First drive: Maserati Quattroporte V6
It’s one of the few cars the three presenters agree on. But does it work with a smaller engine? Paul Horrell reports
This is a mighty big car. Billowing and magnificent on the outside, palatially spacious inside. So it seems kind of optimistic that a 3.0-litre V6 engine will be enough to make it feel like a quick sporty saloon. Or like a Maserati.
But this is no ordinary V6 engine. It kicks out a mighty 410bhp, and thanks to a pair of turbos and direct injection, is making a largely lag-free 550Nm by 2000rpm. Those are, in TopGear technical jargon, a whole lot of torques. And they're spread right around the rev dial.
The new engine is closely related to the terrific V8 that Maserati introduced when it launched this new QP a few months back. Turbo systems, combustion chambers, injection and variable cams, yes they're similar. But it's not just a V8 minus two cylinders. They went to the trouble of giving it a 60 degree V angle instead of the V8's 90 degrees, because with a six, 60 degrees evens-out the firing intervals and makes it smoother.
Sure enough there's great mechanical refinement, but mostly you're hearing the rocking deep exhaust system under power, and its artillery pops on the over-run. This power unit has the sort of charisma the rest of the big luxury pack don't countenance.
Maserati claims it'll get to 100kph in 5.1 seconds. We suspect that for the initial portion of that run, the back tyres would be smoking. In snaking roads you'll want to play with the eight-speed autobox via the paddles, but beware an annoying delay on high-rev upshifts.
On a dry road, traction isn't an issue. We did a bit of mucking about on a track, and sure enough tidy rear-end skidding is available. But you'll need a lot of space: it is truly a big car.
Still, for wintry use, there's also a 4WD version. Don't get too excited: it's not coming in RHD, because it'd not sell enough. It's an electronically distributed system, mostly avoiding sending drive to the front until needed, which simply means the steering and agility aren't affected. It doesn't add much mass either. But at the track, the 4WD version does feel slightly more inert than the 2WD. And anyway, the ESP on the RWD car is very well calibrated.
It's a car that understeers slightly unless you provoke it, has nice accurate steering and generally feels pretty agile for such a big boat.
So the performance, the sound and the handling are all capable of cashing the cheques written by the extrovert and wonderfully engaging styling. Good.
Most of the time it's a good luxury car too, as it would lead you to hope. The space really is limo-like, and the seats and materials feel plush. By using a nicely responsive high-res touch-screen, the layout is clean but comprehensive enough. The suspension does a decent job of cushioning away big bumps, but there's an annoying little judder over smaller stuff. All-in though, the feel-good factor flies high.