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Maserati Quattroporte

Maserati Quattroporte Published: 10th Jun 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Great value, super saloon with more elegance and poise than any comparable Audi, BMW or Mercedes plus boasts a sportier personality than any of that Teutonic triumvirate

The question is who needs a Ferrari? This is especially so now that the Prancing Horse also looks after one of the most overlooked and underrated supercar makers – Maserati and its quaint Quattroporte saloon Fast, cossetting and so much more elegant than a BMW, Merc or Audi super saloon, Maserati’s Quattroporte is a sharp-suited Italian masterpiece and let’s face it, who else could make the term ‘four-door’ sound so sexy? With its Ferrari-derived V8 engine, near-perfect weight distribution and five-seater cabin, it’s also a supercar with practicality. The fifth-generation QP has now come down to ultra-affordable levels – how about £12,000, sir? – so should you leap in, or are there hidden woes awaiting?

HISTORY

2003 Quattroporte – the very name sends shudders of longing up and down the spine of any enthusiast. Yet despite its exotic-sounding name, in fact ‘Quattroporte’ simply means ‘four doors’. Fear not, however: the big Maserati is the very antithesis of a mundane saloon. Fifth-generation model made its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show, before arriving in UK showrooms in May 2004 priced at the heady figure of £69,995. Heart of the car is its Ferrari-derived 4.2-litre V8, the same 4244cc dry-sump unit found in the Maserati 4200 Coupé but with the power upped to 400PS (394bhp) at 7000rpm, and sounding absolutely fabulous.The only transmission choice at launch was an updated version of Cambiocorsa called DuoSelect, Maserati’s robotised – and slightly infamous – semi-automatic gearbox which was mounted in unit with the rear axle.

2005 The Sport GT of 2005 onwards got larger 20in wheels, firmer suspension and sportier trim. This was followed in 2007 by the Sport GT S, which kept the same 400PS engine but brought a big change to the suspension, swapping Skyhook adjustable suspension – which was standard on all early cars – for new hard-edged, new single-rate Bilstein dampers, plus lowered suspension and a ‘dark chrome’ finish for the exterior to make it look even moodier.

2006 Frankly, the QP was always in its element as a sports saloon, rather than a luxury limo. Maserati itself got a bit confused over this when it offered an Executive GT package from 2006 (including massaging rear seats, rear air con controls, curtains and picnic tables), but in truth there was never enough legroom in the back to make this a chauffeur car.2007 While offering a sharp drive in paddle-shift manual mode, DuoSelect was criticised in many quarters for being too jerky in automatic mode. Maserati fi nally relented to pressure for a pure auto ’box in 2007, when a ZF six-speed automatic option was added. This meant a big change to the underpinnings.

While the DuoSelect gearbox sat in the rear, the ‘Automatica’ brought the gearbox to the front end, just behind the engine. Surprisingly, this didn’t change the weight distribution drastically: it was 47 per cent front /53 per cent rear in the DuoSelect and 49/51in the automatic. The engine was also swapped from dry sump lubrication to wet sump, while other improvements were made at this time to the suspension, steering and interior. 2008 On sale in the UK in October came a light facelift, featuring new bumpers, a different front grille with vertical slats, fresh front and rear LED lights, revised door mouldings, new mirrors and, in the cabin, a new centre console and multimedia system. The two-strong line-up now consisted of the base model, which continued with the 4.2 engine, plus a new ‘S’ model with the 4.7-litre taken from the new GranTurismo, albeit slightly modifi ed and developing 424bhp at 7000rpm, good enough for 0-62mph sprint in 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 174mph. Signifi cantly, post-2008 models were now offered with ZF automatic as standard.

Following hot on the heels of the 2008 facelift was a revised Sport GT S model, also with the new 4.7-litre engine but with a power boost to 434bhp courtesy of a sports exhaust system. Other GT S features included sharper gear-shifting software and revised suspension with single-rate dampers, stiffer springs and a lower ride height.

The QP5 lasted until 2012, when it was replaced by an all-new Mk6 model.

Well over 20,000 were produced in total, of which comfortably over 1000 QP5s made it to the UK, so there’s actually a generous choice of used ones out there.

So how does the car that one road test described as “an Italian M5 with style to spare” stack up as a classic buy?

