First drive: Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8

First drive: Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8

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Robert Barry was surprised and delighted by the new Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8 sedan on the media drive programme held recently in Sydney.

Until the recent press launch of the new Quattroporte GTS V8 sports sedan, I was a Maserati novice, to be frank. I had never sat in a car from the Modena and now Turin-based Italian manufacturer, let alone had the privilege and delight of driving one.

The Italian marque celebrates its 100th year in 2014, yet it didn’t produce its first production road car – the 3500GT – until 1957. For the 40 years prior, it had been purely a manufacturer of competition vehicles, for circuit and targa racing.

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Hence the brand’s motorsport and performance heritage has always been part of its appeal to customers seeking a more exclusive vehicle that combined luxury with visceral acceleration and dynamic handling to match.

Prior to Maserati becoming a member of the Fiat family in 1997, the brand had developed some issues around the quality of the production vehicles from the Modena facility, which to be fair, hadn’t changed particularly much from the day it was commissioned in 1914.

5A7FC344-EFCF-42A0-A970-6A006E178D74Fiat quickly put Maserati under the wing of its Ferrari brand in 1999, and had the old Modena factory demolished. It built a brand new facility from which the 3200 GT coupe and cabrio appeared, spearheading the modern re-vitalisation of the Maserati brand.

Today Modena continues to build the Gran Turismo coupe and Gran Cabrio but the new Quattroporte is produced at a brand new state of the art factory that Fiat commissioned in Turin. The smaller forthcoming Ghibli sedan will also be produced at the Turin plant.

So by not having a personal benchmark or any prior expectation of the new Quattroporte GTS V8, I slid into the driver’s seat and familiarised myself with the cockpit layout.

A6A35BAC-57F1-4472-95E1-30E64D8028BEA luxury sports sedan should have lashings of leather, wood and chrome detailing, its should look and feel expensive, it should have that hewn from stone feel to the dashboard, no squeaks or rattles should emanate from any part of the cabin, the glovebox should be cooled, and the flappy paddles should be made from cool-to-touch metal that inspires the driver to caress them lovingly.

It should be also be a car that is set up for the driver to enjoy, but not without accommodating the other passengers comfortably.

So far the GTS V8 ticks all the boxes, it looks and feels completely different inside to the prestige German and British marques that i have driven previously, and I especially like the small analogue clock that sits in the centre of the dashboard above the digital touch screen, which controls audio, navigation, climate control and such things as the heated seats.

25EAB5D5-42B3-4686-9F6B-241969008F87The touch screen system is not dissimilar to what I’ve come across in Chrysler Jeep products, but it’s one of the most intuitive systems I’ve seen, and hooking up a Bluetooth phone takes seconds rather than minutes. I applaud Maserati for not re-inventing the wheel and I also liked the combination wand on the left hand side of the steering wheel column that controlles the indicators and windscreen wipers.

This car is pitched at buyers who may consider a Bentley Flying Spur or Porsche Panamera GTS, and to a lesser degree the Aston Martin Rapide and Jaguar XJR, so it needs to deliver to some serious expectations for exclusivity, luxury, performance and quality, and overall I would say that it does, with a small caveat that I’ll discuss further.

It is the little details of the GTS that delight and surprise, from the leather-covered overhead grab handles, the powered rear sunshades, the alcantara lined ceiling, and the tactile nature of the switchgear – dare I say it, this Italian has an almost German quality in the cabin in terms of fit and finish.

There are some surprising omissions from the GTS. Soft close doors and a powered self closing boot, but we are told by Maserati those items were dismissed on the grounds of weight. But I was somewhat surprised that technology such as active cruise control, lane departure warning, and a blind spot warning system were also absent as a standard feature.

These features are consistently now found on mass market vehicles so their exclusion from a more than $250,000 prestige sedan was surprising.

On the drive route we sampled two GTS V8 models, one with 20-inch alloy wheels and another with 21-inch alloy wheels, and boy what a difference one inch makes.

According to Maserati, the larger the wheel fitted, the more aggressive the electronic suspension calibration, so if you want a more cosseting and comfortable ride then you choose the 19-inch wheels, and if you want all out performance (with reduced ride comfort) then the 21-inch units will do you nicely.

On the road we felt at times that the V8 GTS on the 21-inch wheels could do with some improved body control, there was a little bit of pitching and wriggling as the car travelled over corrugations but this appeared to be minimised by switching the sport suspension on and travelling faster!

They weren’t kidding about the aggressive suspension, and despite those gum ball tyres, you can tell through the seat of your pants if that cigarette butt you just ran over had a filter tip or not.

But the true jewel in the Maserati crown, is the new twin turbocharged 390kW/710Nm V8 engine which has been beautifully matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. It is a thing of beauty and is the heart and soul of the Quattroporte experience.

If you press the sport mode when the engine is idling at rest, the exhaust tone will change to a deeper rumble, and using the paddles to change down manually at slower speeds, will also result in a throaty snap, crackle and pop so beloved of the brand.

Flooring the throttle in ICE (increased, control and efficiency) mode, will turn that throaty burble into a fully fledged roar as the 3.8-litre twin turbo direct injection V8 engine reaches its peak torque figure, and in sport mode this happens even more quickly.

Zero to 100km/h is despatched in 4.7 seconds according to Maserati. Fuel consumption is quoted at 11.8L/100km for the combined cycle.

More impressive is that the eight speed automatic transmission behaves more like a manual in certain circumstances. In manual mode we discovered that it would hold gear at the limit of its revs rather than changing up. Its not a practice we would recommend in a large luxury sports sedan, but it’s nice to know that if you want the box to hold on to a gear in manual mode, it will do so and not change up at an inconvenient moment.

The steering also feels precise and communicative, not heavy and unwieldy as some sports sedans can be, and the brakes feel more than capable of bringing this nearly two tonne car to a quick and decisive halt, when required.

As you acclimatise to the size and ability of the Quattroporte, you find yourself confidently pushing the car harder and faster as common sense, road, and traffic conditions allow. It has the ability to shrink around you and envelope you in the experience as all exception sports sedans should do.

So in spite od the occasionally lumpy ride quality, which enthusiasts will quickly dismiss as being part of the car’s character, there was the small caveat I mentioned earlier.

Somehow in the translation from left hand drive to right hand drive, somebody had neglected to switch the seat heater electrical relay’s around. So when I pressed the touch screen for the driver’s seat to heat up, my passenger got a warm bum instead, and when he pressed his button, my seat then warmed up.

Well it wouldn’t be a Maserati story without some sort of glitch, so I’m told by fellow media colleagues, but this problem again presented itself when we swapped vehicles for the drive home.

For a vehicle with a list price of $258,900, I would hope that the dealership could quickly rectify this pre-delivery issue, which was an annoyingly small fly, in what was otherwise a quite delicious ointment.

The Maserati Quattroporte GTS V8 goes on sale on February 1st. Apply liberally.

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