BY ANDY ENRIGHT
One doesn't normally expect a Maserati to duke it out on level terms with Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Jaguar but with the Quattroporte, that's exactly what the Italian company found itself doing. And rather successfully, it has to be said. A poor used 'QP' can spell big bills though. Caveat emptor.
Maserati has a long history of building fast four door cars. Some of them have even been quite good. There have been some misses along the way but few expected the massive success of the fifth-generation Quattroporte, launched in 2004. Voted the coolest car on the planet by GQ magazine's Objets De Luxe review, the Quattroporte quickly became a viable alternative to the Eurocrat German marques. Here's how to snag a used example.
A potted history of the Maserati Quattroporte? The original 1963 Frua designed car is a work of art. Its 1974 successor arrived with the oil crisis and is utterly terrible. The third generation car of 1979 was better but still a bit of a blousy old barge. The Gandini-styled Quattroporte IV of 1994 showed a lot of promise but was let down by patchy build quality. The best of the bunch is undoubtedly the fifth generation car, launched in 2004 to rave reviews.
Initially launched with the Cambiocorsa sequential manual gearbox, the Quattroporte was subsequently offered in Executive GT and Sport GT trim levels. In 2007 an automatic version was announced that was sold alongside the DuoSelect sequential manual model. At the same time Maserati took take the opportunity to add Granite Grey and Ocean Blue paint finishes and a new type of wood, tanganika, while the interior could be ordered in a two tone colour scheme.
What You Get
It makes sense for a car that attempts to cover as many bases as the Quattroporte to allow a little specialisation. The basic chassis is extremely talented, and as well as an entry-level car, the range is split into Sport and Executive GT models. This has allowed the company to fine tune the product into a more focused form. The Executive GT is targeted at high net worth individuals and business users looking for a car that offers cross continental capabilities coupled with effortlessly refined fixtures and fittings. A chrome mesh grille and chrome side grilles compete for attention alongside an external identification plate and 19-inch ball-polished alloy wheels. A wood and leather-trimmed steering wheel and an Alcantara-trimmed head lining are nicely judged details while a comfort pack for rear seat passengers offers combined heating, ventilation and massage for rear passengers as well as electric adjustment of both seats and backrests, retractable wood rear tables matched to the rest of the interior and curtains for extra privacy and comfort. That said, virtually every aspect of the car's interior is in some way customisable if you have the money.
Of course there are some customers who need four doors but secretly hanker after the handling and appeal of a sports coupe. These are catered for by the Quattroporte Sport GT. As well as a carbon fibre theme for the interior, 20-inch alloy wheels, a sportier looking steering wheel and handbrake design and aluminium pedal covers, the Sport GT also adds gearbox software that can shift cogs fully 35 per cent faster when at maximum attack, shaving vital tenths off the sprint to 100mph, and paddle shifters behind the wheel. The brakes feature metal weave tubing, cross-drilled discs and titanium-coloured calipers. A revised exhaust system produces an even fruitier note when you let the revs rise and uprated Skyhook software allows the electronic shock absorbers to act in a more aggressive manner.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
The Quattroporte has proven fairly sturdy although if you expect Lexus-like peace of mind, you might be in for a surprise. Minor electrical items still seem to have a life of their own and we have yet to run a Maserati that hasn't kept us amused with various spurious warning lights illuminating seemingly at random. Later cars, such as the Sport GT and Executive GT models seem to have had many of the original problems ironed out. Make sure that the wheels, tyres and bodywork are in perfect condition and the interior isn't looking too careworn. The leather trim is hardy, but try to avoid the paler colours that get dirty extremely quickly. Check for a full service history, and if buying privately pay for an HPI check - it's a wise investment.
(approx prices based on 2004 Quattroporte) Compared to many exotics, a new clutch assembly is fairly reasonable, retailing at around £480, but front brake pads are pricey at £255 a pair and £280 for a set of rears. A new exhaust system is around £3,600 excluding catalysts and an alternator costs approximately £490. Still, these prices aren't too dissimilar to upspec Mercedes S Class models.
On the Road
The character of the Maserati Quattroporte is such that it suits an automatic gearbox rather better than the rather herky-jerky DuoSelect manual. If you want a car to pick up by the scruff of the neck and drive sideways like Tiff Needell, there are probably better options around. If, on the other hand, you're looking for the automotive equivalent of an exquisitely tailored Italian suit, the Quattroporte comes up trumps. Smooth, beautifully finished and effortlessly raffish, the four-door Maserati is a car that never needs to try too hard. An F1-style sequential manual transmission smacks of just that, where the automatic gearbox barely breaks sweat. It'll still get to 60mph from rest in 5.4 seconds (0.4 seconds adrift of the DuoSelect model) and run onto a top speed of 167mph. Out on a race track, it'll feel a little less alert but this is a Quattroporte, a car that likes to get its hustle on when blatting cross country on big roads, the 400bhp 4.2-litre V8 engine singing a magnificent baritone. Point and squirt is not this Maserati's forte.
DuoSelect is a six-speed sequential manual system that offers the driver the choice between an F1-style paddle shift and an automated mode where the car's electronics do the shifting for you. It's not as smooth as a 'proper' automatic with a torque converter but it's a very good effort. There's even a hill holder facility that keeps the brakes applied for enough time to allow the driver to move his foot from brake to accelerator without the car rolling backwards. There are also two additional modes that can be selected on the fly. 'Low Grip' allows the car to move off in second gear, avoiding wheelspin while 'Sport' mode quickens the gear shifts, puts them higher up the rev range and also adjusts the settings for the suspension, traction and stability control systems for a more aggressive touch.
If you're equally aggressive with the right hand pedal, you'll catapult this Quattroporte to 60mph in 4.9 seconds and onto a top speed of 171mph. Be a little less aggressive and you'll be able to average 14.9mpg from the 90-litre tank that will give a touring range of around 280 miles. Perhaps the fuel economy would be a little better if the Maserati could tip the scales at a little less than 1860kg - more than the weight of a Mercedes S500 - but rear seat passengers won't begrudge the space they get one bit.
The Maserati Quattroporte is an absolute gem if you can find a well-looked after car and a liability if you get sold a pup. Maserati franchised dealers represent your best chance of improving your odds but bargains will be hard to come by. The best cars are the late Sport GT models with the automatic gearbox but these are still very thin on the ground. An early Cambiocorsa gearbox model looks good value with prices dipping under £45,000 for higher mileage examples. Given that this is upspec BMW 5 Series money, it's hard to resist.