Maserati Betting on Larger, Faster Quattroporte

New line-up could bring Italian maker into luxury mainstream.

by on Jan.16, 2013

Maserati's new Quattroporte is longer, lower and faster than the outgoing model.

It’s one of those brand names seemingly everyone knows but few luxury buyers ever consider, a conundrum that Maserati has barely survived.  But with this week’s launch of a completely redesigned Quattroporte flagship at the North American International Auto Show – and more products to come – the Italian maker hopes to take a giant step closer to the automotive mainstream.

The outgoing Quattroporte – Italian for “four doors” – has always won raves for its svelte and seductive design. But it was something of a “tweener,” a vehicle not quite big enough to effectively compete with the products it was targeting, such as the BMW 7-Series.

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And despite the ambitious expectations of Maserati and its parent, Fiat SpA, the sedan came nowhere close to what was needed from a business case scenario.

“Three years ago, I though the lights were going to be turned out,” said Rob Allan, the maker’s U.S. product planner.

Though there are some modest tweaks, the 2014 Quattroporte sedan picks up the basic design theme of the outgoing model.

Maserati was able to keep the lights on and the doors open with several other products, he quickly adds, such as the Gran Turismo, and after years of struggle, the launch of the 2014 Quattroporte and several other key products may finally position the marque to become a viable and serious competitor.

The 4-door sedan is a full 10 inches longer than the outgoing Quattroporte, as well as two inches wider – while also losing about 200 pounds in mass that helped contribute to an estimated 20% improvement in fuel economy.

The sedan now sits squarely in what the industry called the G- segment; in fact, it’s slightly larger than the latest BMW 7-Series, with a positively cavernous cabin and trunk.  It also gets such useful niceties and new fold-down rear seats.

There’s plenty of wood, chrome and hand-stitched Italian leather, and a state-of-the-art infotainment unit that includes a 15-speaker, 1,280-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system.

The 2014 Quattroporte's twin-turbo V-8.

But the heart of the new Maserati Quattroporte is its twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-8 making a sizzling 539-horsepower – enough to launch it from 0 to 60 in just 4.7 seconds. Top speed is rated at 190 mph, or 12 mph faster than the older, smaller model – despite the promised improvement in mileage.

For those who don’t quite need that performance there’s a twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 that can still hit 177 mph, says Maserati.

One of the other significant updates is the new all-wheel-drive system that should enhance the Maserati Quattroporte’s appeal in Snowbelt states. Dealers in the New York and New England areas typically find it difficult to sell vehicles that don’t offer that high-traction technology.

The Maserati Levante will use the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform and a Ferrari engine.

Despite the larger size, the new Quattroporte maintains its classic looks.  In fact, some reviewers admit being surprised because the 2014 sedan doesn’t look all that much bigger.

But the price tag will be, the V-8 model coming in around $130,000, so it won’t be targeting the masses.  The sales target is nonetheless a step up from the old model, somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 a year, Harald Wester, its Chief Executive Officer, told during an interview at the Detroit Auto Show.

But that’s only a first step.  To appeal to buyers who liked the size of the old Quattroporte, there’ll be the new Ghibli, which brings back a classic Maserati nameplate.

And the Italian marque is also getting ready to reveal the production version of its first SUV. Original named the Kubang, it will be re-dubbed the Levante when it reaches showrooms.

The ute underscores the synergies Maserati is looking to get as part of the Fiat/Chrysler empire. Levante will build on the underlying platform of the Jeep Grand Cherokee – with significant suspension revisions handled from Italy, and an engine supplied by Ferrari.

The annual sales target for those two models will be 10,000 each, said Wester.

“We want to have real volume as a company,” he explained.

Maserati is looking even further ahead, Wester telling “We are thoroughly thinking about extending the product line to cover the entire luxury range.”

That could “close the gap” with competitors like BMW – though he quickly adds that Maserati is not looking to push into the million sales range like its German rivals.

Even then, if Maserati can make its current target there’ll be far less worries about paying the light bill.

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