They say Nice is nice all year round. They (whoever ‘they’ are) are lying. Having landed in the Côte d’Azur in the middle of December, with torrential rain and gale force winds, the Mediterranean was the last place I wanted to be. It was cold, wet and looked nothing like the pretty pictures in the postcards. But my annoyance soon wore off when the icy air was torn by the thunderous exhaust note produced by Maserati’s all-new flagship, the Quattroporte. And it was mine for the afternoon. Nice just got a little better.
Things improved even more following a mere dab of the throttle, which sent the 20in rear wheels, shod with 285/35 Continental rubbers, into a wild frenzy on the greasy road. Birds scattered away from tree tops, rudely awoken by the immense roar emanating from the quad tips. It was a rumble so deep and penetrative that it could have awoken a dormant volcano — while idling.
Making my way up the twisty mountain pass with the sixth-generation model, which has arrived 50 years after the original and bursting at the seams with 530bhp and 710Nm of torque (200Nm more than the Quattroporte Sport GT S), was plain scary. Conditions were far from ideal to give the 307kph road rocket a proper seeing to. With the clouds quickly descending and visibility almost non-existent, I did what any self respecting V8-lover would do; floor it. I’d just entered an empty tunnel, dry with plenty of light.
The perfect opportunity to engage Sport mode and roll down the windows. What followed was an X-rated treat for my ears, heart and soul. The Maser, with the throttle buried into the footwell, hunkered down and delivered an almighty thump of unadulterated power. The needle flung past 100kph and in the blink of an eye, the 200kph mark was approaching.
But far more enjoyable than the outright performance of the Quattroporte, was the sound of its voice. Ferociously beautiful and very, very angry, it reverberated off the tunnel walls and shook me to the bone. I didn’t know this kind of aural pleasure existed. It does, and the entire population of the South of France can vouch for it. The sound of the 2014 model — controlled by pneumatic valves in the pipes of each bank — had me grinning from ear to ear.
Driving it was a little daunting at first, as the car had grown significantly. Now six inches longer for a total length of 5,262mm, and with a steeply sloping bonnet which made telling where it ended almost impossible, getting used to the sheer size of it took some time. And those narrow streets made life all the more difficult, especially since the Quattroporte’s width had swelled to 1,948mm. A little too wide for European roads? Maybe.
Meandering through the little villages on the mountain tops above the French Riviera required every ounce of my attention. The fact that the wheelbase had also been stretched by 97mm just added to the pressure. I breathed a sigh of relief as the road opened up, and this gave me time to appreciate the handcrafted interior.
There was evidently more room than the outgoing model and it was far better looking, too, with the fascia dominated by a classy lacquered wood finish. Most of the controls had been buried inside the 8.4in touchscreen infotainment system, meaning less buttons on the centre console and far less clutter than before.
Though rear-seat legroom had grown by an impressive 101.6mm and the 15-speaker, 1,280-Watt Bowers and Wilkins audio system sounded great, I was surprised to find the new car lacked many of the latest driver-assistance software. It didn’t have a blind-spot warning, a lane departure system or adaptive cruise control. But, it did have a souped-up motor so I wasn’t complaining.
The direct-injected 3.8-litre, 90-degree V8 (assembled by Ferrari at Maranello) used a pair of low-inertia, twin-scroll parallel turbos and was ominously more powerful than the old 4.7-litre V8, not to mention 20 per cent more fuel-efficient. Mated to a new ZF eight-speed automatic with paddle shifters and five driving modes (Auto Normal, Auto Sport, Manual Normal, Manual Sport and Increased Control Efficiency or I.C.E) the big V8 accelerated exceptionally hard while the cogs shifted with a silky smoothness.
With peak torque available from as little as 2,250rpm, the new engine was unquestionably more responsive and a joy to pound. For a large saloon, it was blisteringly quick — maybe even a tad yobbish for something so elegant. This is an important car for Maserati and it’ll be feeling the weight of the world on its broad shoulders as it goes up against the S-Class, 7 Series and A8. It’s a good thing then that 100kg had been lifted by the new aluminium structure from the previous car’s kerb weight.
It now tips the scales at 1,900kg and even though it did its best to hide the flab with a beautifully contoured body, sharper headlights and concave Trident grille, I got a sense of its sheer mass in the corners. There was some flex in the chassis and it would have been nice if it changed direction with a little more enthusiasm. Body roll was at a minimum thanks to the double-wishbone front, five-link rear suspension and Maserati’s Skyhook adjustable dampers, which helped to make it feel sporty, and the hydraulic steering offered good feedback, but the front wheels had been assigned a huge task.
With all that weight and torque, it was good to know stopping power still came in the form of Brembo-developed dual cast brakes. Maserati plans to shift 50,000 cars per year from 2015. New to the range will be the Ghibli, a small saloon while a luxury SUV, the Levante, will also be offered. They’ll sit next to the Gran Tourismo coupé and Gran Cabrio convertible and make quite a formidable line-up.
But if all 50,000 cars were the new Quattroporte, I’d be quite content. It isn’t just the fastest four-door Maserati ever built (note to the Panamera Turbo; take a long look at yourself in the mirror) it’s also the most economical, too, sipping 11.9 litres-per-100km. Nice might not have been particularly nice at this time of year, but the new Quattroporte is going to be a car for all seasons.