Ventiquattroporte

The history of Maserati’s Quattroporte model line is as intriguing as it is diverse. 

(c) hiclasscar

To most people with an interest in automobiles, the Maserati Quattroporte needs no explanation. The moniker itself may be even older than that of the Mercedes S-class, yet longevity serves, at best, as half an explanation for the strength of the Quattroporte nameplate. Particularly as, in time honoured Italian fashion, there’s little continuity and wildly varying flair to Maserati’s successive four-door super saloons. Yet ‘a Quattroporte’ always remained a statement car. For one reason or another.

A brief recapitulation:

i_20141117-130323-248
The original take, photo (c) Radical Mag

First generation (AM 107), design by Pietro Frua: As the name would suggest, the Quattroporte was devised as true four-door version of the kind of stately GT that was an Italian luxury staple of the ’50s & ’60s. Stylistically, it was very much in the same vein as some of the marque’s 3500/5000 GT and Mexico models, albeit with the added practicality and space of the additional set of doors. As the likes of the Jaguar XJ12 or Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 were still some years off, Maserati had the market of equally fast and luxurious saloons all to themselves, resulting in a resounding sales success – certainly by the standard of coachbuilt, thoroughbred 1960s exotica.

The second take (c) carstyling.ru

Second generation (AM 123), design by Marcello Gandini at Bertone: As recently discussed, the ’70s take on the Quattroporte concept was an oddball in numerous ways. Neither truly avant-garde, nor strikingly luxurious, the front-wheel driven Quattroporte II failed to capitalise on the formula of dashing grandeur established by the previous generation car. For these reasons, it appears unlikely that a proper production run would had been very successful, even if the troubles at Maserati’s Citroën parent company hadn’t brought the model’s career to a premature end by the mid-70s, prior to the Quattroporte II being homologated.

Take three. Quattroporte by Italdesign. (c) momentcar

Third generation (AM 330), design by Giorgetto Giugiaro: Based on the Kyalami GT (which itself was a descendent of the De Tomaso Longchamp), the third Quattroporte was a peculiar concoction in that it marked the return to unashamed luxury on the one hand, yet combined its opulent dimensions with the kind of sober origami shapes and clean surfaces Giugiaro simultaneously employed to clad considerably more humble fare, such as the Lancia Delta.

The striking, but hardly conventionally attractive result would serve as stylistic blueprint to Maserati’s then owner, Alejandro de Tomaso, resulting in the marque’s Biturbo range of models being visibly influenced by its design – despite Giugiaro not being involved in the development of those cars. However, the Quattroporte III also left an imprint of its own outside of the Maserati range, as it was the car of choice for Italian celebrities and – if the movies and television are to be believed – mafia bosses.

The fourth take, photo (c) drive-my.com

Fourth generation (AM 337), design by Marcello Gandini: Like the second generation, the Quattroporte for the ’90s marked a significant change from its immediate predecessor. Based on the platform of the smaller Biturbo models, this Quattroporte was not intended to be a luxurious super saloon, but a BMW M5 fighter. Its compact dimensions (just 4.5 metres in length) added nimbleness, but would’ve made the car a tough sell to series Quattroporte owners used to far more space and comfort.

In addition, Gandini’s second stab at a Maserati saloon design was already seven years old by the time production started in 1994. At this point, the Italianate wedge shape profile had already become somewhat outdated – the less said about the utterly superfluous, self-reverential rear wheel arch, which makes this Quattroporte’s short, tall rear end appear even bulkier than it needs to, the better.

The fifth take, photo (c) driving.co.uk

Fifth generation (M139), design by Ken Okuyama at Pininfarina: As Maserati had since come under Ferrari’s management, the Quattroporte unveiled in 2003 marked a clean break with the previous generation again. This time around, the intention was to create yet another super saloon, combining the handling of a proper gran turismo with space for all the family, not to mention Poltrona Frau leather interiors, a Ferrari-derived V8 engine and romantic Pininfarina (albeit influenced by the Zagato-designed A6G model) looks.

