you near the limits, so all the ingredients for a satisfying blast through a satisfying road are there.
Yet, the new Quattroporte seems to eschew the lightning quick reflexes of the last model for an overall setup that errs on the side of safety and caution. Even the deep rumble of the V8 is a distant thing, rather than the explosive, throaty growl that accompanied the last model everywhere. It's as if a thick carpet has been draped over everything to tone the car's personality down, to make it more of, well, a limousine.
As much fun as the Quattroporte is as a driver's car, then, there's no getting around the fact that the greatest strides seem to have made in the area of passenger comfort. Which means, of course... sitting in the back. And so I hand the wheel to a Hong Seh-provided chauffeur, ease into the rear of the cabin, and find a huge amount of space. It's cavernous back there, which is saying something because the last Quattroporte forced rear passengers to share space with its gearbox. Legroom alone is up by a massive 105mm, but never mind the context of the last model, the new car is spacious by German standards.
The rear bench is shaped to accommodate two people better than three, but with a rear air-con (complete with separate controls) and a much quieter environment than the previous model offered, it's easy to imagine the Quattroporte as a perfectly serviceable car for chauffeur use throughout the work week. In spite of the car's sportiness, the ride quality doesn't cross the line into discomfort even if you've left the adjustable dampers on their firm setting, so the Quattroporte has morphed into a genuinely comfortable car for rear passengers to recline in.
Wherever you sit in the car, your surroundings will be fairly posh, too. The upholstery and carpet work in the Quattroporte are the cabin's strongest areas, while the controls feel altogether less expensive. Some of them come from the Chrysler parts bin, and consequently feel out of place in a car costing this much.
Still, it's clear that the new Maserati flagship is a more complete car than its predecessor. If you own the last Quattroporte you know what I'm talking about — it's huge fun to drive and offers plenty of drama, but if you put family members in the back, sooner or later someone complains about the cramped seating. The new car turns down the sound and fury somewhat, but the result is a Quattroporte that works on more levels than before. It's still thrilling to drive, but if you're thinking of trading in your old Quattroporte for one, you might prefer to wait for the smaller, wilder Ghibli if you relish driving.
It's still worth taking the new car for a test drive though, for nothing else other than to experience the thrust of the new V8. But, yes, make sure you try the back seat.
NEED TO KNOW Maserati Quattroporte GTS 3.8
Engine 3,798cc, 32V, turbocharged V8
Power 530bhp at 2,000-4,000rpm
Torque 710Nm at 2,200-3,500rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 307km/h
0-100km/h 4.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 11.8L/100km
Price $615,000 without COE
Also Consider: Audi S8, BMW 750Li
Photographs by Leow Ju-Len if you liked them, someone else if you didn't