The original Maserati Quattroporte was unrivaled when it arrived in 1963; the only genuine Italian high-performance GT with four doors. It was a rather brilliant move, at a time when Maserati was struggling. Undoubtedly they felt pretty secure in their guess that Ferrari would not jump into the four-door market. That turned out to be true, although others did, like the Iso Rivolta S4.
R&T tested a 4.2 L V8 version—there was also a 4.7 version available in Europe, but not in the US, curiously enough— backed by a ZF 5-speed manual transmission. There was a lot to like, and a few things to quibble about.
The 290 hp four cam V8 had an “‘American’ exhaust burble”, and was a direct evolution of Maserati’s 4.5 L racing V8 from 1956. In 5 L form, it powered Maserati’s 5000 GT from 1960. R&T was surprised to see that the version in the Quattroporte was limited 5500 rpm by the manufacturer, given ts racing pedigree.
It was deemed to be “a pleasant, strong and refined engine to use”. The Q was heavy, at 3872 lbs. (curb weight), and performance was good but certainly not stellar: 0-60 in 8.3, and 1/4 mile in 16.4 @94 mph. Plenty of American muscle cars could walk away from that; even a sedan with the right engine. But then that’s a somewhat irrelevant comparison. The kind of folks who bought Maserati Quattroportes were not comparison shopping against an Impala with a 396 or 427. Same goes for today’s Quattroporte buyers…
The linkage on the ZF box was a bit balky, but once its ways were familiarized, it shifted well. More importantly, the interior lived up to the standards of a low-volume essentially hand-built Italian GT: lots nice leather, wood and nice detailing. The ergonomics were already somewhat out of date, but then things were happening quickly in the sixties.
The same could be said of the styling, which was looking a bit out of date too. Within a year—in 1969—it would be put to rest, and then there would be a long break until 1974, when the radically different Q II arrived, with FWD and based on the Citroen SM chassis, sharing its V6 too. In 1979, the big new V8 Q III arrived, one which most of us can form a mental picture of, and stayed around until 1990.
The tested version also had manual steering to go along with the manual transmission resulting in “a man’s car”. ZF power steering was optional, as was an automatic transmission, for those not feeling quite that “manly”.
The ride was on the stiff side, and curiously, the rear suspension reverted back to a live axle after having been a deDion type initially. Hmmm.
The wire wheels were a pricey option, and Maserati pointed out that they were not strong enough for “vigorous driving”. Hmmm.
A bit out of date, in more ways than one, but if you just had to have a Maserati four door…