The jerky sequential gearbox offered at first took the ‘four door sports car’ concept too far though, but the combination of supremely elegant looks, the flair of a true Italian thoroughbred and, eventually, a serviceable gearbox resulted in this Quattroporte being considered an offbeat connoisseur’s alternative to the (German) luxury car establishment regardless.

The current take, photo (c) FCA

Sixth generation (M156), design by Dennis Braga/Marco Tencone at Centro Stile Fiat: Ten years after its predecessor’s unveiling, the most recent Quattroporte heralded another sea change at Modena. Created after FCA had taken over the brand’s management from Ferrari (yet still using the former sister brand as engine supplier), and without input by any carrozzeria, this Quattroporte had to fill the role of a luxury top model for a brand that doesn’t compete with Bentley anymore, but BMW and Mercedes. With the smaller Ghibli saloon simultaneously engineered to take on the BMW 5 series et al, the sixth Quattroporte was consciously aiming for a corner of the market (the Chinese one in particular) where cars the driver of the car isn’t necessarily the owner. In that regard, the Quattroporte VI is closest to the third generation, in terms of spirit.

Given Maserati’s limited budget and the lack of input by those elements of the Italian automotive industry that truly understand luxury, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that the Quattroporte VI, despite its impressive powertrain, lacks the ‘coachbuilt’ luxury flair that had characterised all of its predecessors in some way. Its enormous size, heavy-handed styling and some blatant parts sharing meant this Quattroporte’s flaws were rather difficult to overlook. Even though arguably the most competent car overall the brand has ever created in this class, its lack of charm and genuine luxury have since prevented it from giving the BMW 7 series the run for its money it was intended for.

As of today, Maserati is on the verge of ending production of the kind of sports cars the marque was once renowned for – resulting in the Quattroporte remaining as the brand’s last traditional offering. It would be a shame if this was the note on which this proud marque went out.

 

The author of this piece runs his own motoring website, which you are welcome to visit at 

 www.auto-didakt.com

 

Author: Christopher Butt

Auto-Didakt

16 thoughts on “Ventiquattroporte”

  1. I often see the latest one around town, owned by a wealthy lawyer.
    But I think there must be a choice of wheels, because they aren’t the fussy ones you show here.

    I still prefer the first iteration, despite the dreadful headlamps. It still evokes the 3500/5000 GTs.
    You can see why the XJ6 would blow it away, although there’s something “mass produced” about the Jaguar, which the Maserati never had.

  2. The fifth generation car is still a lovely thing, but its successor looks overweight and flaccid by comparison. An object lesson in the value of consulting the carrozzeria.

    It’s amazing how evocative and romantic the Quattroporte name sounds (to English speaking ears, at least) given how prosaic the translation is.

    1. I agree 100%. The fifth is pretty much perfect, a great balance of pzazz and rectitude. The Gandini one is like a freakishly expensive bottle of single malt – not necessarily better but really interesting in a lot of ways. The ItalDesign one is also rather super if you try to sympathise with ItalDesign´s intention and ignore the resemblance to the later Hyundai Stellar.

  3. Well, one thing we can firmly credit Maserati with – honesty. Quattroporte. Not coupe a la breathless Mercedes and BMW bottom feeder PR hype of the 21st century. Nor did Maserati stoop to the level of Ford, where in 1963, a tin box with a Weber twin choke carb became the Ford Cortina GT. The muttering rotters of the time were astounded at the audacity of Ford appropriating the moniker of GT. Why, everyone knew in their very bones that a GT was something like an Aston Martin DB4GT or Maserati 3500 GT, able to dismiss continents in a single day yet leaving its pampered occupants aware and fresh at journey’s end, ready to devour a proper five course meal at a famous 5 star Paris restaurant after minor attention to their toiletry and a change to formal attire. A Cortina GeeTee? What was the world coming to?

    I was always amazed at how quickly the first lithe-looking model Quattroporte looked ancient compared to the lovely and slightly brutish Ghibli of the late ’60s. No added letters descriptor was required for the Ghibli – who was going to confuse it with a mass market GT? No one. And both it and the Quattroporte had a very dashing V8 engine, yes an engine, not a motor.

    Fast forward through the rubbish years, and the fifth generation caught my eye 15 years ago or so, just as its 3200GT confrere did. Lovely curves. Money spent on some really decent sinuous coachwork.

