ZT-T 260 vs Quattroporte

Posted on November 28, 2011 by

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By Anthony Braham

I was given a Maserati Quattroporte as a courtesy car by my Swiss Lotus dealer for a weekend, and I thought it would be interesting to write up a comparison between this and my 2004 model ZT-T 260.

Admittedly, the Maserati’s price tag is very different from the MG’s, even when it was new, and it is more of an S-class and 7-series contender, whereas the ZT is slightly smaller than the 5-series and E-class. But they are both sports saloons with a medium-sized V8, and similar equipment.

The Maserati Quattroporte was a 2008 model, with a conventional (torque-converter) 6-speed automatic gearbox. Grey outside, black leather interior. When new it would have been about 145,000 Swiss francs (that’s about £100,000) compared to my two-sixty which was about 80,000 francs. The Quattroporte is fitted with a 4,2 litre normally-aspirated 32-valve V8, giving 400 bhp, torque is 460 Nm at 4750 rpm.

First impressions

Given its specifications and pedigree, I was expecting the Quattroporte to be sportier than my MG. It wasn’t.

First, the Maserati is heavy, very heavy, in excess of two tons. So the seemingly generous power has a lot of weight to carry.

Driving, it feels like a big, comfortable saloon. The delicious engine howl which was obvious to me when I encountered one passing by can hardly be heard inside the cockpit. Definitely more muted than the MG’s standard setup. I found myself opening all 4 windows when driving through villages listening to it.

The biggest surprises were the steering and brakes. The steering is very detached, not sporty at all, and gives little feedback to the driver.

The brakes also have less feel and bite than on the MG. The pedal has a sort of mushy feel to it. They stop the car very well though, and resist fading better than the standard setup on the ZT.

The car doesn’t feel any faster than my standard MG at cruising speeds. Throttle response is actually duller. It is only when you rev that Italian V8 well past 5,000 rpm to its 7,500 rpm redline that you begin to achieve real pace.

But between 1,500 and 4,000 revs, it is no quicker than the 260. It even feels slower. There is, in fact, less impression of torque, and even in second gear you feel it lacking in urge until the revs mount. To be fair, my fully standard MG has 106,000 km. So the engine is well run in, unlike that of the Maserati, which had 12,000 km on the clock.

But overall, the Maserati’s high-revving V8 can’t haul its 2.1 tonne body around at normal engine speeds with as much ease as the MG’s bigger capacity old-school lump. You need to give it some stick and when you do, it is predictably, faster than the MG.

 Equipment

Surprisingly, my MG and the Maserati are quite similar as far as basic equipment is concerned. Electrically operated seats with memory, Satnav, TV, and electronic climate control.

The Maser’s satnav is less user-friendly than the two-sixty’s, the map on the screen is more basic and the controls, to me, were less logical. The Maser was equipped with a Bose stereo system, which didn’t impress me. On the run, the Italian is a good deal quieter than the two-sixty, but the overall sound quality of its system is average. The same CD sounds better on my MG’s Harman-Kardon system despite the outdated Alpine CD changer it is mated to.

The climate control buttons are in a similar, low, not very visible position as in the 260, and the display is as small. At least they are separate from the other controls, unlike most modern S-class, XJ, or 7-series systems, where getting hot or cold air requires entering some complicated menus on the central screen.

Ergonomics are not as good as the 260, with lots of buttons and switches invisible behind the steering wheel or requiring contortions to reach. One is the trip computer button, hidden behind the ignition key, impossible to locate when driving.

Fit and finish is what you would expect from a £100,000 car. This car had alcantara roof lining, and an electrically adjusted steering wheel that recedes when you enter and exit. Some chrome detailing and leather on the dashboard and centre console, and a big refrigerated centre console cubby box. The general impression is of expensive luxury.

Very few bits put the MG to shame, however. The MG’s interior (mine is also black) with part-leather part-alcantara and chrome detailing is a nice place to be too. Only the plastic air vents feel cheap in comparison.

The really big difference between the two cars is the ride. The Maserati is much smoother than the MG. It glides, even on bumpy roads, and at 90 mph there is practically no wind noise (thanks, in part, to double glazing on the side windows). Yet when cornering, despite the weight, it doesn’t lean or lurch, as one would expect from such a big cruiser. To me this is the Quattroporte’s best quality.

Fuel consumption

Is a good deal higher than the MG. I suppose the weight has something to do with it, and the auto gearbox. Also the fact that to achieve decent pace, you have to rev past 5,000 rpm. I measured 18 litres per 100 km while my 260, at similar speeds, needs only 15 l/100. At saner speeds the MG would likely still be better, thanks to its ability to cruise in 4th or 5th at 1,000 rpm.

A driver’s car?

I did the same country-road drive of about 40 km in both cars on the same day, in the same driving conditions. My overwhelming preference went to the MG. It is much more responsive in every respect: chassis, steering, brakes, throttle. Despite its size and weight, it feels agile compared to the Maserati and you can place it by the inch in tight corners.

The fun moments in the Maserati are when you plant your foot down for overtaking on the straight bits: the gearbox drops two cogs, and the engine revs up to the 7,500 redline; whatever you were overtaking smoothly disappears in your rear view mirror while the ‘box changes up in a muted howl.

To sum it up, the Quattroporte is a comfortable cruiser which has the pace and soundtrack of a sportscar. But it is not entertaining to drive. I would rather be driven in it. The rear seats are where you suddenly understand its purpose; electrically adjustable, heated, with some controls mounted in an elegant, piano-black polished centre console. And there’s decent legroom even with the front seats fully reversed.

Aesthetics 

The front looks exotic and luxurious, an Italian Aston Martin. From the side, it looks like a large Alfa Romeo. The rear is understated but classy and has presence. Overall a very good-looking car, which I prefer to the four Germans (S-Class, 7-series, A8 and Panamera) by far. It doesn’t put the MG to shame, that being said. The ZT has presence, especially in ‘shooting brake’ ZT-T guise.

Summary

The interesting conclusion is that the 260 stands the comparison with a car almost twice its price when new. If I were given the choice for my daily commute (mostly country roads), I’d go for the 260. Of course, parked near the harbour at Portofino, the Quattroporte definitely looks the part. There is no doubt it is in a different class. But as a fast driver’s saloon/estate, the MG wins hands down.

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