Quattroporte is 5,262mm long: just look how small that Fabia seems

Quattroporte is 5,262mm long: just look how small that Fabia seems

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British market Maserati sales were up by 115% in the first quarter, and the addition of the Ghibli is much of the reason. But don’t discount the impact being made by its big brother, the Quattroporte.

We are still a week away from hearing what CEO Sergio Machionne is planning for FCA’s many brands over the next five-ten years. An Abarth or Fiat roadster made by Mazda, rear-wheel drive Alfas, Ottimo imports from China to replace the Bravo in Europe, the end of Lancia outside Italy, the next generation of Chrysler and Dodge big cars to be built in Mexico not Canada - who knows if the rumours will be proved true?

What we do know, right now, is that Maserati has been leading the way for Fiat Chrysler with its clever approach of launching new models with big cost savings, thanks to the use of shared components. And when one of the major ones in a big Maserati sedan is a Ferrari engine, this isn’t just good business sense for FCA, it makes for soft-sell marketing nirvana.

You cannot have a five-plus metres long, low-slung, dark glass limousine in your care for a few days without half your friends wanting a ride. Then there's those neighbours with whom you do that nod-smile-then-look-away thing - you know; the ones whose names you don't know - they start behaving differently. I was given a couple of unsettled smiles crossing the shared carpark. Were they suddenly pondering what line of business that foreign-accented chap might be in?

No-one was much interested in the VW e-up! which was around at the same time. My impromptu VoxPop survey took note of the gym manager, himself an RRS owner, labelling the four doors the coolest car I have yet parked on his premises. It also got a longing look and a nod from a supermarket trolley collector, and as I delivered a leggy, blonde friend home, I learned how the drivers of famous actors  feel as they pull up to disgorge a VIP passenger. Yep, no-one looks at the chauffeur.

I was surprised at how much attention the big Maserati created, and also the size of the smiles it caused. Not only was my experience devoid of drive-by haters, on a Friday evening when I had to dash across to London, there were lots of admiring glances from Suits as I parked outside a West End pub. Yes, hipsters and facial-fuzz-free female equivalents turned their heads at this car. OK, I’ll admit the Sport button was pressed in as I thrilled to burbling into a vacant slot. Yet it doesn’t make the car bellow as it does on a GranTurismo - this is more subtle. Does it sound like a Ferrari V8? Oh, yes.

The fitting of a Maranello-manufactured engine was a stroke of genius, though it’s a shame that any such label is missing. Lift the long bonnet and you won’t see much of this 530PS biturbo 3.8-litre unit, which is an enormous shame. There is a hard plastic cover which has the word Maserati moulded into it - note to FCA: take a history lesson from your former self, and just update the thinking from the 1980s Thema 8.32 engine shroud. No need to delay it until the Quattroporte’s mid-life facelift, which I estimate won’t happen until 2016/2017, just make it a model year running change.

The engines shared by the Quattroporte aren’t just Ferrari ones. The biggest seller in the range in many markets is the diesel. You read that correctly. I haven’t sampled the 3.0-litre V6 but I do know it’s in the same 202kW (275hp) state of turn in both of Maserati's sedans. This is made by VM Motori and has the same 2,987cc cubic capacity as the 176kW (236PS) diesel V6 in the Lancia Thema and Chrysler 300 twins.

You can be sniffy about non-Maserati (and non-Ferrari) engines in both the Ghibli and Quattroporte but the reality is this: the VM V6 is more than smooth enough for those who will specify it. They will be as different from traditional Maserati customers as those who order four-cylinder Jaguar XJs are from the people who buy the supercharged ones. And because of these buyers, the development of what might otherwise be too low a volume of thundering V8 variants can be justified - even super-profitable Porsche knows it has to offer diesel and PHEV Panameras for those who best not be seen in the 570PS, 4.8-litre Turbo S.

For the above reasons, every time I pressed the accelerator pedal hard in the GTS, I quietly thanked all the people who must instead order the diesel. If you’re a bit of an anorak about such matters, there’s a lower-power diesel for the Italian market which produces 184kW (250hp).

