The 2017 Maserati Quattroporte Is a Driver's Idea of Luxury
It doesn't coddle you into oblivion with luxury. That's a very good thing indeed.
The Drive contributor Nicolas Stecher joined Maserati in Italy for the first drive of the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte. Here are his thoughts on the brand's new iteration of its four-door luxury grand tourer.
Palermo is burning. High up above the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, a wildfire rages in the Madonie mountains, threatening to burn down the entire medieval capital of Sicily. Even with gusts of nearly 50 mph the sirocco, desert winds blowing in hot from northern Africa, are searing us at temperatures over 100 degrees. The skies over the Greek-tiled azure swimming pool are choked in smoke and ash; what a dramatic way for Maserati to unveil it's luxurious Italian saloon, the 2017 Quattroporte, to the world.
Sicily, having been conquered in its long history by everyone from the Greeks and the Romans to the Moors, Arabs, and Vikings, is as swirling a cultural cioppino as there is on planet Earth. We're sitting poolside, delayed from driving the car because of the fires burning overhead. The area is in many ways more African than European—something our waiter, commenting on the winds, is quick to remind us. We watch a procession of giant air tanker planes dive into the Mediterranean to fill their massive bowls with rivers of salty fire retardant, and I wonder if I'm ever going to get behind the wheel.
To alleviate our escape from Palermo, Maserati arranges a police escort through the city; it’s the type of entitlement that almost makes you feel like an ass, until you realize you’re in a Maserati, in Italy. When half the caravan gets split behind a lorry, the polizia circles back and stops traffic for us, including a surly moped rider with a long cigarette dangling from pouting lips—the quintessential picture of Italian irritation.
For this first leg of the drive we’re issued a GranLusso, the four-door's new luxury trim. While the complimentary GranSport trim aims for performance cues like carbon fiber surfacing, gaudier air vents, and bigger, 21-inch wheels, the Granlusso is all about opulence. It's enough to make you realize that the term "Italian opulence" that the execs keep repeating isn't just PR hogwash.
“Maybe I'm getting older,” my co-pilot Jared muses as he paddle-shifts through the ZF-sourced 8-speed's gears. “But I'm really growing to appreciate powerful cars that are actually this comfortable to drive.” Jared’s been doing this a long time; those comments don’t come cheap. As he makes short work of the Renault Clios, passing them as if they’re standing still, I take stock of the details from the relative ease of the passenger seat.
The interior of the Quattroporte is sumptuous, with soft, milk-chocolate leather covering the dashboard, center console, and doors. Climbing the center stack and spreading across the dash, a glossy Radica wood with darkly striped grain lends the cabin some pop; it's beautifully treated, carved, and executed. There’s a wood steering wheel, 12-way power seats, embroidered Tridents on the headrests, Quattroporte badges above the passenger’s knees, and matching Bowers & Wilkins badges on the door panels. An updated 8.4-inch touchscreen display with improved definition (800x600 pixels, up from 640x480) sits front and center, with a Maserati chronograph directly above.
Perhaps most opulent are the silk appointments in the Ermenegildo Zegna Edition. Maserati has long collaborated with the venerable textile maestros, and in the Quattroporte they apply a silk fabric on the doors, seats, headliner, and visors, the last of which sport a sewn-in “Ermenegildo Zegna exclusively for Maserati” label. The silk isn't a shimmery slick like that found on a robe or tie, but more textured, like thick linen.
Back at the Villa Igiea after lunch, we switch rides in order to get our hands on the highly coveted GTS. (A quick primer on the lineup: There’s the rear-wheel-drive Quattroporte S, and the AWD version dubbed the Quattroporte S Q4; beyond those base trims, both S and S Q4 are available in GranLusso and GrandSport editions. All are powered by a 410-horsepower, 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Above all those offerings roosts the Quattroporte GTS—a glorious-sounding stallion with a 530-horsepower, 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V8 lump under its hood that shoves all its power to the rear wheels.) Behind the wheel of the that sleek chariot, we headed to Isola delle Femmine beach.
The GTS is the car that possibly justifies the existence of the Quattroporte. While the touches of Italian craftsmanship are superb, the truth is that the GranLusso's luxury doesn’t match the upper-tier opulence of the Quattroporte’s fiercest competition: the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Jaguar XJ, Audi A8, and Porsche Panamera.
And Especially compared to the S-Class, A8, and 7-Series, the Quattroporte simply gets eviscerated in the technology department, to the point where it's not even a fair comparison. (Just try changing the radio with gesture control in any Quattroporte.) The German trio offers dizzying accouterments, like hundreds of ambient lighting options, aroma spritzers, and hot stone seat massagers. And the chauffeured executive cabin—aka the rear passenger-side seat—in the Germans is second only to the first-class thrones on Emirates, with removable tablets, LED light carpets, and even exercise programs to keep you limber on long drives.
But one does not buy a Maserati for hot stone massages and calf stretches. One buys a Maserati for what I experience during the next hour driving along the Sicilian coast.
The collective idea of the S-Class, A8, and 7-Series is to isolate you from the environment, to create a self-looping universe of comfort in which only you, a leather throne, and some tech gadgetry exist. There is admirable effort in reducing all road noise and exterior stimuli to nil, to craft a silent womb of analgesic pleasure. This is not the raison d'être of the Maserati Quattroporte; it does not want to to lift you above and away from the asphalt like a magnetorheologically-suspended cloud. The Quattroporte wants you to engage with the road, to play with its hugging corners and airstrip straightaways; it wants you to feel the sensual curves of the road, and sometimes that means feeling the bumps and bruises. This can be attributed to the fact that the Quattroporte still uses hydraulically-assisted steering instead of the electronic racks that have become de rigueur across the luxury marques.
The seating position is superb, and while it doesn’t feel as high as some of its German competitors, you certainly feel more planted as you make short work of the open roads. The aluminum-intensive chassis is rigid and reasonably light; the steering response from the thick, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels both substantial and sharp. Balance that with a well-engineered 50/50 weight distribution, and you have a luxury saloon that can out-handle all comers save maybe the top-tier Panameras. And you can get the ass out, quick—on one rather unspectacular corner, we found ourselves drifting like a rally driver without even trying.
Then there’s the V8, built by the same Maranello hands that wrench together the most famous powerplants in the world. Designed and developed by Maserati’s fleet of engineers, they're still held to the same meticulous standards that have made Ferrari engines among the world’s finest. Maserati’s glorious eight-pot rips and snorts and shudders with the same joy as those with a Prancing Horse bolted on its side. This is not a sound you want to be coddled from.
There is adaptive cruise control, but no nannies steering your vehicle in the right direction should you be inattentive enough to let the Quattroporte drift. Its Lane Departure Warning will sound off, but that’s about all the help you’re going get from Maserati. Some would say this is bad; evidence of a vehicle lagging behind its high-tech luxury competition. I would argue it’s exactly what you want from a hi-po driver’s machine—that is, if you actually enjoy driving. I can understand if 80 percent of full-size luxury sedan owners won’t even consider a Quattroporte. But for true enthusiasts, the GTS offers a singular experience, one that’s unfortunately becoming all but extinct in the segment.