IT MAY FEEL nearly new, but this Maserati seems to be the default modern sedan for classic car enthusiasts who love the looks, the badge, the performance, the handling and the luxury. Ten-year-old examples are available for less than $50K, many with relatively low mileage and full history, but there are choices and pitfalls. Prices and availability of parts from Maserati are scary, so always keep a few grand in hand for unexpected repairs.
There are two engines and two transmissions – both sonorous bent eights are truly great engines, however, the transmissions are like chalk and cheese. First there is the paddle-shift electro-manual gearbox with its crude auto functionality. But the ideal option is the super-smooth ZF auto – available in Oz from August 2006. Some say the sixspeed torque converter takes all the fun out of the car, while others claim it’s far better suited, especially with optional paddle-shift. Check the options, because these were plentiful.
STRUCTURE Bodies are mainly steel, with aluminium bonnet and bootlid skins which gather electrolytic corrosion against the steel frame inside when condensation forms. Boots can get wet inside because of poor wheelarch sealing. Check that the bonnet safety catch functions. Underneath, corrosion attacks front and rear subframes, while holes through the front subframe can be evident after only six years, especially the crossmember between the top wishbones. Replacing the whole subframe is expensive if you can find one, so specialists can usually weld in a new section for a fraction of the price.
ENGINES The all-aluminium V8 has four valves per cylinder and generates 451-489Nm of torque. On all, but especially ZF-equipped pre-2010 cars, listen for rattles from the timing variators on cold start and overrun – there was a factory fix for the early ZF cars but not all had it; it would cost thousands to do now. On others it will need new variators. Cam covers can leak oil onto the exhausts, and rubber pipes deteriorate. On DuoSelect cars check the low-mounted water pump for any green weeping from the hole in the front, indicating impending failure. Pre-facelift the service interval was annual (minor service $1000), post-facelift every two years (minor service $2000), though specialists recommend an annual check. The major four-year services are roughly $2900/$3800 for pre/post-facelift cars.
TRANSMISSIONS AND SUSPENSION Driven hard or primarily in auto, the DuoSelect has quite an appetite for clutches, which generally require changing by 65,000km. It can be as low as 40K with a lot of town driving, or 105K-plus with sensitive changing (the driver lifting the accelerator as it selects). Maserati diagnostics give a wear indication – they’ll need doing soon if 65-70 per cent worn; or immediately if it jumps out of reverse. Replacement cost is about $3500.
If the gearbox is noisy or slow to change, the hydraulic gear selectors may be failing, resulting in a significant bill. The twin-wishbone suspension on most cars featured Maserati’s Skyhook dampers, enabling the driver to select Normal or Sport from the dashboard. This was abandoned in favour of fixed-rate damping on Sport GT models.
If Skyhook is fitted, check it works because shocks are costly ($3100 a pair – Maserati won’t sell them singly) and listen for creaking that may indicate worn or seized bushes. Check for broken springs and leaking dampers; clonks may be from failed dampers, failed bushes (including anti-roll bar drop links) or broken springs.
BRAKES These get a hard time because the Quattroporte weighs almost two tonnes, so pads last 30,000-40,000km and discs not much longer. Check the inside of the discs, which will be in far worse condition than the outside. On most models, quality aftermarket parts are much cheaper than factory, but there are at least eight different specs, and on some like the Sport GT you’re stuck with costly factory discs and pads. The electronic handbrake on ZF-equipped cars can stick, especially if put away wet – the bill for getting new shoes and cables fitted will be around $2000.
ELECTRONICS They’re complex and the battery will go if inactive for two weeks and not kept on charge. If the car has been sitting around too long – especially in damp, nontemperature-controlled conditions – the electronics will fail, so low-mileage cars may have more malfunctions than regularly used cars. Check that it has a recent 800-amp-plus battery. Ensure that door mirrors fold in and out promptly, check the bootlid soft-close action, tyre pressure monitoring ($1000 a set for new ones) and rear parking sensors ($250 each, plus fitting – a bumper-off job on post-facelift cars). With warning lights for many items a roadworthy failure, don’t accept a vendor’s assurance that it’s ‘nothing to worry about’. A frequent ABS warning light can mean wheel speed sensor corrosion – they’re integral with wheel bearings and cost $1400 each fitted.
COOLING SYSTEM AND AIR CONDITIONING The coolant expansion tank can split and slowly leak, with catastrophic effect if it’s ignored (there is no warning light for low coolant level). At $50 new, it’s worth changing if it hasn’t been done already. Listen for a rattling from the aircon compressor. Look down in the engine bay and you may see the pulley wobbling; or with the car running, push the ECO button – if the rattling noise stops, the compressor is on the way out. A new one is around $2600 plus fitting, but specialists can fit a recon unit for less.
INTERIOR TRIM Check the leather/part-Alcantara trim, especially the parcel shelf leather – it can shrink in the sun. The reclining rear seats should work, as should the electric, heated front seats and electric windows.
Window regulators fail – only a small piece of plastic breaks, but you have to replace the entire unit ($1000). The plastic membranes behind the door trim panels can fail and allow water into the footwells – replacements are $40 each with the cost of labour to be added on top.