VICTORIA'S Great Ocean Road turned track for our first drive of Maserati's new V6 Quattroporte, its picturesque winding stretches offering the perfect test of this luxury car's prowess.
Around we went past the iconic pole house with its suspended garage - where, as it happens, the Maserati would not be out of place - and through the quaint towns of Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and Apollo Bay where heads turned and interest was piqued.
Even the incessant rain, slippery roads, swirling winds and tourist drivers were unable to detract from the experience - it is after all not every day you get to dream behind the wheel of a car such as this, steeped in tradition and splendour … and one that will set you back a quarter of a million dollars.
This V6 Quattroporte follows hot on the heels of the V8 GTS, which landed on our shores in January, and together with the Ghibli, expected in July, and the Levante, early next year, will lead Maserati's concerted attack on achieving 50,000 global sales in 2015.
There is very little, aside from different patterned leather, to separate the interior of the V6 from that of the V8.
There is an air of quality with the noticeable use of high-end materials, yet it stops short of being truly luxurious. Care has been taken in the design of the console, ensuring switches and dials are set out in a logical manner with controls most used closest to hand.
Seats are supportive and comfortable with easy-to-use electronic adjustments, although better side bolstering would not go astray.
The leather used is soft, feels good to the touch, with contrasting stitching adding interest. Space is obviously the name of the game here with a longer wheelbase allowing Maserati to meet the demands of a growing Chinese market.
There is an impressive amount of room to stretch out in for occupants in the front and back, but a noticeably sloping roof and sunroof hinders headroom for taller passengers.
The 580-litre boot - 80 litres up from the previous V8 - is a thing of beauty and could easily accommodate this driver as well as two golf bags should the need arise.
On the road
The 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 is markedly close to the turbo eight of the GTS in terms of the systems used, but is not simply a V8 with two cylinders less. Maserati has given the V6 a 60-degree V angle compared to the V8's 90 degrees, which results in a smoother, quieter drive.
The V6 is only 0.4 seconds slower to 100km than the V8 (4.7sec) but it delivers performance that is far greater than its speed ability. The V6 Quattroporte handles beautifully, even in the wet, firmly planted yet with a touch of finesse.
At five metres long and almost two tonnes, this is a big, heavy car but is so nimble and quick to respond you almost forget that as it gathers pace at will and negotiates the tricky bits with aplomb.
You do have to be quite forceful with the accelerator pedal, no delicate little taps here, with the Quattroporte demanding firm action.
The eight-speed auto transmission rarely misses a beat in any of the five modes, with the suspension, as you would expect, considerably firmer in sports mode.
Maserati has opted for a servo power steering system rather than an electro-hydraulic one, which results in more steering feel and feedback so you actually feel like you are driving the car.
This Quattroporte is also quite forgiving on poor driving, using a host of safety systems to keep you on the bitumen. Road noise, despite work to counter it, can be a touch intrusive and there is of course very little of that throaty growl which is a feature of the V8. The V6 Quattroporte comes standard with 19-inch tyres but we found the optional 20-inch alloys offered a more balanced ride.
What do you get?
Equipment inclusions mirror those of the V8 with differences coming in the size of the infotainment screen - as seen in the Chrysler 300 - and the number of speakers fitted to the Watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system. There is the usual climate control, keyless entry and ignition, powered and heated front and rear seats, sat-nav, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi hotspot, multi-function steering wheel and reverse camera. Storage is good with a large glovebox, cupholders and place in the door bins for water bottles.
The Quattroporte has not been tested for ANCAP but safety features include six airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and brake assist as well as stability and traction control.
The Quattroporte V6 will be measuring itself against the Mercedes S Class (from $215,000), the BMW 7 Series (from $220,000) the Audi A8 (from $188,800) and the Lexus LS (from $189,900)
The price, space and performance of the V6 Quattroporte has certainly broadened Maserati's potential customer base.
There are a few things that niggle however.
The infotainment screen, while easy to use with superb graphics, feels like it is tacked on and would better stick to the luxury tag if it was lowered and raised on start-up.
There is suede carpet-like covering around the front door frames that feels and looks tacky, and the paddleshifters are mounted on the steering column instead of steering wheel can make it hard to manually change gears.
We also have a bone to pick with the lack of safety features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Maserati says they want you to drive their car not their car to drive you, but at this price point those features should be a given.
Maserati claims fuel consumption of 10.4 litres/100km.
Maserati is all about understated elegance and the Quattroporte is cut from the same mould.
The trident badge aside, there is nothing too flashy about this car, which prefers to use simple lines and pedigree to impress.
The only exterior differences to the V8 are the size of the standard wheels and the shape of the exhaust outlets.
What matters most
What we liked: Sporty performance, understated looks, price.
What we'd like to see: Better safety suite, more luxury fittings.
Warranty and servicing: Maserati offers a three years unlimited kilometre warranty. Service intervals are two years/20,000km
Model: Maserati Quattroporte S V6.
Details: Five-door rear-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Transmission: Eight-speed auto.
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo six-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 301kW @ 5500rpm and peak torque of 550Nm between 1750-5000rpm.
CO2: 246 g/km.
Consumption: 10.4 litres/100km.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $240,000.
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