Versus the competiton:
Verdict: The 2016 Maserati Quattroporte is a fast, stylish, rare executive luxury car that banks on styling and brand cachet to overcome its lack of the latest technology.
Versus the Competition: Other full-size luxury flagship sedans, particularly the German ones, offer far more technology for the same money – but none can match the Maserati’s exclusivity, knockout styling or novelty.
Maserati has never been a big player in the global luxury-car scene; it’s never sold anywhere near the volume that giants like Mercedes-Benz and BMW do. But that makes spotting one a rare event, and that rarity has built up something of a mystique around the brand’s cars. Tell someone you’ve just arrived in your BMW 7 Series and they’ll likely smile and compliment you on your choice. Tell them you’ve just parked your Maserati Quattroporte outside and you’ll find yourself following them outside to show it off.
The Maserati Quattroporte (Italian for “four-door”) last received an update in 2013, when it moved to a new platform shared with the shorter, less-expensive Ghibli sedan. Compare the 2015 and 2016 Quattroportes here. It shares some powertrains with the Ghibli, as well, but notably shares some interior parts with Chrysler products, as Maserati is the premium luxury brand of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
The Maserati Quattroporte is priced to compete with cars like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BMW 7 Series and Porsche Panamera. I spent a week with a 2016 Quattroporte S Q4 with all-wheel drive and a V-6 to determine whether or not the public’s awe of the Maserati name is at all deserved.
Everyone who laid eyes on the Quattroporte declared it a beautiful car, without exception: strangers at gas stations, family members, passers-by on the highway. The number of thumbs-up, waves and compliments was truly surprising. But all those compliments seemed to come after observers noticed the trident logos on the C-pillars and grille or the Maserati script on the tail. It lent credence to my observation that the Quattroporte is indeed pretty but no longer remarkable. People love it simply because it’s a Maserati.
When the Quattroporte was introduced, its shape was novel and unusual. Since then, other brands have made vehicles that look a lot like the Maserati Quattroporte. It’s got a low front end with small bi-xenon headlights and a large oval grille, sweeping back to fenders with Buick-style porthole vents, three on each side. My father actually thought it was a Buick when I pulled up in it.
The back end has strong, wide fenders and a high deck, but the shapes are no longer unique or unusual; it bears too much resemblance to a Kia K900 in a number of ways. Paint color plays a big part. In my test car’s metallic gray, it’s completely anonymous. Slather it in deep blue, though, like one I happened to pass on the street, and it’s strikingly elegant.
Powering the Maserati Quattroporte is a choice of two engines. My test car featured a twin-turbocharged, 3.0-liter V-6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that routed power to all four alloy wheels (the Q4 part of the Quattroporte S Q4 name). It’s the same powertrain I sampled in the Ghibli two years ago (see the review) and, just like in the smaller car, the engine and eight-speed automatic are perhaps the Quattroporte’s best feature.
While the engine block is cast at a Chrysler facility in Kokomo, Ind., that part is then shipped over to Italy where it’s assembled into a final engine by Ferrari. The V-6 makes 404 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque, and it also makes a sound unlike any V-6 you’ve ever heard. Pop the mode selector button into Sport and vacuum-actuated butterfly valves open in the exhaust to allow a rasping bark to escape under moderate throttle. It pops and sings, echoes off walls and other cars, and turns heads as much as it makes you smile. It also propels the big Quattroporte forward at formidable speeds, helping the car feel more athletic than its girth and heft would suggest.
That said, while the Maserati is no featherweight, it is considerably lighter than its competition. It bests the Mercedes-Benz S550 by 540 pounds and comes in 377 pounds lighter than a BMW 750. The Porsche Panamera is lighter by 110 pounds, but it’s also a smaller car.
The Maserati Quattroporte handles well for such a large car (it’s longer and wider than either the S-Class or the 7 Series), but that’s not to say it’s agile. Ride quality is excellent, with the suspension soaking up road imperfections in true grand touring style. Nicely weighted steering helps the car track true on highways. It’s also quiet and serene inside, with little in the way of road or wind noise to interfere with the Italian opera being piped through the exhaust.
