Maserati will be revealing three new versions of its Quattroporte sedan at the 2007 Detroit auto show. The models differ from the current three models (Quattroporte, Quattroporte Sport GT, and Quattroporte Executive GT) only in that they finally have conventional torque-converter automatic transmissions.
That might not sound like a big deal, but it is--for a few reasons. Firstly, the regular Quattroporte's automated manual transmission has always been its biggest drawback. As is the case with all automated manuals (save for Volkswagen's twin-clutch DSG), gearchanges are met with a neck-snapping interruption in power. We're not a big fan of any of the non-DSG units, but we especially dislike the Quattroporte's. Not because of the transmission itself--it's the same as Ferrari's F1 unit--but because it is totally out of step with the character of the car. Harsh shifts in a sports car are barely acceptable, but in a luxury sedan, they're completely unacceptable.
The second reason why this is such a big deal is because of the amount of engineering needed to put a conventional automatic transmission in. The automated-manual transmission was located at the rear differential; the new ZF transmission is mounted directly to the rear of the engine. In addition to re-packaging the underside of the car, weight distribution has changed from 47% front / 53% rear to 49/51%. We're glad to see that the big sedan has retained its slight rear weight bias, and we're not too worried about detrimental changes to its handing: any slight difference will be more than made up for by the new transmission's additional comfort and driveability.
The Quattroporte Automatic series will go on sale in January, and we can't wait to get our grubby paws on one.