IT HAS been a busy couple of years for Maserati as the company's president Sergio Marchionne pushes to ensure the marque has a presence in all luxury segments.
The new Quattroporte Diesel follows hot on the heels of the new Quattroporte V8 GTS and V6 S, with the Ghibli and ground-breaking Levante SUV not far away. Sales are already up by close to 150% on last year, with Australia selling more Maseratis in the past two months than it did all of last year.
Maserati is expecting the diesel, which at $198,800 is the cheapest in the Quattroporte range, to account for 10% of sales.
Economy and what you pay at the pump is usually one of the big reasons buyers opt for diesel but that is unlikely to be a concern for people in this price range. Maserati is shopping this diesel to wealthy rural owners who have weekenders in the city and will be able to travel some 1000km on a single tank of fuel, and to those who want a luxury car but don't always have great access to 98RON.
Time will tell how astute the company's marketing principles are, but if this new diesel garners the same attention it did on our test drive - which included a head-turning stop in Nimbin, where let's face it most people are not usually prone to react to material possessions - then it is likely to be a pleaser for Maserati.
The interior of the V6 diesel mirrors that of its petrol counterparts, with care being taken to ensure luxury is a priority.
A deft touch is evident in the liberal use of soft plastics, with contrasting materials to pique the interest. Interestingly, Maserati seems to agree that less is more, keeping the interior uncluttered and somewhat fashionable.
A 21cm touch-screen takes pride of place in the centre of the console. It has commendable graphics, a useful reverse camera and is, above all, easy to navigate.
Some surrounds and panels have, however, eluded quality control.
Seating is top-notch and the electrically adjustable heated seats are comfortable and supportive. With multiple adjustment choices it is relatively easy to find the best driving position.
Space in the rear is voluminous and even with the front seats pushed right back those in the second row still have an enviable amount of room to stretch out in.
The boot - at 530 litres - can easily swallow up a number of golf bags, which seems to be the measure in luxury cars.
On the road
Under the hood of the Quattroporte Diesel lies a powerful turbocharged V6.
The torque is huge, some 600Nm of it, which arrives with an easy swagger at 2300rpm. All this technical brilliance combines to produce a ride of which Maserati can be proud.
The real sweet grunt we have come to expect from the brand is not there in its entirety, although you do get an instant throaty boost when you select Sport mode, which activates a sound box fitted to the tailpipes and enhances your listening pleasure.
The Quattroporte Diesel is a car of balance and beauty, as easy to let loose on open, straight stretches as it is on winding passages with steep inclines and descents.
It stays flat around tricky corners, begging you to put the foot down hard as you straighten, and gathers speed effortlessly when needed. Such is its fleetness of foot that it is difficult to believe the Quattroporte is such a large car - more than 5m long and 2m wide - and it offers a secure yet fun drive.
The auto gearbox chooses gears well, holding in between for the perfect amount of time, but manual changes courtesy of the paddle shifters seem a little less efficient.
You do feel the bumps and irregularities though, more than you would expect, as we did during our travels on largely B-grade roads, and the steering - hydraulic instead of electric to offer more feedback - is sometimes too shuddery over the bumpy bits, especially in Normal mode. You have to really actually press down on the accelerator to get it moving too, no touch pedals here, but it is nice to feel that you are actually driving the car.
What do you get?
For nigh on $200,000 you should expect a caboodle of inclusions and for the most part Maserati does not disappoint.
A sunroof and coloured brake callipers are optional extras.
Safety features include six airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist, traction and stability control, hill hold, emergency interior trunk release and a post-collision safety system.
Disappointingly there are none of the advanced safety systems like blind spot and lane departure warning systems or active cruise control that you would expect from a car in this price range.
Four doors is always a bonus in a sporty luxury car. Three retractable rear sun blinds, stretch-out space and a large boot add to that appeal, as does the ability of travelling long distances without refuelling.
Maserati claims a combined figure of 6.2 litres/100km and although we did not see that during our winding run from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane, we did manage about 8L/100km - a pretty good effort considering we certainly were not driving it in fuel-efficient manner.
The diesel, as you would expect, shares the exterior of the V6 petrol, with both models only distinguishable from the V8 Quattroporte through standard tyre size and the shape of the exhaust pipes. It bears all the hallmarks of a Maserati - trademark grille, curvy wheel arches and shapely bonnet with the trident logo subtly placed - but also adds a bold rear with modern lighting and new elegant lines and sweeps.
What matters most
What we liked: Roomy interior, easy handling, still a great soundtrack, balance and beauty.
What we'd like to see: More power, less on-road noise, updated interior.
Warranty and servicing: Maserati offers a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 20,000km.
Model: Maserati Quattroporte V6 Diesel.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel-drive large luxury sedan.
Transmission: Eight-speed auto.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel generating maximum power of 202kW @ 4000rpm and peak torque of 600Nm between 2000-2600rpm.
Consumption: 6.2 litres/100km (combined average).
Bottom line plus on-roads: $198,800.
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