Maserati Quattroporte is entirely new under the skin

  • 17-Jan-2013 02:06 EST
Quattroporte_08.jpg

The new Maserati Quattroporte is roomier, lighter, faster, and more efficient than before.

Maserati chose the North American International Auto Show in Detroit to roll out an all-new Quattroporte flagship sedan that looks like a crisp refresh but that is in fact entirely new under the skin.

The improvements include better efficiency, more power, better performance, more cabin space, a bigger trunk, and the available security of all-wheel drive—all wrapped in a package that remains unmistakably a Quattroporte.

At 1900 kg (4189 lb), the V8 edition is 100 kg (220 lb) lighter than before, rolling on an all-new steel chassis wearing some lightweight aluminum body panels including the door skins and hood. The rear-drive V6 weighs 1860 kg (4101 lb). The optional all-wheel-drive system adds 70 kg (154 lb) to the V6 car’s mass. Weight distribution is 50/50 front/rear.

The wheelbase is 3171 mm (124.8 in) and overall length is 5262 mm (207.2 in) for increased legroom and shoulder room in the Quattroporte, while the trunk’s capacity has grown to 530 L (18.7 ft3). Underbody panels contribute to a sleeker 0.31 coefficient of drag.

The engines are all-new in-house and were developed under the leadership of Paolo Martinelli, who designed the engines in Ferrari’s championship-winning Formula One racers during the Michael Schumacher era. 

The previous model offered a single engine: a V8, supplied by corporate cousin Ferrari (though in two displacements). Now, Maserati engineers have designed a pair of available engines, a 3.0-L direct-injected twin-turbo V6 and a 3.8-L DI twin-turbo V8.  Both engines are assembled for Maserati by Ferrari in Maranello.

The rear-drive-only V8 model is 20% more fuel-efficient than the outgoing model, according to the company, while producing 390 kW (523 hp) and 650 N·m (479 lb·ft).  An overboost feature briefly pumps up torque to 710 N·m (524 lb·ft). Those figures represent increases of 18% more power and 39% more torque (in overboost mode) than the previous naturally aspirated motor.

That output results in 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration of 4.7 s, with a top speed of 307 km/h (191 mph). The V6 needs 4.9 s to reach 100 km/h and tops out at 285 km/h (177 mph).

That’s thanks to the engine’s 301 kW (404 hp) and 550 N·m (406 lb·ft). The smaller engine’s specific output is lower than the V8’s because it is tuned to produce more torque.

While the engines enjoy the appropriately different V-angles of 90° for the V8 and 60° for the V6, their pistons, cylinders, and heads are the same, along with the bolt-on ancillaries such as the alternator, starter, and pump for the Quattroporte’s hydraulic power steering.

Both engines now have phasers for variable cam timing on both the intake and exhaust cams, while the previous engine had variable timing only on the intake cams. Rolling finger followers act on the valves for reduced friction.

The twin IHI turbos have their turbine housing cast into the four-into-one exhaust manifolds for simplicity and a short path for the exhaust gas to the turbines.

A concern about turbocharged engines for Maserati enthusiasts is the resulting exhaust note. The musical shriek of their engines is a hallmark of Italian prestige cars, and the disappointingly dull note of the twin-turbo engine in the McLaren MP4-12C illustrates the challenge.

Maserati didn’t start the car on the show stand to prove its point, but lead platform engineer Davide Danesin was there to say the company’s efforts to preserve that sensation paid off.

“We thought it was a very tough job to accomplish,” and it started by running a lot of models to try to get close to the best solution, he said. Then the team conducted hundreds of physical tests, checking variables such as the geometry of the mufflers.

“I wouldn’t say there is a special recipe,” Danesin said. “Two years we spent on this matter.”

For the previous normally aspirated engines, the rear mufflers were the most critical. But for the turbo engines it was the volume and shape of the mufflers under the middle of the car.

How about Masarati’s corporate cousins at Ferrari? “They are facing the same issues,” Danesin acknowledged. Because of that, the Maserati team is sharing its knowledge with their colleagues in Maranello.

Power from the new engines courses through an AT8-HP70 eight-speed planetary automatic transmission from ZF. The new gearbox promises smoother shifts and improved NVH, along with two overdrive ratios for better economy, according to the company.

The transmission has five different shift programs: Auto Normal, Auto Sport, Manual Normal, Manual Sport, and Increase Control Efficiency. Auto Normal is the default mode, making smooth shifts at low rpm for comfort and efficiency. Auto Sport makes quicker shifts at higher rpm. In Manual Normal, the driver can shift with either the console shifter or steering-wheel-mounted paddles, though the computer will intervene and make gear changes at very high and very low revs. In Manual Sport, the transmission shifts faster and will not upshift, even if the engine hits the rev limiter. It will downshift if revs drop too low.

The Increase Control Efficiency mode is a driving-on-eggshells approach intended for maximum fuel efficiency and bringing-the-newborn-home-from-the-hospital smoothness or for driving in icy conditions. The limited-slip differential will help in the latter case, with 35% lockup under power and 45% under release.

V6 models have the option of an all-wheel-drive system supplied by Magna-Steyr—a choice that will expand the car’s appeal in markets such as the Northeast, reported Director of Product Planning Rob Allen. Danesin said the system can change in 150 ms from a maximum of 100% torque to the rear axle to as much as 50% torque to the front axle.

The Quattroporte will be assembled at an all-new Maserati plant in Torino, Italy.

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