The switchbacks in the rearview of the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte are ancient, craggly and treacherous— not uncommon for a high performance drive, but this time it’s different. These Sicilian passes are where the first Targa Florio took place 110 years ago, in an era that predates Le Mans and saw victories from greats including Nuvolari, Moss, and Redman. If ever there was a spot seemingly haunted by ghosts of motorsports past, this is it.
These roads are a pitch perfect backdrop for Maserati, the brand that scored consecutive outright wins here between 1937 and 1940 (not to mention Alfieri Maserati’s own best-in-class victory in 1926). The Modenese manufacturer has survived both the gilded era of Italian racing and lean years of quiet desperation. But on this sunny 21st century day, the experience in the 2017 Quattroporte is, well, unexpectedly modern.
More on that in a moment.
Tiny Tweaks for Twenty Seventeen
The Maserati Quattroporte sees incremental updates for 2017, with the lineup featuring two new packages: GranSport and GranLusso. Power comes from a 410 horsepower, twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 or a 530 horsepower, twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-8-powered GTS, either of which can be ordered with the new trim levels.
Outside, the Quattroporte GranSport wears more aggressive bodywork – and optional carbon trim – at the nose plus 21-inch wheels. Found inside are heavily bolstered seats and piano black interior trim that provides a more masculine look. The GranLusso incorporates a floating bridge element up front, side skirts, 20-inch wheels, and a color-matched rear spoiler.
Inside, the cabin is decked out with open pore wood and silk-trimmed details crafted by Ermenegildo Zegna. The chevron-quilted silk patterns on the GranLusso’s seats lend an elegantly aggressive look and a counterpoint to the GranSport, whose available carbon fiber package acts as glossy-trimmed foil to the frou frou silk trimmings.
Unifying the Quattroporte’s exterior design with the new Levante is a pointier, Alfieri concept-inspired grille that incorporates a revised treatment of the Maserati Trident. Just behind sit new electrically-actuated air shutters, which provide a claimed a 10 percent reduction in drag and three percent improvement in highway fuel economy.
However, the more consequential changes are on the inside. The redesigned dash features a more streamlined 8.4-inch capacitive touchscreen, the new center console adds a rotary knob for menu scrolling, and Apple CarPlay and Android implementation are in place. Other additions include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, and a surround view camera.
Behind the Trident
I’ll admit to some eager anticipation surrounding my drive of the 2017 Quattroporte: this was my first experience with Maserati’s flagship. The six-figure Italian’s persona had an air of mystery to it, making it an alluringly outsider-ish alternative to the American, German, and Japanese status quo. Besides, certain Buicks notwithstanding, Maserati’s trademark portholes beckoned like a harbinger of unique things to come in the cabin. This, I hoped, would be special.
First, open one of those quattro portes: If you’re expecting a direct descendant to an opulent 1960s-era Maser, the Quattroporte GranSport’s interior, though admittedly pleasant and premium in spots, might leave you a little empty in its somberness. Step up to the GranLusso, and there are cleverly elegant little details, particularly in the silk accents and rich wood, which add a sense of occasion. But, as fashion-forward Italian design goes, the Q-Porte doesn’t push boundaries particularly hard, or wow with outlandish themes. And yes, if you look closely, you might detect a whiff of Chrysler-ness in certain nooks, such as the the plasticky door handles, mundane window switches, and shiny surround trim.
Piloting a V-6-powered GranSport through the mean streets of Palermo requires unwavering confidence: not only is its footprint significantly larger than surrounding econohatches, its six-figure street value makes it a glossy standout against the sea of battle-scarred road mates. Though relatively sedate in standard mode, a revvy eagerness emerges from the 3.0-liter powerplant in Sport mode along with a subtle-but-definitely-there exhaust note. There’s nice flexibility too, with 405 lb-ft plateauing between 1,750 and 5,000 rpm. The 8-speed auto shifts smoothly enough, though quicker cog swaps and responsiveness from the paddle shifters would be a welcome upgrade.
Though the V-8’s power looks bigger on paper, some of those gains are muted by a taller final drive ratio (of 2.93:1, versus 2.80:1 in the V-6). The relatively slow-revving engine doesn’t particularly feel like its packing 530 horsepower. Part of the issue might be the linearity of its power delivery and the lengthiness of the gears. Switching to the most dynamic drive mode freed up the otherwise restrictive traction control, though the Quattroporte’s bulk and the low drag coefficient of Sicilian roads made the lurchiness of the turbo spooling a bit difficult to predict.
Ride quality is generally acceptable, though surface irregularities have a way of upsetting the suspension more than you might expect; hat tip to the competition for their big dollar R&D, which has led to quantum leaps like Mercedes-Benz’s so-called Magic Body Control, which keeps the panzerwagens unperturbed by big bumps. Ostensibly aimed at a more premium and higher-spending clientele, the GTS’s V-8 is quiet enough to stir a craving for sound — something, anything to lend it a tad more charisma.
The Italian Equation: Bottom Line
Admittedly, Maserati’s country of origin and storied past left this author expecting a bit more wildness, a tad more extroversion, and a touch more madness from the curvy four door. While its interior appointments have their moments, this isn’t a knock down, drag out tour de force of style. Similarly, both powertrains are adequately refined and polished feeling, though they lack the distinct impression of Italianate DNA you might expect from a brand with historical connections to the prancing horse.
About that view ahead: Maserati has only sold 24,000 Quattroportes in total – a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to, say, the 7 Series – BMW has moved roughly the same amount in the last eight months. That said, the brand’s well-publicized play for bigger volume might explain the relative innocuousness of the user experience. Our take? Stop chasing the big boys and their luxed-up, left brain technology flagships and aim for the heart. Maserati’s rich past and evocative history is a terrible thing to waste, and since out-engineering the Germans and Japanese is an exercise in futility, it’s best to aim those energies into building a charming and stylish sedan that oozes more personality. The Quattroporte may be perfectly capable, but we’d happily trade some of that even-tempered balance for a dose of eccentricity. After all, who ever met a saucy Italian they didn’t like?
2017 Maserati Quattroporte Specifications
|On Sale:||Summer, 2016|
|Engine:||3.0L Twin-Turbo V-6/410 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 405 lb-ft @ 1,750 – 5,000 rpm; 3.8L Twin-Turbo V-8/530 hp @ 6,800 rpm, 470 lb-ft @ 2,000 – 4,000 rpm|
|Layout:||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, rear-drive/all-wheel drive (S Q4)|
|L x W x H:||207.2 x 76.6 x 58.3 in|
|0-60 MPH:||4.7 seconds (GTS), 4.9 seconds (SQ 4), 5.1 seconds (S)|
|Top Speed:||192 mph (GTS), 177 mph (S, S Q4)|