Welcome to Critic’s Notebook, a quick and off-the-cuff car review consisting of impressions, jottings, and marginalia regarding whatever The Drive writers happen to be driving. Today’s edition: the 2019 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 GranLusso.
The Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 GranLusso, By the Numbers:
Base Price (Price as Tested): $119,780 ($136,160)
Powertrain: 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6, 424 horsepower, 428 pound-feet of torque; eight-speed automatic; all-wheel-drive
EPA Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Seating Capacity: 4
0-60 mph: 5.3 seconds
Weight Distribution (Front / Rear): 50/50
Quick Take: The big Maserati may be the most misunderstood luxury sedan, but it’s still a Fiat Chrysler enigma.
Back in the 1980s, Argentine motoring legend and savvy dealmaker Alejandro De Tomaso saved Maserati from the bankrupteur’s pen by way of an intercontinental alliance. The dream-weaving president and CEO cajoled his old friend Lee Iacocca out of millions in Chrysler treasure, in exchange for five percent of partly-state-owned Maserati. Soon, the company’s storied trident badge, under which Juan Manuel Fangio executed the most heroic drive in Formula One history at the 1957 German Grand Prix, would be slapped on a janky competitor to the Cadillac Allanté.
Despite some top-line material, like an interior of Italian leather, body panels by Innocenti in Milan, and wheels by F1 supplier Fondmetal, the “Chrysler TC by Maserati” couldn’t hide its plebe origins. (It was based on the Dodge Daytona.) That, plus a more-than-passing resemblance to the far cheaper LeBaron, spelled disaster. Over three years of production, Chrysler sold only 7,300 TCs at the inflation-adjusted 2019 equivalent of $67,000 each. Still, for Maserati, it was an economic defibrillator, tying it over until De Tomaso could complete a sale to Fiat in 1993.
The TC’s backstory is relevant to the 2019 Maserati Quattroporte S Q4 GranLusso I’ve been driving, not because of Maserati’s reunion with Chrysler in 2014 or fear that FCA beancounters will again tarnish the celebrated brand (more on that later), but because car enthusiasts can be exceedingly cruel. By far the worst cruelty against the Quattroporte is calling it the “Chrysler TC of our generation.” That’s the kind of hyperbole that gets attention: It’s just true enough to be tantalizing, but is also inaccurate and unfair. It does, however, articulate a certain dissonance in the Maserati brand during its FCA tenure.