2017 MASERATI QUATTROPORTE GTS GRANSPORT FIRST DRIVE – CAR BUSINESS ON THE JOB
Thanks to our colleagues from autoweek for this early heads up on the new Maserati Quattroporte GTS Gransport. With pictures shot in the heat of Palermo, the beauty shot is stunning, and the vehicle shots are scrumptious. Read on and drink in the beauty of Maserati.
DRIVING THE REFRESHED QUATTROPORTE THROUGH A SICILIAN CITY ON FIRE
It’s 106 degrees, and a scirocco is blowing. Palermo is literally on fire. Monte Pellegrino, rising 2,000 feet above the Tyrrhenian Sea and once named by Goethe as “the most beautiful promontory in the world,” is today dotted with flames and shrouded in acrid, choking smoke that drifts down through the city streets below, searing the eyes and lungs of anyone foolish enough to brave the 40-mph gusts and blast furnace heat.
I know this because like a damned lunatic, I am walking around taking pictures of street-parked Lancias. Schools and roads are closed, homes are being evacuated, by all appearances the very apocalypse might well be upon us, but you must understand: There are Fiat Multiplas and Alfa Romeo Milanos out here. Somebody’s gotta post this stuff to Instagram. Later, after the winds die down, the skies will be filled with the sounds of endlessly circling Canadair water bombers, skimming the harbor just beyond the dual-mast sailing yachts in the marina. Welcome to Sicily!
We’re here to drive the 2017 Maserati Quattroporte, a mid-cycle refresh of the current flagship, on roads that once hosted the Targa Florio.
Sadly for us, along with the “sea transfer” to dinner our itinerary promised, these plans have been scuttled by the, um, conditions, which according to local lore can be attributed to something called autocombustione: spontaneous combustion. (Editor’s Note: The reality, it seems, is far more strange. The Mafia, which controls the local forestry industry, was reportedly sending burning, gasoline-soaked cats into the forest.) We’ll head west, away from the smoke, to the historic mountain commune of Erice.
2017 Maserati Quattroporte GTS Gransport
Quattroporte: The very word evokes a legacy rich with power and opulence, five decades of cars which, when new, cost as much as houses, and a few years later traded hands for about the cost of building a deck—yourself. “Fifty years of success,” boasts the slide in the marketing presentation. Weirdly, no one else chuckles. If success is here defined as “barely existing,” then sure. That’s not to say there haven’t been some masterpieces along the way.
The author has long harbored an obsession with the 1979-90 Quattroporte III, a massive, leather-stuffed bruiser from Giugiaro’s creased-and-folded period, which when encountered in real life is possessed of a sheer presence few cars can match. Seventy thousand dollars new—at a time when it wasn’t possible to spend much more on an automobile—until recently you could pick them up all day long for less than five grand, and I came within a couple unreturned emails of doing just that, once. It was only a few months later, after following the owner of a well-worn example into a gas station and learning that a recent rebuild had set him back $8,000, that I fully apprehended the kind of mortar-sized bullet I’d dodged.
With Maserati enjoying a degree of solvency unprecedented in its 100-year history, though, prospects seem to favor as never before the Quattroporte stepping out of its station on the fringes and cementing a more permanent spot in the platinum-card sports sedan firmament. That’s precisely the mission of the 2017 model, which benefits from a collection of evolutionary, mostly invisible updates—an optional driver-assistance package, smartphone-mirroring infotainment, a bigger touchscreen, you get the picture—designed to keep the car aligned with the expectations of the marketplace. Also new is a pair of premium trim packages, GranSport and GranLusso, designed to emphasize either the car’s sporting or luxury inclinations, respectively.
What hasn’t changed is the Quattroporte’s standing as a unique, distinctly Italian alternative to the big Germans. Naturally, this manifests itself in ways both good and bad. The interior, while plenty comfortable and generally lovely, is let down by niggling instances of FCA parts-sharing—one can’t help but be amused at the thought of someone who’s just shelled out $130,000 for a new Maserati plopping down behind the wheel of a Cherokee rental and encountering a distressingly familiar dashboard TFT display, for example. Still, you know what makes you forget about plasticky window lifts in a hurry? The sound of a 3.8-liter Ferrari-built twin-turbo V8 with its pneumatically controlled exhaust bypass valves in wide-open sport mode, and the thrust generated by its 530 hp and 524 lb-ft of torque, that’s what. Hydraulically assisted steering is also gratifying: Well weighted and communicative, it capably telegraphs the car’s size and cornering power, both substantial. Beefy Brembos keep the whole package confidently under lock.
This is a big, muscular car—emphasis on big. Nowhere is that more evident than on the narrow, winding road up the mountain to Erice, a succession of first-gear hairpins steep enough that even Fiat X1/9 drivers might hanker for something a little nimbler. Double the disappointment then that we can’t sample the Quattroporte on the more open, sweeping landscape of the aborted Targa Florio route, where it would presumably feel more at home. For everyday driving, the venti-sized Maser’s ability to project wealth and power does prove surprisingly handy when braving Palermo’s rush-hour roundabout chaos, but someone might want to tell the QP’s nav what kind of car it’s in, as it repeatedly sends us down single-lane village alleyways that have the parking proximity sensors howling in protest (less of a concern for Stateside drivers, admittedly).
On the whole, it’s an impressive package. I mean, it’s a 4,200-pound luxury sedan that goes 195 miles per hour, and I’m rube enough that such things will forever impress me. It’s only later, uploading photos to my laptop, that the problem becomes fully apparent. It’s not a bad-looking car, exactly. The sharpened, updated front and rear treatments are nicely focused and more defined, and from certain angles it’s even somewhat handsome—meaning you don’t notice so much the awkwardness of the proportions, the high cowl and beltline, the B-pillar and door cut that make you wish you could scooch them with your fingers about 4 inches rearward. But right here in my photo stream is a picture of a last-generation Quattroporte taken in Chicago a couple months ago, and that car is straight-up beautiful. No excuses, no qualifications, just drop-dead gorgeous. And whatever else a Maserati is—however great it sounds, however great it drives—it should, it must, before anything else, be that.
Here’s hoping that this current car— along with the volume-leader Ghibli and hot-off-the-presses Levante SUV—keeps Maserati flush enough to find its way back to that particular “core brand value” with the next generation.
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