DRIVING AND PRESS COMMENTS

If you’re a bit of a slushbox fan, then the Automatica six-speed automatic is indeed more comfortable to drive in traffi c, but still has a paddle-shift option for the twisty stuff and still goes like stink.

Autocar described it “as an Italian BMW M5 with style to spare” and that’s a good an analogy as you’ll fi nd anywhere. That Ferrari-derived V8 engine is sublime. It sounds fantastic, especially if you go for a Sport GT S model with its twin-fl ap exhaust system, and despite the car’s two-ton weight, it hustles along extremely impressively but there’s no signifi cant difference in the performance of any QP.

No set of driving impressions can fail to mention the transmission, however.  Maserati’s Duoselect semi-auto has had a pretty bad press, criticised for being jerky at low speeds and suffering long delays to changes in auto mode. Before discounting it, consider these facts: the weight distribution is slightly better, it has a dry sump engine and it’s a little quicker in terms of top speed and acceleration.

Our advice is to avoid using the automatic mode and simply drive in paddle-shift ‘manual’ form, which will keep most keen drivers more than happy with its throttle-blipping downshift.

Here’s what Autocar said of the early QP: “Flick to manual shift on faster country roads, and the Quattroporte’s dry-sump Ferrari DNA is revealed. There’s few cars of any class that sound more inspiring than a hard pressed Quattroporte, and certainly no four-door saloon. However, the thrills aren’t limited to aural delights. With the rear mounted transmission giving the chassis a 47:53 front-to-rear weight bias, the Quattroporte is one of the best handling saloons at any price.”

Evo magazine wasn’t shy in its opinions of the DuoSelect transmission, however: “That infamous paddle-shift gearbox is the biggest problem, making mooching about at low speeds a disaster thanks to a horrible pause between gears that would be masked by the torque converter in a proper auto.”

Auto Express was relieved when auto eventually arrived in 2007: “The gorgeous Quattroporte fi nally gets the kind of transmission its rivals all take for granted. The smooth-shifting and responsive automatic gearbox is the perfect choice for the large saloon, delivering relaxed and refi ned performance.”

So much for straight lines; how about corners? The QP’s handling belies its size and considerable weight. It turns in keenly and really comes alive on a twisty road. The QP was always best viewed as a sports saloon, rather than a luxury car, as the CAR magazine test of the 2007 Sport

GT S revealed: “Take a medium-fast corner, turn in, and immediately the car responds. What’s more, after a sniff of initial roll, the car stays planted on a trajectory, super-settled, screaming confi dent thoughts at you. Tweak the steering and the car obliges; tackle a switchback-sequence and you really are in a sports car, rather than a fi ve-metre long four-door. Throw in bumps and cambers, and the ride is transformed into an interference-free class act that is never knocked off course, stays keyed into the road and leaves you marvelling at the quality of the damping.”

And with the gutsier 4.7-litre V8 launched with the 2008 facelift, the QP fi nally came of age. Autocar enthused: “Make no mistake: the Sport GT S doesn’t just sound ‘good’. It sounds ‘let’s leave it in fi rst gear through the next three towns, eh?’ splendid.” Expect 15mpg in normal driving, and perhaps as much as 22mpg if you’re very gentle, too.

PRICES

Quattroportes represent amazing value for money. We’ve seen early examples for as little as £11,999, but a more typical price for a 2003-2007 DuoSelect is £14,000-£18,000. Younger QPs with ZF automatic start around the £20,000 mark. The 4.7-litre Sport GT S is the pick of the later

QPs if you’re a keen driver, and this starts at around £25,000. Even the very best late-plate QPs are unlikely to hit more than £50k although depreciation is going to remain steep for years.

What To Look For

MISCELLANEOUS

• Brakes This is a heavy car, and the discs are not quite as big as on some rivals, so their condition needs checking – look for scoring and feel for judder under braking. Pads are quite pricey at around £260 for a pair up front and £280 at the rear.

• Bodywork QPs are notorious for stone chips, with particular problems on the front and rear wings and around the wheelarches. The bonnet safety catch has been known to come loose, too. In the boot, you should find a space saver wheel, jack, wheel brace, tool kit and compressor.

• Interior If looked after, the cabin can last well, but check for rattling or loose switchgear and panelling. Leather upholstery can become worn and snagged, so check all the seats carefully. Light colours tend to look grubby with age. Make sure the car has both sets of keys, as well as the card with the separate codes for the radio and CD (note that a 5CD changer was an option).

