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June 6, 2003

UK: Maserati considers diesel Quattroporte saloon

The words "diesel" and "Maserati" have rarely, if ever, been associated - but now the Italian luxury car firm is considering a diesel-engined version of its new Quattroporte saloon, according to UK website channel4.com/4car. A source told 4car this week that "every top-class saloon must now have a diesel option". And added that the firm has been studying feedback from customers which suggests that they are interested in everyday usability, for business as well as pleasure, hence "in the future for Maserati a diesel engine has to be considered." Maserati's petrol engines are not known for their frugality, and even at the top end of the market, fuel economy is a consideration for many buyers.

By bcusack

The words “diesel” and “Maserati ” have rarely, if ever, been associated – but now the Italian luxury car firm is considering a diesel-engined version of its new Quattroporte saloon, according to UK car buyer advice website channel4.com/4car. A source told 4car this week that “every top-class saloon must now have a diesel option” and added that the firm has been studying feedback from customers which suggests that they are interested in everyday usability, for business as well as pleasure, hence “in the future for Maserati a diesel engine has to be considered.” Maserati ‘s petrol engines are not known for their frugality, and even at the top end of the market, fuel economy is a consideration for many buyers.

The website’s insider explained that in the past, a diesel would not have been suitable for a Maserati vehicle, but with the advent of modern, high-performance, refined second-generation common-rail units, many of the former disadvantages had been solved.

Engineers “have overcome the historic problems of noise, vibration and limited specific outputs for engine size”, achieving both improved fuel economy and driving pleasure, though remaining concerns include reducing weight, the difficulty of achieving top performance at high revs without compromising low-speed smoothness, and the suitability of an engine which develops massive peak torque at relatively low revs, not a usual Maserati characteristic. “It must go over 5000rpm,” the source told channel4.com/4car. Further development of fuel injection systems is also necessary. “We are looking for good quality and durability in extreme operating conditions”, he added. “We are studying intakes and exhausts. A better strategy of powertrain and gearbox is the next challenge for high-performance diesel engines.”

However, channel4.com/4car said, Maserati simply does not have the resources to design, engineer and build its own large diesel engine from scratch, and the existing Fiat /Alfa JTD units are far too small, and neither powerful nor refined enough. A diesel engine worthy of a Maserati would have to have at least eight cylinders.

The website’s source also said that given the very small numbers involved, economies of scale dictated that substantial work could not be done in-house, and an engine would have to be sourced from outside the Fiat group. He suggested that the Volkswagen V10 diesel, as used in the Phaeton and Touareg 4×4, could be suitable. “If it’s good enough for Bentley, it’s good enough for Maserati ,” he said, inadvertently tipping media off to the advent of the first diesel Bentley, too – probably the forthcoming four-door model built on the same platform as the Continental GT coupe (and the Phaeton).

A Bentley spokesman told channel4.com/4car, however, that a diesel engine “was not a plan at this point” for the GT, and that “we have no product at this time to put a diesel engine in.” A collaboration between Maserati and the Volkswagen Group has long been rumoured, though, with Maserati confirming late last year that “talks have been under way for some time” with Audi over possible tie-ups and sharing of expertise; Maserati is thought to be interested in Audi ‘s systems technology, electronics and infomatics. Italian newspapers have also hinted at the possibility of VW taking a small shareholding in the Fiat Group’s performance brands.

Expect the diesel Maserati to appear “in a maximum of five years”, channel4.com/4car said, adding that, however, a diesel Ferrari will not be following – that would be a step too far.

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