The shock absorbers can be firmed up with the push of a button, but that really only serves to make the ride more uncomfortable; it doesn’t seem to add any newfound ability to the Quattroporte’s excellent suspension tuning. Braking performance is strong – almost too strong: smoothly managing the last few feet of travel when coming to a stop takes some practice, as the big brakes become grabby at lower speeds.
Fuel economy is surprisingly decent for a car this big, even though I tended to run its small, turbocharged V-6 at higher rpm just to hear it sing. My week with the Quattroporte, which included nearly 400 miles of highway driving, netted an average of 22 mpg. The Quattroporte S Q4 is rated a rather poor 16/23/18 mpg city/highway/combined, making my observed numbers more significant.
The Maserati’s rating isn’t much different from the competition: The Mercedes-Benz S550 with its twin-turbo V-8 is rated 16/26/19 mpg, almost exactly the same as the BMW 750i xDrive’s 16/25/19 mpg. The lighter, smaller Porsche Panamera 4S is rated 17/27/21 mpg.
Though troubling for reviewers like me who sample a lot of cars over the course of a year, the Quattroporte’s biggest problem is not likely to be a concern for most of its buyers. The issue is inside the car and comes in the form of all the Fiat Chrysler parts-bin components I can easily identify. The multimedia system is pure Chrysler Uconnect, down to the fonts used. The window switches are from a Jeep Grand Cherokee, the multifunction turn signal-wiper stalk is from a Chrysler 300 and the steering wheel is the standard corporate part from any number of Fiat-Chrysler vehicles. For $126,000 and change, I expect uniqueness – or at least more distinctiveness than you’ll find in a car costing around $26,000. But I’d wager that most Maserati buyers have never been inside a Dodge Dart and the only time they’ve seen the inside of a Chrysler 300 is from the backseat of the Uber they took to the airport. For them, this will likely feel like pure Maserati style, not obvious cost-sharing.
That’s because the parts themselves aren’t bad; except for the shifter, everything in the car has a solid, well-crafted feel to it. The electronic shifter itself is garbage. It’s the confusing type, difficult to operate quickly, that has since been recalled on Chrysler 300s, Dodge Chargers and Jeep Grand Cherokees. It springs back to center when pushed forward or back and requires astute attention to confirm what gear you’re in. Designs of this type are still in use on many Audis and Maseratis, however, and from its cheap plastic feel to its damnably infuriating operation, it’s a deal-killer for me in a purchase situation. The shifter also features a tap-shift function for manual operation of the transmission, but it’s so easy to accidentally tap when operating the climate controls or radio that you’ll often find yourself accidentally downshifting.
My car came equipped with the optional Ermenegildo Zegna special edition interior. It features dark gray Mulberry silk fabric from the world-famous Italian suit-maker as the seat inserts, door panels and headliner material. It looks fantastic against the saddle leather and piano-black trim, making for an impressive dose of style that the 7 Series can’t quite match (though the S-Class can).
The Maserati’s leather seats are big and comfortable but don’t offer quite the same adjustability (or massage or adaptive cushioning) as the Benz. Backseat comfort, however, is also impressive and easily a match for the Benz or Bimmer, with plenty of legroom for occupants in the stretched chassis. Headroom is also plentiful despite the car’s swoopy roofline and a four-seat option is available if you want to extend the front center console all the way into the backseat. If driving the Quattroporte isn’t your thing, riding in its backseat isn’t a bad alternative.
Cost-sharing is the name of the game for the Maserati brand, which is understandable given the low volume it sells. Why not share some parts with high-volume Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep? As mentioned, the touch-screen multimedia system is Chrysler Uconnect, which means it works well, is simple and easy to use, and responds quickly. The one in my test car, however, seemed to be an older version, as it had problems syncing up with my iPhone 6S. I’d also expect at least a little effort to re-skin the screens used so the system doesn’t look like it came straight out of a car costing 20 percent of the Maserati Quattroporte’s sticker price.