• Electrics This is an Italian car remember, so expect gremlins such as intermittently fl ashing warning lights for no reason. Electric window motors start to suffer with age, and check the glass moves smoothly in its channels. Xenon headlights are very pricey to replace as you’ll need a complete unit with an ECU – yours for an eye-watering £1500 fitted, per headlamp.

GENERAL

• Unlike some exotic cars, Quattroportes benefit from being used, according to owners, so a car with a higher mileage but a pile of paperwork is probably a better bet than a low-mileage car that hasn’t been used on a daily basis, building up potential problems.

• The QP also benefits from regular and timely servicing, but as this isn’t cheap, some owners may be tempted to scrimp, making it vital to find a car that’s got a proper history – either a Maserati main dealer or a recognised independent; the latter is going to be better value.

• Quattroporte needs servicing every 6000 miles, and costs are likely to be in the region of £2000 a year on average, including consumables. Parts prices can be high – a new exhaust system is around £3700 (excluding catalysts) and an alternator around £500, but frankly you’d expect this of any car of this calibre.


SUSPENSION AND TYRES

• This is a car that’s very sensitive to alignment, so carry out regular wheel geometry checks. Early steering racks are prone to ‘play’ around the centre position, cured in a 2005 update to the rack.

• Check for wear in the bushes and dampers, as well as squeaking sounds. Be aware that the Skyhook active system is very expensive to fix if it goes wrong, so a car with fixed-rate dampers is probably a better bet.

• Kerbed and even bent wheels are common, and wheel size can be critical to how the car drives – 18in wheels look a bit lost, 19in are good all-rounders, 20in are sportier but give a harder ride. Tyre wear can be severe if the QP is driven hard; Michelin or Pirelli are the OE tyres, but plenty of other options exist; just make sure they are good.


TRANSMISSION

• Your first choice is whether to go for DuoSelect or Automatica. With automatic, there are far fewer pumps and relays to worry about, and the ZF unit is robust and very reliable. DuoSelect definitely has several ‘issues’.

• Clutches only last around 25,000 miles if they’re driven sympathetically, but can give up the ghost a lot earlier than that if abused (for instance, sitting in traffic in first gear). To renew a clutch costs a not inconsiderable £1500, but if the hydraulic gear selectors fail, expect a bill well in excess of £3000. When you go for a test drive, make sure to try all the settings, including normal, sport and low grip, plus automatic and manual.

Three Of A Kind

BENTLEY MULSANNE TURBO
BENTLEY MULSANNE TURBO
We’ve included the Bentley in this trio of alternatives because of its performance, prestige and price. The first it serves up aplenty, the second comes with the badge, but the last – and no means least – is due to the number of them around, sadly in various states of disrepair. But if you avoid the cheap dross and buy with an appropriate budget, then you’ll own one of the most pleasing super cars around with class and comfort to spare.
JAGUAR XJR
JAGUAR XJR
Like the Maserati, the Jaguar isn’t short on value or pace. The XJR initially came as a supercharged straight six before 1997 when the V8 replaced it. Performance isn’t an issue and there’s a real ‘modern day Coombs MK2’ feel about the XJR but with prices that are more Mondeo-sized. Too big and frumpy? Then don’t overlook the spry, sporty S-Type of a similar vintage to the Quattroporte where the sporty R version yielded some 400bhp.
ASTON MARTIN LAGONDA
ASTON MARTIN LAGONDA
If we’d have highlighted the BMW M5, then that would alienate the equally worthy Audi A8 and the S-Class Merc. So we’re looking at the square cut Aston Martin Lagonda which was a rival to the Maserati throughout the Italian’s long life. Striking looks and performance and they can be picked up for pennies – especially when compared to DB values. As large limos go, the Lagonda is surprisingly sporty. Just buy – and budget – well.

Verdict

Mention the word Quattro and you instantly think German rather than Italian. Both are supercar classics in their own fi elds; with Audi it’s grip and grunt, with the Maserati it’s a viable alternative to not simply a BMW, Audi or Merc, but also a Bentley Mulsanne. Nobody other than Italians can make the term four-door sound so seductive and nobody other than Maserati delivers it in such a classy and affordable package.



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