We're behind the wheel of the 2013 Maserati Quattroporte and the company's CEO, Harald Wester, is riding shotgun. After offering us some interesting tidbits of information about the new luxury sedan, Wester tells us to give it the spurs to see how it feels at full throttle.
Pedal to the floor, the all-new 530-horsepower twin-turbo V8 spools up quickly and blasts this big four-door ahead with no sign of turbo lag, a trait the smiling CEO seems very proud of.
"We want our new engines to have the feel, efficiency and power of modern twin-turbo power plants, with the responsiveness of the old naturally aspirated V8," Wester says.
It feels as though the engineers succeeded, although we're confined to the undulating road course at the Fiat Group's proving grounds in Balocco, Italy, so we're not in a position to fully exploit the newfound power. The smooth surface doesn't show us much about the QP's rough road ride characteristics either, but the test course does confirm the car's overall balance and sporty nature. This is a big car that can move like a small one.
Remaking a Classic
More than a few have called the previous Quattroporte the best-looking sedan in the world. And even those who didn't at least conceded that it was a one-of-a-kind design that was never confused with one of its competitors.
This time around, some changes were in order to make the 2013 Maserati Quattroporte more appealing to a broader audience. This meant the Quattroporte had to get larger, mostly in the rear passenger area. It is not cost-effective for a company of Maserati's size to develop long- and short-wheelbase sedan models like some of its competitors. So the trick was to substantively open up the rear passenger area without making the car too big or heavy.
The design team has maintained the earlier car's sense of visual balance and proportion, making the new model "fit inside its lines." It is larger and longer than the previous car, but the long, flat front fender and hood lines, plus the high, short rear deck keep the look taut and help it avoid any sense of bloated proportions.
Still a Proper Sport Sedan
The extra size didn't mean abandoning the company's principles of performance. In this case, the engine still sits low in the chassis, and as far back toward the firewall as will fit. The result is a 50/50 weight distribution in the V8 model, and a 51/49 front/rear split in the upcoming V6 model.
Another important new design feature that improves this Quattroporte's weight balance and center of gravity is an under-floor fuel tank. Its predecessor put the tank just aft of the rear seats, which not only threw off the car's weight balance, but ate up trunk space.
The newfound equilibrium is obvious in the way the big car handles itself. No matter the corner, the new Quattroporte turns in smartly, stays put and handles neutrally through corners at most any speed. The steering system is well tuned to modulate effort at all speeds, yet the wheel feels meaty in your hands, and you always know what the tires and front suspension are dealing with.
Ride quality is on the firm side of luxury, with Maserati's Skyhook adaptive damping system constantly monitoring and adjusting the shocks based on speed, road conditions and a wide variety of vehicle and driver inputs. And with the standard 20-inch wheels, the system has its work cut out for it.
It Definitely Speaks Italian
The Maserati Quattroporte wouldn't be a proper Italian car unless it sounded great. No worries here, although the new turbocharged engine doesn't have the urgent blare of the old 4.7-liter V8.
The new engine was developed with Ferrari and it's built on a Ferrari engine line in Maranello, yet it will remain exclusive to Maserati models. You can adjust the exhaust note a bit with an electronic exhaust baffle control button on the console, and wide-open throttle also opens up the pipes a bit, but neither affects the horsepower rating.
The new 2013 Quattroporte gets a new ZF eight-speed multimode automatic transmission that offers up several shift modes. There's the standard setting in "Drive," a Sport mode that delivers firmer shifts and higher-rpm shift points, and then full manual control via shift paddles.
With so many ratios underfoot, you'd guess that the tranny would be shifting all the time. Not so, as 7th and 8th are overdrive ratios, so most of the time it feels no different from the best modern six-speed. And the transmission is a mind reader, too. It obviously has a ratio for every occasion, but even while hot lapping, we were content to let it shift for itself. It flawlessly interpreted the commands of our right foot, serving the requested up- or downshift right when we wanted it — crisply and firmly, yet smooth and never mushy.
Looks as Good on the Inside, Too
The old car's cabin was luxurious, if a bit haphazard. This time around all of the knobs, buttons, switchgear and infotainment controls have been rethought and redesigned. Now those same controls resemble purposeful, high-end electronics gear. There are fewer controls, and the instrument panel, center stack and console layouts are cleaner-looking and more luxurious.
Naturally the seats are wrapped in supple Italian leather, and you can accent the rest of the interior with choices of wood, metal and real carbon-fiber trim panels that look built in, not tacked on.
Rear-seat passenger room is more than adequate. The Chinese buyers Maserati is hoping to attract with the larger accommodations in the Quattroporte should certainly find it inviting. For the rest of us, it will just seem like an incredibly opulent place to put a couple passengers on a long drive.
The Future of Maserati
Maserati has big plans for its new big sedan. It will be the first Maserati — in a long time — that won't be built in the company's traditional Modena, Italy, home factory. Instead, the company has acquired the former Bertone factory in Grugliasco, in the north of Italy, near Turin, and completely remodeled and modernized the production facilities there, which is where the Quattroporte and upcoming midsize Maserati Ghibli sedan will be produced.
Later next year, a V6 model will be added to the lineup. It will not only deliver a lower price point and better mileage, it will offer buyers in cold-weather climates the option of all-wheel drive as well. Pricing for all 2013 Maserati Quattroporte models is yet to be announced, but expect the numbers to be competitive with current models and the competition.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.