The ergonomics of the rest of the car are a mixed bag. You sit low in the Quattroporte but not low enough to see the tops of the two round gauges in front of you. Adjusting the steering wheel to a mostly comfortable position for me cut off the speedometer between 30 and 120 mph. Thankfully, you can choose to display a digital speedometer between the two gauges; without it, you’d never know your speed. The climate controls are buttons instead of touch-sensitive panels, but they have backlit, white icons that completely disappear in bright sunlight.
The Quattroporte shows far less attention to the vehicle’s controls and connectivity systems than its rivals do. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available.
The Quattroporte’s size enables it to carry plenty of people and stuff. The trunk is a sizeable 18.7 cubic feet, besting the 18.2 cubic feet of the BMW 750i, the 15.7 cubic feet you get in a Porsche Panamera, and the surprisingly small 12.3 cubic feet of the Mercedes-Benz S550. Storage inside the car isn’t as copious, however. A center armrest console is the only place you have to put anything, and there’s only one cupholder per person in the front seat.
The Quattroporte has not been crash-tested, but if it eventually is, the results will appear here.
Unlike offerings from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche (and Cadillac, Kia, Hyundai and others), the Maserati Quattroporte doesn’t offer much in the way of electronic safety aids. Blind spot warning, rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear parking sensors are standard, as is a backup camera, but that’s about all you get. Adaptive cruise control, collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning or prevention – none of it is available on the Maserati Quattroporte.
The S-Class, meanwhile, is a technological marvel that practically drives itself, as is the 7 Series. If having all the latest tech and gadgetry is your goal, the Quattroporte won’t be your choice. See the Quattroporte’s standard features here.
No, you don’t buy a Quattroporte for its tech, or for its value. The 2016 model starts at $101,700 including destination for a basic, rear-drive S model. Stepping up to the Q4 with all-wheel drive will run you $109,700, while opting for the V-8-powered Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S will set you back $143,300 – and that’s a hefty $16,800 per additional engine cylinder (though it also gets you Maserati’s Skyhook adaptive suspension and a lot of other standard equipment).
My Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 rang in at $129,770 including the Zegna interior package, stitched trident logos on the headrests, piano black-trim, metallic paint, a powered rear sunshade and the Comfort and Assistance Package.
The competition is formidable and includes some of the most advanced luxury vehicles in the world. The Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the benchmark for the segment and, while you can’t get one with a V-6 in the U.S., you get a powerful twin-turbo V-8 for the price of the Maserati’s V-6. In fact, for the price of the Maserati, you can get an S550 loaded with technology, comfort and luxury items that shame the Quattroporte – but you don’t get the Maserati’s exclusivity and you trade off German technological prowess for Italian style.
The same can be said for the BMW 7 Series, which offers many of the same innovations as the S-Class but is available with a six-cylinder engine. Both the Benz and the BMW can be had with executive rear seating packages, as well, which coddle backseat occupants as if they were in a luxury jet. Like the Mercedes-Benz, the BMW is loaded with technology and luxury features when optioned up to the same price as the Maserati.
With more compact dimensions inside and out, the Porsche Panamera is more of a sports car than a grand touring sedan like the Quattroporte. It has a wider variety of powertrains, too, and a far larger price span, ranging from a starting price of $79,150 up to nearly $300,000 for a loaded, all-wheel-drive Exclusive Series. The Panamera gets by on its abilities, however, not on its looks; it’s generally considered to be nowhere near as shapely as the Maserati. Compare all four competitors here.
The Maserati Quattroporte is meant to go up against the big dogs from the major luxury marques, but it can’t compete when it comes to technological innovation or safety features. Instead, it makes its mark with style and cachet – whether real or imagined. Time and again, whenever someone asked me about the Quattroporte and I brought up its shortcomings, they invariably responded with “Yeah, but it’s a Maserati!”
You can’t buy that kind of cachet, but it is very real – and Maserati is counting on it to overcome the Quattroporte’s competitive deficits.