Maserati Quattroporte VS Audi S8
- Terrific powertrain
- Huge luxurious cabin
- Great looks and badge
- Iffy entertainment software
- Weird sensations through electric steering
- Some dodgy plastic chrome bits
- Technical extravaganza
- Elegant looks
- Punchy V8
- Tricky to find a space big enough
- Short warranty
Maserati's Quattroporte is part of a dying breed. A decade or so ago, the European manufacturers took a huge amount of pride in their range-topping big luxury sedans, cars you can either drive or be driven in, bristling with the latest technology.
While by no means low-tech, the Maserati Quattroporte takes the high style route, focussing on a luxurious interior with that handmade feel.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Big sedans are not in vogue at the moment and huge luxury sedans were on the way down before the humble Commodore and Falcon departed the upper end of the sales charts. The Germans, who have always done a spectacular job of these flagship sedans, cheerfully persist with these cars.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Beauty is way more than skin-deep in the Quattroporte and while the 330 doesn't have the punch of the S, it's hardly that much slower. Maserati reasons you will want to spend the $25,000 saved on options, concentrating on the Italian craftsmanship rather than the outright performance available in the V8 or the efficiency of the less aurally attractive diesel.
As with any car of this type, you've got to want one in the first place, but for a big, beautiful sedan, there's nothing as good looking this side of an Aston Rapide. The Quattroporte 330 does nothing to dim the allure of Modena's big mover and, if you're that way inclined, nobody on the outside will ever know.
For Quattroporte money would you stick with the Italian or be tempted by one of its German rivals? Let us know in the comments below.
The S8's existence is a source of joy for me because it's not a huge SUV. Yes, it's a huge sedan but it's a reminder that the technological flagship is alive and well, at least in Germany. And the important thing about these cars is the way the toys filter down through the rest of the range. That used to take years but we're seeing this cool stuff a lot more quickly, right down to the A1.
The S8 punches, and punches hard in this rarefied part of an already shrunken section of the market - the twin-turbo V8 matches its German rivals, it's lighter and it's as well-stacked as any of the three. What it doesn't do, however, is shout about itself the way the other two do. It's the incognito choice.
Long, flowing lines mark out the Maserati as something quite different to its German, British and Japanese competition. This Quattroporte has increased in every dimension but the lines cover its size beautifully.
Big wheels, long wheelbase, low ride but it still looks like a sedan rather than pretending to be a coupe.
The elegance of the lines is complemented by a distinct lack of bling – there's little in the way of chrome work or shouty details. There's plenty satin finishes available and the beautiful paint, while available in pretty much any colour you like, is best kept to a restrained, deep hue. Or silver.
The cabin will doubtless age well. Classic shapes house a fairly conventional but hugely comfortable cabin. The front seats have heaps of adjustment and are large but supportive. Naturally, the leather is soft and supple.
The central screen isn't the dominant feature, like a 50-inch LCD screen in a small living room while buttons are kept to a minimum.
The rear seat is sensationally comfortable, with hectares of available space and a seat comfortable for either lounging or working.
The sheetmetal is obviously very restrained given it's an Audi first, and secondly, it's just not done to go wild in this part of the market.
It's an A6 that's joined a gym, but didn't join that weird gym with men that can't run after you when you insult them (don't ask how I know this). Rolling on 21-inch wheels as standard, you can go up to massive 22s if you so choose.
The A8 created a subtle redirection of Audi's passenger car look, with the updated A4 and A6 both picking up on the horizontal bar between the rear lights and the huge grille framed by family lights with signature DRL patterns. The S8 builds on that with subtle S cues but nothing even vaguely shouty.
The interior acreage - or 'cabin', if you will - is very comfortable, but you already knew that. The multi-screen layout was first seen in the A8 and has now found its way into A7, Q8 and Q7 and is, as ever, brilliant to look at and use.
The MMI updates that have found their way into other cars are present and correct. Like the exterior, it's very restrained but not to the point of sparse minimalism, despite the lack of switches and buttons.
I really don't like the steering wheel, though, and I can't put my finger on why. It certainly isn't especially sporty-looking but I wonder if the standard flat-bottomed S wheel just looked stupid.
The materials are beautiful and everything fits together perfectly.