Between the top-spec GTS and the Diesel, there’s a 410hp 3.0-litre V6 petrol (RWD or AWD, depending on the market, i.e. there are no right-hand drive AWD cars). This is also available in 330hp form, but only in China, where it helps the car slip beneath a tax threshold. Every Quattroporte comes as standard with ZF’s superb 8HP70 eight-speed automatic gearbox. And the paddle shifters work beautifully.

Maserati has been clever enough to follow the likes of Porsche, in that it launched the car at the 2013 Detroit show in top-spec GTS form, but has continued to add engines to keep the model in the news. The 330hp V6 is a case in point, it having debuted at last year’s Shanghai motor show, followed six months later by the launch of the Diesel at September 2013’s Frankfurt IAA. Unveiling these two in different regions makes perfect sense given where the relevant engines are most popular.

This sixth generation car’s platform is derived from Chrysler Group's LX architecture, and therefore, by an odd twist, originally developed by Mercedes-Benz. As interviewing chief engineers from different OEMs always shows me, assuming that certain models share a platform is often too simple a summation. So it is in this case. While you can immediately notice things such as the infotainment system and that distinctive column stalk which operates wipers AND indicators, this doesn’t feel anything like a stretched Chrysler 300/Lancia Thema. Having said that, the electrical system, air conditioning components and front seat mounting points are claimed to be identical but where’s the harm in that?

Start this car up and it’s nothing like an American-style E-segment sedan. I quite like the 300/Thema but the Quattroporte is a proper luxury sports sedan and you can’t really compare it to its would-be rivals. It sits very low, there are frameless doors and then there is that noise. It’s sadly not wake-the-neighbours rowdy like the GranTurismo but it IS a beautiful sound and yes, it does make you think of a Ferrari. Leave the S button off and it’s fairly quiet too. But make no mistake about the performance it can deliver. Zero to 62mph is dispatched is just 4.7 seconds, and top speed is 190mph. The official Combined average is 23.9mpg and CO2 is 274g/km.

Things that raised an eyebrow were few but the main one is not just the lack of electric closing for the boot, but instead, you get a cheap looking plastic handle embossed with the Maserati trident. Even a leather strap would be better. Maybe, like the overloaded single column stalk, you get used to it. But the sheer volume of the boot's capacity is beyond criticism - to solve the temporary problem of two cars and one parking space, I should have borrowed some ramps and put the e-up! in there.

This car is XL sized, as the first pic shows, and parked beside a neighbour's BMW 7 it’s much longer. Unsurprisingly, rear room is massive and the passengers can control the electrically ascending and descending back window sunblind and pap-proof window shades via push buttons. Some readers might be surprised to learn there was no sunroof for the £108,150 list price but I wouldn’t want it, especially with the test car's black paint.

A brief word on the manufacturing side of things. Unlike most other Maseratis, the Quattroporte is built at the former Bertone plant in the suburbs of Turin. It had been known as 'Officine Automobilistiche Grugliasco' (OAG) but Fiat renamed it 'Officine Maserati Grugliasco, Giovanni Agnelli' in January 2013. The company stated at the time of the press launch that it hoped to sell 80,000 units over a 7-8 year lifecycle, with peak sales likely to be 13,000-15,000 units in 2014.

With this, the company's priciest model now properly positioned in the market and selling well, I would expect to see a couple of more variants added. There's obviously room above the GTS for a more powerful car, while a PHEV is probably going to be needed for California, Japan and possibly China. Perhaps the plug-in and any potential four-cylinder petrol or diesel might well wait for the seventh generation model, which should appear around 2020, given the eight-year lifecycle of the fifth generation Quattroporte (2004-2012).

If you got to the end of this review wishing you could just see the car in action, and hear that V8, then check out the 'Fascination Film' here. Maserati's short flick also shows the marketing pitch, which, to judge by the brand's sales, is working. This is not a car for anyone considering an LS or 7 Series; it's something entirely different, and even when its natural competitors are as exclusive and accomplished as the S 65 AMG L, S8, XJR and Panamera Turbo S Executive, you can easily make a case for it, and then justify falling totally in lust.