Vastly Upgraded Italian Speed Sedan Kicks Off Brand Renaissance

2014 Maserati Quattroporte

The sixth-generation Maserati Quattroporte is big – and not just because it's 6.5 inches longer than before with a wheelbase that stretches 4.3 inches beyond its predecessor. The new Quattroporte is big also because it's a huge deal both for its segment and for Maserati. Just as FoMoCo is finally chucking $1 billion at Lincoln MoCo, so too is Fiat investing 1.2 billion euros ($1.55 billion at the time this writing) in Maser's future hopes of achieving the larger success we all have wished for it. And after a thorough drive over the intensely challenging mountain roads of France's Mediterranean coast, we can't deny that there's finally reason to put some faith in this long overdue investment.

The much-applauded outgoing Quattroporte enjoyed a reputation of being among the very fastest executive sedans of its day, all while delivering the sportiest overall ride and handling, even in base trims. Yet there was constant corporate-level dysfunction that kept all Maseratis from getting important upgrades or receiving much-needed investment support. So, the outgoing Quattroporte has up until now sort of languished nobly, largely resting on the laurels it earned when it launched way back in 2003.

With continued proper mother company support and ambitious marketing initiatives finally on the table, this all-new 2014 Maserati Quattroporte looks fit to help lead "Il Tridente" through some huge changes as the company prepares to celebrate its centenary in December of 2014. First off, from its current annual total sales figure of 6,000 or so units, Maserati is confident that its global sales will reach 50,000+ per annum by the end of 2015, thanks certainly to all-new product coming on soon like a house afire. Try not to scoff at that too much. Rather cheer when the lights hit the new Quattroporte this January at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, knowing that new products are on the way to help the FourDoor and the Gran Turismo in their quest for this ambitious volume target.

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This Italian is again champing at the bit to compete.

The departing fifth-gen Quattroporte maxed out in $135,200 Sport GT S trim with 444 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 376 pound-feet of torque at 4,750 rpm from its naturally aspirated, Ferrari-assembled 4.7-liter V8. The only transmission in North America to this point has been a standard six-speed ZF automatic that can be paddled at the steering column, and the departing model's curb weight totaled 4,375 pounds. For those documenting such things, 0-60 took 5.3 seconds en route to a top speed of 178 miles per hour. Those were nice numbers in 2003, but they're decidedly less so in 2013. What's more, the Quattroporte has only ever come in a standard length, 200.7 inches long, providing owners with 15.9 cubic feet of luggage room. These days, none of this is terribly competitive.

Right out of the gate, the V8 base model of the new Quattroporte hits 523 hp at 6,800 rpm and 524 pound-feet of overboost torque between 2,250 and 3,500 rpm, that power arriving courtesy of a bi-turbo 3.8-liter direct-injected V8, also built by Ferrari. There are now eight gears available from the standard ZF automatic and curb weight reads 4,189 lbs, so the new, bigger car is lighter, too. The 0-60 is now a game-changing 4.6 seconds and top speed hits 191 mph. Given that long-wheelbase versions of these big exec sedans sell far better worldwide, Quattroporte VI is now offered exclusively at 207.2 inches, and the wheelbase has been stretched from 120.6 inches to 124.9 inches. Luggage room with the rear seats up is also a much more acceptable 18.7 cubic feet. So, this Italian is again champing at the bit to compete, primed to land on more shopping lists at the very least.

2014 Maserati Quattroporte engine

The Quattroporte's all-important steering remains lovingly hydraulic.

The Quattroporte's all-important steering remains lovingly hydraulic, plus there's a new, very decent and truly adaptive Comfort/Sport suspension, a bit of tech that was glaringly absent before. Keeping all of this rightness in mind, we were set loose on a Monte Carlo Rally-style drive loop where almost any other extended-wheelbase sedan would never have been launched for fear of journalists coming away with a sideways first impression. Many of the most tortured alpine roads on our loop possess lanes not much wider than the new Quattroporte's 76.7-inch width, and there was usually a low rock wall to the outside, the sort that traditionally doesn't offer much give when hit.

