Fiat’s big Maserati reinvention starts with the smallest ever Quattroporte
For the first few years after Fiat’s big takeover, nothing really changed at Maserati. The model line-up pretty much stayed as it had done during the end of the de Tomaso era, and there weren’t really any grand shakeups. In fact, there wouldn’t be any major new additions to the Maserati line-up until 1998, when the 3200GT was released. So, until the beautiful turbocharged coupe burst onto the scenes, the only real headline grabber was the fourth-generation Maserati Quattroporte that went on sale in 1994.
It’s mostly forgotten nowadays, but the Quattroporte Mk IV can be seen to be an important stepping stone for Maserati; a case study of how the company would continue in the post-de Tomaso era. For starters, the fourth-gen Quattroporte was comfortably the sportiest version of Maserati’s luxury sedan to date. A range of impressive engines certainly helped; buyers could plump for one of two twin-turbocharged V6s from launch, with a 330hp V8 added to the range in 1996. But the reduced curb weight also helped out immensely. At 1,543 kg, not only did the QP Mk IV have a better power-to-weight ratio than the previous car (same power, but 300 kg heavier), but it’s also the smallest and lightest Quattroporte variant built to date.
Even the “lightweight” Maserati GranTurismo MC Stradale lugs around more mass than the fourth-gen Quattroporte. That’s not to say this QP Mk IV cut corners when it came to interior furnishings, though. On the contrary, every fourth-gen Quattroporte variant came sprinkled with leather and elm veneer trim, giving the car quite an opulent feel, though the compact dimensions did mean this QP wasn’t quite as spacious as its predecessors. Even the refinement was good for its time, allowing drivers to comfortably settle the car down to a cruise when they weren’t in the mood to push the QP to its limits.
Buyers who opted for the four-speed automatic (a six-speed manual came as standard) could relax even further, with the oodles of turbocharged torque and the wide third gear ratio making this Maserati an ideal autostrada mile muncher. This combination of athleticism and real world usability made the fourth-gen Quattroporte quite a popular car, by QP sales standards. Once production of the Mk IV ended in 2001, Maserati had sold 2,400 examples, with 730 of them being the tweaked "Evoluzione" version that went on sale in 1998. And it’s this Evoluzione development that, if anything, pinpointed the direction that Maserati would eventually take.
Though the changes didn’t fundamentally affect the car in massive ways, it is crucial to point out that these alterations were spearheaded by Ferrari, the legendary supercar manufacturer that Fiat had sold half of Maserati to in 1997. On top of the production improvements, Ferrari also gave the green light to a thorough modernisation of Maserati, culminating in an all-new facility to replace the existing factory that dated back to the 1940s. All the tooling was replaced with cutting-edge kit as well—hence the tweaks made to the Quattroporte in the Evoluzione refresh. By the time the last Quattroporte Mk IV left the production line, the seeds had been sown for Ferrari’s grand plans.
One of the last remaining links to the de Tomaso era had been severed (the QP IV was based on the Biturbo’s platform), and Ferrari was free to transform Maserati into the grand brand it now had the potential to be. It would be another two years before the long-running sedan nameplate would be revived. However, as that age-old saying goes, the best things come to those who wait.