Maserati's year of the horse ... power

By Liz Dobson

Italian flagship sedan finally makes its way Downunder - with more power and slicker style

The Maserati Quattroporte has been completely redesigned and gains a refined interior with leather seats and an eight speed transmission.
The Maserati Quattroporte has been completely redesigned and gains a refined interior with leather seats and an eight speed transmission.

It may be the Chinese Year of the Horse but for luxury car brand Maserati it's the year of the horsepower.

The company held its official Australasian launch in Sydney last week for the all-new Quattroporte, after the premium saloon's arrival Downunder was delayed for a year because of international demand for the left-hand drive version.

Once the factory in Turin, Italy finished building the sports sedan for the burgeoning Chinese and American markets, it turned to the right-hand drive version - with 100 Quattroportes allotted to Australasia.

The all new twin-turbo 3.8-litre V8 Quattroporte GTS flagship sedan is the first car to arrive with its 390kW engine - or, as Maserati's Australasian boss Glenn Sealey likes to put it, "530 horsepower and 530-litre boot space".

Priced at $258,900, the GTS is Maserati's most powerful sedan and can hit 100km/h in 4.7sec with a top speed of 307km/h.

The $194,900 twin turbo V6 Quattroporte is no pushover, either - with a 3-litre, 301kW engine with greater torque peak than the outgoing Quattroporte Sport GTS. It heads our way next month and by the middle of the year the sought-after Ghibli sedan will be on sale here while in 2016 we will see the Levante SUV - with both vehicles based on the Quattroporte's platform.

Maserati has the enviable problem of demand outstripping supply because wealthy customers no longer want to ponder the purchase, colour of the vehicle and engine size for a few months. Instead, they want to walk into a dealership and buy the car straight away. To cater for such customers, Maserati recently opened an exclusive dealership in Auckland and has showrooms planned for Australia.

The increase in worldwide love for the Italian brand doubled production last year to 12,000 - the most the company could build before the Turin factory hit full steam - and now Maserati is expecting to have more than 24,000 of its luxury cars on the road this year, and 50,000 units globally next year.

The Quattroporte is certainly helping the brand achieve that goal. The luxury four-door has had an end-to-end transformation: from the eight-speed transmission, new chassis, suspension and the steel, aluminium body - with no part carried on from the previous Quattroporte.

For Maserati it's all about the horsepower from its newly created engine range that not only provides better fuel economy over the older engine but retains the "operatic bellow and the snap and crackle" that Maserati fans adore. A quick rev of the engine at the Sydney showroom - and while stopped at traffic lights to tease an envious Lexus driver - made me laugh with delight at the sound.

But it will also be that increased boot space that is driving new buyers to the brand, taking potential Mercedes Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series customers, while looks-wise it's competing with the Porsche Panamera - though it has a more hunkered-over, macho look than the German car.

The V6 sits on 19-inch tyres, and 20- and 21-inch tyres are available for the V8. To reinforce the sports performance of the car, each wheel size is matched electronically to the suspension: the 19 inch offers a "softer, comfortable ride" and the 21 inch provides a more aggressive suspension. Apart from the engine size, the visual difference between the V6 and V8 is that the smaller engine gets round tail pipes instead of square ones, different patterned leather and wood panels inside.

There are three seating formations - a five-seater, a four-seater with part-time seat in the middle and entertainment systems, and a four-seater with a fridge set into the middle armrest, limo-style. The rear seats provide plenty of leg space and ample head room thanks to the domed roof.

My first drive from Maserati's Sydney showroom to the Southern Highlands was in the GTS with 21-inch tyres. Pair the tyre/suspension setting with the sports mode of the engine and you have a free-thinking car that lets you know who is boss - and it's not you.

A too sharp a right turn had the Quattroporte GTS's rear flick and the engine bark "bad girl", which is probably what the envious Lexus driver said as I hit the accelerator when the lights turned green and left him staring at the square tail pipes.

- NZ Herald

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