About that steering and how it has gone a step better – one of the sensations that has been unique to this big Italian in a class utterly dominated by the Germans has been the Quattroporte's light-on-its-feet feeling when carving up roads as on our test route. A Porsche Panamera Turbo S or GTS comes close, but the manner in which we were able to toss this Quattroporte around would be likely not possible – at least not as confidently – with the weightier-feeling Teutons. This, Maserati technicians tell us, is partially due to the stressing of lateral acceleration forces, particularly at the rear wheels as the suspension guides them along. Switching off stability control doesn't really alter the situation all that much when the conditions are sunny and perfect, as they were for our drive. The Pirelli P Zero tires – 245/40 ZR20 99Y front and 285/35 ZR20 100Y rear – did a layman's fine job in every circumstance, through every transition and weight shift. About the design of our tester's alloy wheels, well, we leave you to your own thoughts. As a no-cost offering, buyers of this V8 model can also request 19-inch tires from the soon-to-follow V6 model for added ride comfort.

2014 Maserati Quattroporte driving

Just ambling along in the cash-drenched Riviera or cruising the French autoroutes, the Quattroporte's chassis and suspension continued to perform as anticipated – not as imperfection-numbing as the typically over-engineered German über sedan, but rather with a well-received sportiness. Said another way, you'll know you're in a Maserati, even though the standard adaptive suspension in Comfort is plenty compliant. The overall payoff for someone living with this new Quattroporte is that they'll have the finest driver feedback in this class, bar none. And this is just the base model of the V8 trim.

The payoff for someone living with the new Quattroporte is having the finest driver feedback in this class.

When setting off from idle, the compact bi-turbo V8 from Ferrari provides just a modicum of lag, though this feels right for the sort of automobile which, in many markets, will have His Lordship in the back seat. Get into the 1,500- to 2,000-rpm range, however, and the response of the throttle/engine and behavior of this new modular chassis are point-blank. Really, between about 1,800 and 4,000 revs, the powertrain's torquey character takes over, and from there, the power curve rolls right up to 6,800 revs. Redline is marked at 7,200 revs, but we rarely went there, as we were too busy playing incessantly with the really crisp eight-speed paddle shifters in Sport mode, taking gear changes in a solid fifteen-one-hundredths of a second.

The Maser's exhaust tone, whether set to normal or in Sport, just explodes at 4,200 rpm and above. The off-throttle popping and snarling is legendary stuff. It's so supremely mighty when compared to any other super sedan's base exhaust that it should come as no surprise that the pipework is supplied by current cobbler of great exhausts, Faurecia.

Autoblog Short Cuts: 2014 Maserati Quattroporte

We've stopped assuming the car needs $15,000 brakes to make it any better.

Eyeballing the Quattroporte, we couldn't help but stare at the brakeset, especially after studying the day's drive route map. Before taking the wheel, we asked Maserati product development boss Benedetto Orvietani why a massive set of profit-mongering carbon ceramic brake discs are still not even an option. He gave us that cheeky response of "Drive it first and then decide." After flying all day over brake-baking roads, the standard aluminum and lead drilled and vented Brembo performance brakes (15.0-inch front with six-piston calipers, 13.8-inch rear with four-piston pinchers) proved sufficient enough that we've stopped assuming the car needs $15,000 brakes to make it any better. Nonetheless, marketing people at Maserati tell us they're in deep discussions on the hot topic, and not just for the Quattroporte.

The exiting Quattroporte still on sale has a design that has aged. Pretty well, we must say, but still a little long in the tooth, so the 2014's completely fresh design from Pininfarina is good to see in person. From nose tip to rear cabin pillar, we knew they'd get it right. It was arguably the rear portion of the departing generation that aged most poorly. What we see now is a vastly improved approach that is also helped a lot by the larger proportions on display. The only possible dubious reaction, which just about everyone is having and rightly so, is that the rear fascia looks straight off of a new Audi A4 with a dash of Citroên C5 in the shaping thereof. We can't really turn that into a criticism, though, since we like those rear end executions a lot, and the Quattroporte is at least no longer featureless when viewed from behind.