The cabin is clearly built with rear seat passengers in mind, with rear leg and headroom configured for those continent-crossing drives.
The S8 has plenty of comfort for two rear seat passengers and a few amusing options to while away the hours in traffic or on the autobahn.
That doesn't mean the front seat passengers are in purgatory, with huge but supportive seats adjustable in all conceivable directions.
Front and rear rows score a pair of cupholders and bottle holders while the boot is a handy, if not awe-inspiring, 505 litres.
Price and features
The 330BHP uses the same, Ferrari-built V6 but detuned to 'just' 330 bhp. The price has been detuned too, dropping $25,000 from the V6 S's entry price to kick off at $210,000.
Maserati 330bhp benefits from an overall specification improvement across the range, landing in your garage with a ten-speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, power everything, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, cruise control, sat-nav, auto headlights and wipers, double glazed windows and an interior covered in leather and wood.
Later in the year, your Quattroporte will be available with a new silk trim from Zegna
Only very occasionally does it become clear that Maserati is part of the Fiat Group and that moment comes when you use the 7.0-inch central screen in the dash.
The software is based on the group's UConnect and it isn't great. It's not bad, but it feels its age (however, it's much better than the system on the Gran Turismo), needing a lot more work or a quick surrender to Apple's CarPlay or Android Auto.
Once you work your way through the weird menus, it's fine to use and is miles ahead of the not-much-cheaper Lexus LS unit which is almost unusable.
Sound from the ten speaker stereo is crystal clear and the phone performance is also very good.
For $260,000 there is a lot to get through, as there is on the less sporty A8. Start with huge 21-inch alloys, 17-speaker Bang & Olufsen stereo, panoramic sunroof, matrix LED headlights with laser lights, soft-close doors, acoustic glazing, leather trim, S front seats, extra leather over the A8, Alcantara headlining, carbon inlays, four-zone climate control, heated and cooled front seats, 'Virtual Cockpit' with S mode, and a tyre repair kit.
You also get active suspension, a sport version of the 'quattro' all-wheel drive system (with a sport differential), and a walloping great twin-turbo V8 to get you moving.
A massive touchscreen on the centre stack (familiar in Q8, A7 and Q7) hosts Audi's 'MMI plus' system, which is very good and does away with the console-mounted rotary controller. It also has wireless Apple CarPlay to go with the console-bin wireless charging pad. Android Auto is still USB. 'Audi Connect plus', now in full-featured glory, is also along for the ride.
Another technical highlight is the active noise cancelling which is meant to reduce the noise in the cabin the same way noise cancelling headphones do.
There's a clever rear seat remote control, which is a little detachable tablet to allow those who are being chauffered to faff around with various settings.
Our car had the $13,900 'Sensory Package', which adds a 1820-watt B&O 3D sound system with 23 speakers, electrically adjustable outer rear seats along with heating, cooling and massage function, and full leather.
Engine & trans
Like the S, the 330bhp is powered by Maserati's twin turbo 3.0 litre V6, made with more than a dash of Ferrari involvement. As the name suggests, it produces 243kW and a chunky 500Nm. With just under two tonnes to shift, the ubiquitous eight-speed ZF automatic transmission whisks the Quattroporte 100km/h in 5.6 seconds, only half a second down on the 301kW V6 S.
Maserati claims 9.1L/100km on the combined cycle (with the help of stop-start), which seems reasonable given our figure of 10.8L/100km, which we got a with a mix of city and highway running as well as a very enthusiastic blast through some secret back roads.
That's a lot, even for this big bruiser. Obviously, being an Audi S-car, it has quattro all-wheel drive, which is fed by an eight-speed ZF automatic. Which is in everything now. Well, just about.
That huge torque figure is available between 2000rpm and 4500rpm while peak power arrives at 6000rpm. The 0-100km/h sprint is despatched in - gulp - 3.8 seconds.
As it's riding on the MLB platform, the mild hybrid system is a 48-volt set-up. A lithium-ion battery in the boot takes charge from the belt alternator/starter, which means the S8 can coast at higher speeds with the engine off and also cut out at 22km/h and under in traffic.
The system can also add up to 60Nm of torque in the right conditions for up to six seconds, and if it happened for me, I didn't notice it.
