First Drive: Maserati Quattroporte - Nothing gentle about this giant

No other car in the large luxury class is as fleet of foot, or handles with such utter joy, as the Maserati Quattroporte

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:00

The Maserati Quattroporte, always a big car, has grown even bigger. It’s so big it dwarfs the stretched versions of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the Jaguar XJ, the BMW 7-Series and the Porsche Panamera. Nothing in its class has a longer wheelbase.

Yet this is also the most economical Maserati ever built, using 5.9 litres/100km and emitting a hatchback-style 158 grams of CO2 each kilometre. How is that possible?

Simple. Maserati now has a diesel version to give the Trident some footprint in the European luxury market, where the rich just don’t like stopping for fuel. And, paranoid it might not deserve to be called a proper sports saloon, Maserati gave it a 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 with 202kW of power and 600Nm of torque.

It’s not a technical masterpiece of fuel-squashing technology in the way a BMW M550d’s tri-turbo engine is. In fact, it’s closely related to the Dodge Ram 1500 truck’s diesel engine, with a single turbocharger, and the highest piece of tech in it is a piezo injector capable of delivering eight separate squirts of fuel each time a cylinder needs to work.

Sure, there are some other trick bits that lesser versions of this engine, built in Italy by VM Motori, don’t get, but you’d need to be a cutting-edge diesel engineer to understand they were significant. For all that, the V6 is capable of delivering 202kW of power at 4000rpm and 600Nm of torque between 2000 and 2600rpm– enough gristle to hustle the big Maserati to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds.

That isn’t in the ball park of the fastest Quattroporte’s sprint, but the target buyer for this car is after faster times for trans-continental business trips due to not having to stop for fuel every 400km. Besides, it’s still good for 250km/h, which is enough to see you imprisoned in all European countries bar one.

However, this is a different style of Quattroporte; one without the 3.8-litre V8’s blasting 390kW of power or the 3.0-litre BiTurbo petrol V6’s optional combination of all-wheel drive and sub-five second 0-100km/h sprints. Lesser in performance, it’s also lesser in consumption, chewing through less than half the fuel of the V8’s NEDC combined figure.

The thing is, the Quattroporte Diesel just doesn’t behave like a diesel. Only the BMW motor comes close for sound quality, but even the BMW struggles to match its smoothness. It’s a bit icky when it refires on the standard start-stop system at the traffic lights, so people may turn the system off to avoid the tremor it sends through the car.

Maserati uses, in effect, a pair of bagpipes behind each of the four exhaust tips and it gets them breathing whenever you push the car’s Sport button. Even then the car doesn’t sound like a diesel. It sounds like a cross between a throbbing V8 petrol engine and an offshore powerboat.

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