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More sound enters the Maserati's interior than any other competitor, but when it's such a great soundtrack...

The cabin is equally as revolutionary as the exterior, and it previews a really good, cleaner trend for Maseratis yet to come. Sit in any German big gun, any big Jaguar, or the Japanese competitors, and things have arguably gone a bit, well, pimpy. This overwrought style trend all works and reflects an abundance of onboard tech, but the trend is seemingly also meant to come off as some sort of showy flashbulb that adds value to one's large investment. But Maserati's designers and engineers have collaborated for a truly classy interior that doesn't overcook a thing. Spatially, you can assume more than sufficient passenger and cargo room now, but the surfacing and materials are also decidedly finer than ever before. The adjustable seating on the V8 is very good, providing decent support for when the hairpins hit or for when it's time to travel 400 miles. More sound enters this Maserati's interior than with any other competitor, but when it's such a great soundtrack, this isn't a complaint.

The controls on the middle dash and center console all make sense, giving us an immediately good feeling. Only one novelty really leapt out at us as a surprise, and it's placing the Start button to the left of and below the steering column, as if inspired by Porsche. Did we continually un-remember this and poke the lower right dash instead? You betcha. The seven-inch Maserati Touch Control (MTC) screen orchestrated by Garmin is hardly revolutionary stuff, but we enjoyed it, as it's fast and, again, simply makes sense all around. In fact, it's very close to state-of-the-art as is, so once more, Maserati has avoided an over-complicated solution. Hallelujah.

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Despite the added length and lower weight, stiffness has been improved.

Articulating both the engine hood and cargo lid, we couldn't help but notice that they're as light as air in their aluminum structures. Each is extremely easy to raise or lower with one hand, while fitment of all panels is also pin sharp. Roughly 60 percent of the new bodyshell is composed of aluminum, while the new chassis incorporates most of its aluminum usage in the axle assemblies. In total, just over 30 percent of material is of the aluminum alloy variety, while most of the rest is lightweight, high-tensile steel. Despite the added length and lower weight, stiffness has been improved both in torsion and bending.

Similarly, as is wonderfully common these days, fuel consumption has improved quite handsomely, even in the face of more space and performance. In the case of this entry V8 model, if you engage the I.C.E. button – akin to BMW Eco Pro – fuel gets slurped at a 20-percent-slower rate versus the retiring 4.7-liter naturally aspirated V8 found in the current car. Doing crude math, this should mean EPA figures of 13 miles per gallon city and 21 mpg highway, for a total possible range from the downsized 21.1-gallon tank (which was until now 23.8 gallons) of around 440 miles.

2014 Maserati Quattroporte rear 3/4 view

It hasn't lost sight of the reasons we always enjoyed driving the fifth-generation car.

Additionally, after the mid-January 2013 debut of this new range topper in Detroit, in March we'll finally get to try out both the standard 3.0-liter V6 with 404 horses (also all-new and made by Ferrari) as well as the V6 all-wheel-drive model with Q4 4x4 technology from Magna Steyr, a system we understand to be very close to BMW's xDrive. Actual North American deliveries of the V8 Quattroporte will start in June 2013, with the V6 and its Q4 AWD version arriving soon thereafter (pricing on those latter two also remains TBD).

This Maserati Quattroporte is completely new, yes, but it hasn't lost sight of the reasons we always enjoyed driving the fifth-generation car. Not hardly. It literally answers convincingly nearly every single "yeah, but" issue we have accrued over the years with the old model.

Shortly, the promised Ghibli mid-sized four-door will launch (later in 2013) and then the Jeep Grand Cherokee-based Levante sport utility by the middle of 2014. It all sounds good and promising, and we very much hope that the company's volume prediction of 50,000 units before 2016 comes true; the storied Trident brand deserves this much.