The 10.5L/100km official figure is, shall we say, optimistic. The launch drive was mostly highway so there's no real information to be gleaned from that, so we'll have to wait for real world fuel figures.
I'd say 12-13L/100km is achievable if you don't like having fun, in which case, the lesser A8 is probably for you.
Audi says the MHEV system saves 0.8L/100km with an early cut-out for the stop-start and the ability to coast on the highway for over half a minute at a time.
Just a few hundred metres behind the wheel is all it will take to convince you the Maserati belongs in the same class as the competition. It's incredibly quiet – courtesy of the acoustic double glazing – and all occupants benefit from supreme comfort.
While the 330 is 58kW down on the full fat V6, you won't really miss them. There's a fat torque curve, with all 500Nm available from 1750 to 5000rpm, meaning easy progress for the 5.2 metre sedan.
The Quattroporte has two sport buttons to choose from – one looks after the drivetrain and exhaust valving while the second stiffens up the Skyhook suspension.
With the first sport button pressed, you get a more lively throttle, sharper shifts and a glorious noise from the exhausts, although they are a long way from your ears.
It's still a fast car, with strong acceleration from standstill and in the gears, the power as linear as you like with no real turbo lag and a most un-turbo noise to go with the performance.
The only dynamic problem is the electric steering – it seems to get confused between your inputs and feedback from the road, the tyres feeling like they're 'nibbling' an uneven surface, tweaking the wheel in your hands.
The assistance is a little spotty, too, unexpectedly changing weight. It's just a bit weird. In normal driving, you'll never notice it.
Driving any of the cars in this segment is a rare treat, whether it's the 'entry level' diesel or this top of the heap sports sedan. My day with the S8 was filled with the usual surprise and delight that only these tech-packed cars can deliver.
Heading out of the Sydney CBD in 'Comfort' mode, the car scans the road ahead and adjusts the active suspension accordingly. You already know it has active suspension because when you pull the door handle, the car lifts by 50mm to make it a bit easier to get in.
The suspension's party trick is flat-topped speed bumps - drive at one, brake a little and sense the way the body feels like it stays exactly where it is in the air but the suspension almost completely flattens the speed hump.
It's uncanny and almost unnatural, with just the tiniest change in altitude and no noise from the suspension.
It also manages the terrible narrow lanes of CBD thoroughfares with ease, the lane keep system letting you know if you're straying.
On to the motorway and you get a feel for its crushing performance. You won't hear much, though - the stereo's noise-cancelling system shuts out almost all tyre noise and consistent wind noise is largely banished, too.
I'm going to admit I gasped when I found some corners. Active suspension bodes well for the tricky stuff, as does the all-wheel steering. Both are exceptionally clever systems for making the car feel a lot smaller in town and in car parks but they're also really good if you want some fun.
But the way the rear-wheel steer adds agility to such a big car is hilarious and clever. While you can't quite chuck it around - and really, you're not buying an A8-sized car for that kind of nonsense - brisk progress is far from intimidating.
Now, obviously, a Ford Fiesta would drive away from the S8 in the really tight stuff but it would take some time to properly shake it. The colossal torque from the V8 hurls even this two-tonne-plus limo out of the corners in a most satisfactory manner.
It's surprisingly agile for a machine more than five metres long and two metres wide. If your passengers are corner enthusiasts, you'll all be having fun in near silence. It's oddly engaging to be moving at pace in such a hushed cabin.
The S8's considerable safety equipment list includes nine airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward AEB (up to 250km/h), reverse cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, various collision mitigation and protection systems, exit warning, lane keep assist, active cruise control and on, and on, and on.
The rear seat's centre airbag is terribly clever, popping up between passengers to stop you knocking heads. Another clever trick is the way the car detects a side impact is about to happen, boosting the height of the side about to cop it to try and get the sills to take more of the impact, rather than the door.
Given the relatively niche status of the A8, let alone the S8, there is no ANCAP crash test or safety rating. One imagines given the ton of safety gear a five star rating is all but assured. Even the US IIHS gave the A8 a miss.
Audi continues to fail to match Mercedes move to a five year warranty, sticking with three year/unlimited kilometre cover. BMW is still doing it too, so maybe Ingolstadt and Munich are playing chicken.
You can get a five-year service plan for the S8, coming out at $3990 for the duration.