    The current one seems to be like a coarse digital rendition of the fifth, with straighr bits to cut stamping costs while retaining the general outline. Relatively cheap and nasty.

    Make mine a 2003 Quattroporte please. I’ll put up with the gearbox.

    For details, this Maserati website is extremely well done and kept me up all night remembering things. A pleasure indeed.

    http://www.maserati-alfieri.co.uk/alfieri00a.htm

  4. It’s astonishing to see that a basically bankrupt company like Maserati found the money for the fundamental redesign of the QP V when they changed the floor pan and fitted a conventional torque converter auto box to the engine instead of a sequential item at the rear wheels.

    1. I would assume it was Ferrari’s money that paid for the update. And they were far from bankrupt.

    2. Alfa Six thinking – rear mounted transaxles with a front engine are a fine idea in principle, but aren’t worth the bother if the desired weight distribution can be achieved some other way.

      Christopher’s article had me checking M139 prices – not that I have any use for such a thing, but the Frua original is well out of my reach, likewise other desiderata such as the Lagonda Rapide, Monteverdi 375-4 and Iso Fidia.

  5. The fifth gen car is lovely, but, I have a soft spot for the lines of the fourth, even if there are a few discontinuities between some of the styling elements. I don’t mind the current car, but it looks heavy and a little cumbersome.

    1. I absolutely agree.

      We are all supposed to worship QP5, and it is a lovely looking thing, but the 4 is the one that grabbed my attention – I read the rear wheel arch as an amusing nod towards all those Gandini-designed mid-engined supercars of the time (Cizetza V16T, anyone?)

      Also amusing how the Gandini / Giugiaro feud played out here too…

      ‘Ah Marcello, please design us a new Quattroporte, but it must be based on a template laid down by Giorgetto’.

      The current one is just not special enough.

    2. I saw the Cizeta in that rear wheel arch too – although it is, of course, just a Gandini signature.

    3. Nice to hear from other 4th gen fans. I like how it’s small(ish) and exclusive at the same time, and the wheelarch reminds me of my beloved Citroëns. Some ten years ago, we had a lovely example of this car in our town, in a very special colour – a very light, silvery metallic green. Delicious!

      What I have to do with the 3rd generation I still don’t know. I always found its proportions odd, too low and wide, with the width emphasised by the very square boot. Some details are also quite coarse, like the rear bumper for example. With all the convoluted car designs we have today, however, I begin to appreciate more and more its bold, simple lines.

      No further comment is needed about the 5th one. Who has one left for me?

    4. Just to excite (or enrage?) the Quattroporte IV fan club.

      How Robert Opron might have done it, had Citröen still owned Maserati:

      How Giorgetto Giugiaro might have done it:

  6. Living in Stockholm in the late 90’s and working as a delivery guy, I often saw a Quattroporte III in regular use, belonging to the Italian embassy. I don’t know if it was an official state car, doubting the Italian state would put money on such frivolities, but it had blue diplomatic plates and probably belonged privately to one of the diplomats. But it was fascinating seeing the car, and imagining the astronomical bill of upkeep keeping that car running in northern scandinavia for so long, and it tells something about their national pride in the car.

  7. The first generation Quattroporte always reminded me of the 1960s Lagonda Rapide, which was similar in concept and also Italian styled. However, the Rapide sold poorly and was a very expensive failure for Aston Martin.

  8. Do not really care about the Quattroporte III, while the dislike the front of the Quattroporte V since it harks back too much from the original Quattroporte instead of expanding on the styling theme set by the Frua-designed AM121 limited-run models and the Gandini-styled Quattroporte IV.

    As for the Gandini-styled Quattroporte IV, in terms of exterior am really not a fan of the rear lights / rear number plate placement preferring instead a different rear light / number plate treatment roughly akin to Gandini’s previous work with the Shamal and the Ghibli II.

  9. Apart from the front grill, the overall shape of the bonnet and some of the proportions over the beltline, I couldn’t seem to find the other influeneces of the AG6 Zagato over the Quatroporte 2005. Where can I find more influences, if there are any other?

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