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First Drive: 2014 Maserati Quattroporte

Joe Loriowriter

We're holding our breath in the Quattroporte. It's not because the new 2014 Maserati Quattroporte is so beautiful that it takes your breath away - which it is -- but instead it's because this reborn sedan is a much bigger car than before. As we thread out way through tiny villages on the outskirts of Nice, France, it seems certain that we're going to inadvertently run over one of the slim young girls that ride wacky three-wheel scooters in this part of the world and squash her like a bug.

Maybe it makes sense that this dramatically revised 2014 Maserati Quattroporte is significantly bigger than before, since the company wants to go big in the luxury car scene. Right now, Maserati is small. How small? Total deliveries in 2012 are expected to tally some 6100 units. All this is about to change as the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte comes to market, as this bigger, more luxurious car will be joined in the next 24 months by forthcoming additions to the model lineup.

The first addition will be the Maserati Ghibli, a famous name for a smaller sedan that will compete against the likes of the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The second will be the Maserati Levante, the kind of luxury utility vehicle that the Range Rover Evoque has popularized. Once these new models are in place by 2015 next to the Maserati Gran Tourismo coupe and Maserati Gran Cabrio convertible, we're told the company will be peddling 50,000 cars per annum. (Well, that's the plan anyway.)

The 2014 Maserati Quattroporte is the first step, and it's a big one. And we mean this literally, as this high-fashion sedan has grown significantly in size, the better to square off against the long-wheelbase Audi A8, BMW 7-Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and the like. The overall length has grown by more than six inches to 207.2 inches. Moreover, the Quattroporte's width has swelled to 76.7 inches, which is four inches wider than an S-class. This almost makes the car too wide for European roads, as we're discovering as we thread our way through the small villages perched on the rocky hillsides above the French Riviera. Beneath the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte, you'll find an all-new platform that makes extensive use of aluminum, reducing overall weight by 220 pounds. When it has the standard V-8 under the hood, the car weighs 4200 pounds distributed equally fore and aft - some 20 percent lighter than a comparable Bimmer or Benz.

Aside from the increase in the Maserati Quattroporte's overall dimensions, the wheelbase has also been stretched 3.8 inches. The cabin grows significantly roomier as a result, as rear-seat legroom improves by four inches. The interior also has great style, but the execution is a bit disappointing, as the cabin of this sedan is missing some of that hand-sewn made-in-Milan quality. More important, this car lacks many of the latest driver-assistance systems, such as adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning and lane departure control.

The more affordable version of the 2014 Quattroporte features a new, direct-injected, 3.0-liter, 60-degree V-6 with twin turbochargers that makes 410 hp and 406 pound-feet of torque. The new direct-injected, 3.8-liter, 90-degree V-8 also has twin turbos, which help boost output to a whopping 530 hp and 479 lb-ft. Though the twin-turbo V-8 is significantly more powerful than the 4.7-liter V-8 it replaces, the new engine is 20 percent more fuel-efficient. Both engines are paired with a ZF eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive will be optional with the V-6.

We had only the V-8 version of the 2014 Maserati Quattroporte at our disposal in France, and the little coastal towns and crazed scooter girls along our route don't give us much chance to let this big car off its leash. Once we can get deep into the long-travel throttle pedal, the twin-turbo V-8 whips up thunderous acceleration that shows no loss of intensity even as we cross into the triple digits. Maserati claims a top speed of 191 mph, which puts the Quattroporte just behind the Bentley Flying Spur Speed (200 mph) and about even with the Porsche Panamera Turbo S (190 mph). With peak torque available from 2250 rpm, the twin-turbocharged V-8 is certainly responsive and eminently drivable. Yet this torquey V-8 gives up the free-revving quality of the previous, naturally aspirated, Ferrari-engineered V-8.

As you'd expect, big wheels are part of the new car's visual identity, so the Quattroporte rides on 19s, 20s or even 21s. Since the rear multi-link suspension faithfully reports every pavement imperfection, the 21-inch tires do the ride quality no favors and even the 19s prove fussy at low speed. Once we finally make our way out of town, the ride seems to settle down. Maserati's adaptive Skyhook dampers help make the car feel confident in the switchbacks among the mountains above the coast, and we love the hydraulically assisted steering, which feels so natural. It might have been fun to dial the stability control into a more permissive setting, but the safety net is all or nothing in this car, and the greasy, rain-slick pavement made our choice obvious. The Brembo brakes bite a bit too aggressively at low speed, but they are strong and fade-free during long descents.

The bigger, more polished 2014 Maserati Quattroporte seems ready for a bigger stage than before. At the same time, it's lost something of its lithe, light Italian quality. We'll see if this is the key to the big sales in China and the USA that Maserati executives anticipate.

2014 Maserati Quattroporte

Base price: $130,000 (estimated)
On sale: Summer 2013

Engine: twin-turbo DOHC 3.8-liter V-8
Power: 530 hp @ 6800 rpm
Torque 479lb-ft @ 2000-4000 rpm (Overboost: 524 lb-ft @ 2250-4000 rpm)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel
Tires, f/r: 245/45ZR-19, 275/40ZR-19 Dunlop Sport Maxx RT

Fuel mileage: N/A
Performance (manufacturer's data): 0-62 mph 4.7 seconds